Beginner Atlas Stone Lifting Information
Atlas Stone lifting is something many get excited about and for good reason. The thought of lifting an object that is not meant to be lifted, absent the advantages of holes, handles, crevices, or edges would excite even the strongest individuals in the world. Propelling a perfectly round heavy Atlas Stone either to your shoulder or on to a barrel can be extremely rewarding, especially if it is a personal record.
Pre-Requisites to Stone Lifting
What I’m going to share are beginning techniques related to strongman Atlas Stone lifting. Notice, I emphasize the word “strongman” not “weakman” because this is about max effort. If you’re not familiar with max effort training with iron then you really aren’t ready for attempting max effort stone lifting. Atlas Stones are not designed to be lifted, barbells and dumbbells are.
This being said, you, the novice, should progress at lifting weights first. This way when you do start stone lifting you will go in ready with the needed foundation both physically and mentally.
At times lifters come to visit me at our Slater Strength Club and want me to instruct them on lifting Atlas Stones. I never assume that because a man is not massively developed that he has not spent time weight training. I always ask “How long have you been training?” If the answer isn’t definitive, or doesn’t directly address the question, and the answer is along the lines of, “Ahh a few months or something like that.”
I then tell them that they’re not ready for such a challenge so “Let’s do some deadlifts.” I take this route as not to spoil what will be a good thing by lifting stones too early.
I always suggest that beginners weight train until they develop a good base then attempt the challenge of stone lifting. My first rule of thumb is this: if your deadlift is not yet 160 kg or 350 lbs then continue to weight train progressively and build up your basic strength.
The New Stone Lifter’s First Stone
BEGINNERS: Click the image above to check out the Stone Lifting Fundamentals DVD
Once your basic strength is there, I suggest picking a 16″ atlas stone for starters. This stone should weigh around 170-180 lbs and is an optimal size for developing motor skills and technique. If you choose a lighter one it should only be for warm ups if you’re doing traditional Atlas Stone lifting.
Warm-up for Stones
For warm ups I prefer band exercises for the biceps and back. I also include roller work massage such as Self Myo-Fascial Release (SMR) that targets the back, biceps, glutes and hamstrings. After that I will move into light stones. This will get me warmed up and ready to lift safely.
Further Preparation: Tape and Tacky – Yes or No?
I like to tape my forearms, using athletic tape though some use duct tape. If you want, shave your forearms to keep the tape from slipping. The tape will grip your skin much better if the hair is removed and the addition of a pre-spray on your forearms will provide for good adhesion.
I like Rugby Spray Wax by Trimona as a pre-spray, available on StrongmanStuff.com. I flex my forearm and then tape it, starting just below the elbow and working my way to my wrist. Once it is taped I relax my forearm and then pat down and smooth the tape to my skin. Flexing the forearm prior to taping will prevent the tape from being too tight and If done correctly, the tape will stick well.
I learned from Team Boss Strongman’s Rick Freitag to tape the forearms not so much to help the grip but to cut off the signal of pain. If you are in pain them the mind is fighting the pain and not focusing on the lift.
Apply tacky or handball wax (pine resin) to get a better grip. Personally I like PR Champions Blend Tacky because it is made in Ohio and I’m from Ohio. It is a very good general weather tacky but most other tacky works well too. I apply some on my hands, fingers and forearms and at times onto my chest, especially during competitions. This helps to keep the stone from spinning off of the chest.
When you first start stone lifting apply a slight amount just to get a feel for it as you will learn quickly how much you like to use. I do believe the use of tacky can reduce the strain on soft tissue.
Safety Points for Beginner Stone Lifters
As for lifting the stones, there are some basic precautions to be concerned with for the safety of the lifter and those in the vicinity of the stones.
It goes without saying that new lifters should always consult a health care provider prior to starting any exercise program. Especially since stone lifting differs so greatly from other forms of resistance training, it just makes sense to make sure your doctor okay’s that you give it a try.
You may choose to lift it over a large diameter bar that is fixed so it will not spin. For example, we lift the stone over an adjustable strongman yoke bar. We also use solid platforms made out of wood. You can fasten wood pallets on top of each other, and then fasten plywood to the front or around all sides. There is a great wood platform on StrongmanStuff.com. We sometimes use whiskey barrels or oil drums, but if you do use a barrel be sure to avoid pinching your fingers on the lip!
Steve MacDonald, WR Stone Lift Over Bar
That is Steve Slater kneeling near the platform, on the left
Whatever you choose to lift the stone onto or over, either a large non rotating bar or a platform, make sure that it is stable. With all platforms please use caution making sure the back side of the platform is braced. This will insure platform stablility so it should not tip if the stone hits it. Once you’re more experienced and stronger you can work on shouldering the stones.
At Slater Strength Club all novice lifters are forbidden to twist with the stone during the lift. The risk of injury far outweighs any benefits.
Once you get the stone to the tip of the platform you may begin to struggle to place it on the top. During the struggle to get past the “tip point”, avoid pausing in that vulnerable position for more than a few seconds and no matter how difficult the struggle to complete the lift, do not twist in order to get the stone to the top of the platform.
You may be tempted to do this but this potentially dangerous maneuver should be avoided. Additional strength and experience will get you past this critical point in the lift. Atlas Stone lifting with a grouped series of stones is less about struggling at the top but rather an example of utilizing one’s strength with precision.
Don’t practice struggling at the top, practice a precise finish. A precise and fast finish wins competitions. As with any lift there are some risks, but the benefits of safe stone lifting far outweigh the risks.
Time to Lift Some Stones
I hope that this information helps you make the move into Atlas Stone lifting so you can continue to make great strength gains and appreciate this awesome raw form of training.
Stone lifting makes you seriously strong, ruggedly strong, and for lack of a better expression, “animal strong.” Simply stated, if a good stone lifter puts his hands on a man of above average size, even one flailing and squirming to resist, he could place him on his shoulders, run with him and squeeze the crap out of him in seconds! He could probably even press him over his head and toss him high or far. That is stone lifter strength and as stone lifter Bill Crawford says “stone lifting makes you strong in ways that only stones can.”
Further Atlas Stone and Strongman Training Information