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Taping the Forearms for Stone Lifting

Thanks for coming to the Diesel site today. I hope you had an extraordinary weekend!

This past weekend, I watched my first strongman contest in about a year and a half and it was a great time. Man I miss competing!

I didn’t get to see the whole thing, but I did catch the dumbbell press for reps and then the stone event.

I noticed some things I want to talk about so maybe I can help some dudes out…

All the strongman contests I did that had the atlas stones in them required the lifter to pick the stones up and place them on top of a platform. This event was run another way, where the athlete has to pop the stones up over a bar about 50 inches high. Pretty cool!

Regardless of the loading technique, one thing that caught my eye was how the athletes were ( or were not) wrapping their forearms.

When I lift atlas stones, I wrap my forearms with sports tape. I talk about this in our Stone Lifting DVD. Wrapping the arms in sports tape accomplishes two things: it serves as a removable base for your tacky and it offers skin protection against scrapes.


The main reason I strongly suggest wrapping the forearms for the stones is because it serves as a nice removable base for tacky.

Almost every strongman competitor I know of uses tacky. The only ones who don’t are not able to maintain the same competitive level as the ones who do because they have to try harder just to lift the stone off the ground.

The whole idea behind using tacky is to help you lock onto the stone when pulling it off the ground and when loading it onto the platform or over the bar. The bad thing is that it can be a pain in the ass to get off. While rubbing Baby Oil on it will take it off, it requires quite a bit of rubbing to break up the components of the tacky. You can make it a lot easier on yourself to clean the tacky off by applying it to the layer of tape on your forearms, as opposed to applying it to your skin and then rubbing it off.


Another reason for wrapping the forearms is to protect the skin. The stones can be very rough and will literally rip the outer layers of the epidermis off your arms. I spoke about this with one of the competitors who had not wrapped his arms and his reply was “I’m tough. I can handle it. It’ll heal.”

Yes, it will heal if you scrape the skin off your forearms, but that isn’t the point. The reason to cover your arms with tape is so that you don’t end up with any distractions while lifting the stones.

You have enough to worry about as a strongman competitor: the crowd daring you to go heavier and faster, maintaining your technique, keeping your breathing regulated. All this stuff is racing through your head while you are trying to load the stones. Do you really need to feel the pain of the stone tearing your skin in addition to all of that?

Even minor pain can be enough of a distraction that can knock you off your game. If the main contact points of your forearms get scraped on the third stone, what are you going to do, change the way you lift the next two? Mid-run through the stones, modify your technique? I don’t think so.

That very athlete that said he was tough enough to go without tape on his forearms, also failed to load the stone that would have given him sole possession of first place in that event. Oh, and I glanced at his left forearm after the event, too, and he had a giant strawberry scrape mark on it that looked like the road rash dudes get when they fall off their motorcycle. There is no way that he was completely 100% focused on lifting and popping the stone over the bar today when his skin was getting ripped off his arm.

Take my advice – wrap your forearms with some tape the next time you train or compete in stones and your performance will improve.


Another thing I noticed was that some competitors were wrapping their forearms not in sports tape, but in duct tape. This, I thought, was a serious mistake because duct tape is smooth. It seems like that would work against you in the stones, and it looked like the handful of competitors with duct tape on their arms were having a hard time with this.

To the contrary, sports tape has a moderate texture and natural stickiness to it. Sports tape, in my experience, even without tacky, will give you a little better grip on most stones than bare skin alone. The only stones that I have lifted that felt easier to lift with bare skin than with tape on the forearms are the polished granite spheres I have lifted at Pat Povilaitis’s house. Their ultra smooth surface seemed to grip better against the forearms than other atlas stones made from concrete poured into plastic molds, which the vast majority of strongman event atlas stones are made of.

I go over all of this and more in our Stone Lifting DVD. I firmly believe that the information on that disk will help anyone become a better stone lifter, especially new guys who are just getting into the sport, but I’d love to hear how you feel about this wrapping deal.

I know a lot of strongman competitors come to the Diesel site, so I’d like to know what you all think.

Should you wrap your arms or leave them bare?

Should you wrap with sports tape or duct tape? Something else?

Weigh in with how you feel. You may just end up helping somebody improve on the stones as well.

All the best in your training,


Learn Stone Lifting the Right Way with Stone Lifting Fundamentals

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5 Responses to “Taping the Forearms for Stone Lifting”

  1. Donnie Kiernan Says:

    Im competing in 3 weeks in Ft Meyers Fl and Ill be using a forearm guard that a friend of mine recommended. I highly suggest people use them if they want to remain competitive!

  2. Alan Says:

    I’ve got to agree, wrapping or at least protecting your forearms in some way is a wise move. In my (very short) experience with lifting natural stones, it can take a few attempts to get the balance of the stone worked out. By then your unprotected arms will be raw and it’s game over for the day. I’ll be giving sports tape a try next time.

    I have noticed Atlas Stones sleeves for sale. Anyone use these or tried wrapping knee/elbows wraps for the same effect?

  3. Kevin C Says:

    I tape my forearms, mostly for the issue of comfort. It’s exactly like smitty wrote, you cant concentrate on lifting the stone if your forearms hurt so bad that that is whats at the forefront of your mind. I’ve had guys tell me I should just toughen up, but my response is usually somewhere along the lines of ‘you don’t get extra points for being tough’ and you can list several pros – gillingham, pfister, who also tape/wear sleeves. A lot of guys forego the tape job not to appear tough, but simply because they’re worried about tape slipping, or they simply dont feel comfortable if their arms arent in direct contact with the stone. Taping is definitely getting more widespread.

    As far as duct tape vs athletic tape, I believe Johnny Wascicko (sp?) wears that, and he’s one of the better stone loaders amongst the east coast HW ams, so take that for what it’s worth

  4. Jim Smith Says:

    Jedd here again.
    I have never worn forearm sleeves / guards, but when I did see them they used they ended up tossed into a garbage can by the guy who had them. They kept rolling up on him and they were ruined due to all the tacky and rotten sludge on them from the dirt on the stones.

    In my opinion, sports tape is best. You have to wrap it right though. Too many dudes put it on too tight. Our DVD covers that as well.

  5. Dick Buttkiss Says:

    I’m new to strongman and to the atlas stones but I’ve quickly learned that what is said in this article is true. I’m no pussy, but when my skin is being ripped off it tends to make me lose my focus. Plus, getting tacky off of ripped up forearms is painful and takes forever. Rubbing mineral spirits into open wounds can’t be good for your health either. I’m going to go w/ sports tape and tacky. I’ve heard sleeves don’t work out that well.

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