The atlas stone has been deciding winners since 1986 and it is still the final event of most Strongman competitions, so its important to be good at it. It doesn’t matter if your a novice going into their first comp, you need to know how to lift a stone and do it well! It could mean the difference between winning and being the first loser. So time to get practicing.
A bit of history on the event. In both Iceland and Scotland lifting stones were used as a right of passage. In Iceland they were used to see who was man enough to go out and work on the fishing boats. In Scotland they were a marker to see if boys were ready to become a man. Rouge have made some pretty cool short documentaries on the history of stone lifting if you want to find out more.
Now atlas stones are infamous with Strongman, but the format of an atlas stone event can vary. The most common is a stone run, this consists of multiple stones you have to lift onto a series of platforms in the fastest time possible. But each stone gets heavier and the platforms get a bit lower as you work through the set. This format has decided the winner of Worlds Strongest Man since 1986.
Next is probably the most common format in smaller competitions – throwing a single stone over a yoke for as many reps as possible in an allocated time frame. This format really hurts, and tends to make you feel like you might either throw up or just break, especially when it’s heavy and especially at the end of a competition.
You could also come across a stone to shoulder, a natural stone or stone tennis but I personally have never come across any of these in competitions.
One thing to watch out for when lifting stones is to never ever curl the stone with your biceps. Don’t curl it from the floor and don’t curl it from your lap. I’ve seen a lot of people detach biceps making this mistake, don’t be one of them!
Here is a more in-depth step by step of the technique I use to lift atlas stones.
Stand over the stone with your feet slightly wider then the stone. The middle of the stone should be roughly inline with the balls of your feet but this could change depending on the size of the stone.
Bend down and put your arms around the centre of the stone, if your hands are too far forwards or backwards the stone will roll out of your hands. Spread out your fingers to cover more surface area of the stone. Notice you are not going to be able to keep a neutral spine like on deadlifts.
You don’t pick up a stone with just your hands, the forearms are equally as important. You need to squeeze your foreman’s together as you begin to pick up the stone.
Once the stone has been lifted past your knee sit back into a deep squat position with the stone on your lap. This is a good time to take a breath.
Reposition your hands towards the top of the stone, and reposition the stone to be as high up on your chest as possible. Now you are in an optimal position to clean.
Drive up with your legs while squeezing the stone into yourself and lifting it higher with your arms.
Finally push the stone forwards to either put it onto a platform or over a yoke by driving through with your hips.
Jake – BNSF Britain’s Strongest Natural U105kg