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Confessions of a Squataholic

Atlas Shrugged, or, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Stones, But Were
Afraid to Ask

Since the day I walked in to this joint and began fulfilling my destiny: fine tuning
the athletic machine you all see before you on a day in/day out basis, I’ve become
more and more interested in the history of physical culture. Hence, since you may
have noticed the recent influx of Atlas Stones curing over in the hot box corner at
the gym, I thought what better way to begin a loose series of blogs on that history
than to start with this newly relevant topic.

The Atlas Stones, also called the McGlashan Stones in Scottish Games, are an odd
object strength event most commonly seen and popularized by Strongman competitions,
notably the World’s Strongest Man. The popularity of this event has seen it take
center stage as the climactic event in the World’s Strongest Man competition, where
the stones range from 245-400 lbs. The McGlashan Stones of Scottish Games have a
slightly less heavy range of 198 lbs (90 kg) to 352 lbs (160 kg.) 2011 WSM
Champion, American Brian Shaw, recently set the world record at the Arnold Classic
by lifting a 540# stone to a 48” height. Oh and he also did it 3 times in a row.
There are videos of him hoisting a 558# stone in traning.

The McGlashan Stones are one of a regional grouping of stone lifts originating in
Scotland know as “Clach Cuid Fir” (Gaelic for “Manhood Stones”.) Traditionally,
clans would welcome a young man into manhood once he was able to lift the locally
recognized stone to waist height. I recommend we all take up this tradition amongst
our own clans, but then they’ll probably just come up with a video game in which you
can lift the stones which the kids will prefer instead.

In 1986, the WSM expanded on the McGlashan Stone tradition by incorporating the
Atlas Stone competition. In this event, the competitors went head to head, lifting
5 individual stones from the ground and loading them, initially, onto waist high
barrels. As the event evolved, the barrels gave way to platforms, which now range
in size from 48” up to 72”. The event is timed, and in the WSM finale, it is common
to see times as low as sub 0:30, nearly unbelievable considering the final stone now
weighs approximately 400 #.

Stones and Strongman/odd object events in general were popularized in CrossFit in
large part due to Rob Orlando of Hybrid Athletics. And the youtubes/internets took
it from there.

So what are the benefits of training with stones?

Stones present a veritable plethora of benefits (as well as dangers) to the modern
trainee. Stone training builds strong stabilization, hip extension, explosive
strength from the ground and can vastly improve isometric strength as well. It
takes the entire body to lift a heavy stone. The muscles of the upper back,
shoulders and chest are particularly engaged, but a trainee should not underestimate
the importance of the role of the core, hips , glutes and hams in stone lifting as

What are the dangers? Well, for starters, you can wreck your spine if you approach
the atlas stones without proper technique, and vastly preferable, the watchful eye
of a trained coach. When training with stones you will also no doubt experience
stone rash, akin to an Indian burn on the forearms as a result of friction. This
can be avoided by wearing sleeves on the forearms, or you can just wear them as
battle scars if that’s your bag. With stones, as with all things gym, the smartest
approach is safety first.

How can I work some stone training into my workout regiment?

Well, I’m glad you asked! First off you can not touch the ones that are curing
until they are greenlit. Heed the sign. Secondly, show up on Saturday mornings for
Strongman Saturdays, hosted by our very own Ambassador of Bad Will, Mr. Amazing
himself, Bill Adams. He is CFWJ’s Precious Paul Ellering, slowly creating a Legion
of Doom of his own. Take it from him, he was once Robbed in Orlando. He is no Bill
Kazmaier, but he does stay in a Holiday Inn Express every Friday night.

Be safe, have fun, get stoned.

One Response

  • J-trainAugust 07, 2013 at 10:41 AM

    Great info Coach K. Love ur writings!


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