For decades, stone lifting has been used as a measure of strength and power. This can be seen in Scotland and Iceland, where stone lifting is still used as a power test.
We would not even have atlas stones as an event in strongman events or as a workout routine if it weren’t for our forefathers. This will be a shame because they are excellent for developing strong strength and muscle.
In reality, I’d go so far as to suggest that if you can raise an atlas stone to your hip, you can lift pretty much anything of the same weight.
- 1 What Muscles Do Atlas Stones Work?
- 2 What Size Atlas Stone To Start With?
- 3 Types of training for Atlas Stones
- 4 Atlas Stone Technique [How I Teach in 7 Stesps]
- 5 How Can You Train Atlas Stones Without Using Stones?
What Muscles Do Atlas Stones Work?
Atlas stone lifting is a compound movement, which means it works with different muscle groups and puts a strain on the whole body.
The upper and lower back, calves, hamstrings, and biceps are the most probable muscle groups to be attacked.
The whole heart, forearms and palms, chest, glutes, and calves are among the other muscle classes.
The type of strength and muscles you want to develop will significantly influence how you exercise the atlas stones, and various phases of the atlas stone raise will target different muscle groups.
Let’s look into these in greater depth.
Stage 1: Getting it off the floor
This part of the lift would need you to manually transfer the stone from the floor to your knees.
Once you’ve raised the stone to just above your elbows, lower your hips down into a stance comparable to the bottom part of a squat.
From here, re-adjust your hold, inhale some more air, and prepare for the second half of the lift.
So, for stage 1 of the stone raise, the muscles employed are as follows:
- Biceps, forearms, muscles used for grip in the hands, and Arms.
- Atlas stone to shoulder: Front deltoids.
- Atlas stone to chest: Pectoralis major and minor.
- Upper back in its entirety: trapezius and latissimus dorsi.
- Lower back: gluteus maximus, erector spinae, flexors
- Atlas stone to legs: Hamstrings.
Stage 2: Knees to the platform
This stage of the lift would ask you to transfer the stone from where it is lying on the front of your legs and knees to the platform where you want to load it.
This stage would necessitate various leverages and muscles depending on the platform’s height.
Moving a stone to a platform just below chest height, for example, is not the same as loading it into your shoulder.
Since the activation process will be close towards the end, the muscles employed will transfer over.
Again, it’s worth remembering that the muscles mentioned here are the most obvious and evident muscles being exercised, but there would be plenty more that aren’t.
So the muscles used in stage 2 of the stone raise are as follows:
Legs: calves, soleus, hamstrings, adductor magnus, gluteus maximus, and quadriceps.
Atlas stone to shoulders: Front deltoid.
The entire back, including upper and lower: erector spinae.
Trunk, for stabilisation: obliques, rectus abdominis.
Hips and Glutes.
What Size Atlas Stone To Start With?
For a novice exercise, I recommend using a light stone and focusing on reps to get accustomed to the correct method while still preparing the muscles for something they are not used to doing. Even if you are a really powerful athlete, I recommend that you start with a stone weighing about 200 pounds or less.
Types of training for Atlas Stones
The form of muscles you build would be influenced by the type of atlas stone training you perform.
This is comparable to working for high intensity and low rep ranges on a deadlift to gain more strength and low-intensity deadlifts at high rep ranges to develop greater stamina.
The distinction here is that atlas stone preparation comes in several ways, each of which works the body in a particular way.
Ultimately, no matter which type of Atlas Stone training you chose, you will be working muscle groups that improve raw strength, conditioning, and explosiveness.
The style of preparation you select will perform well regardless, so in order to achieve the full benefits of atlas stones, all combinations should be applied for the best performance.
1- Raw Power
Working up to an atlas stone near your 1 rep limit would take a lot of strength and low reps for anyone looking to build muscles that produce raw power.
I like to do this as a pyramid package, beginning on a lower platform with a lightweight and making my way up to a heavyweight. After 2-3 sets of 1-2 reps of an Atlas stone at high pressure, odds are you’ll be exhausted and won’t be able to do anymore.
Alternatively, if you’re lucky enough to be able to practice with any Atlas stones with a loading medley at varying heights, this is indeed a great means of increasing overall power, since you’ll start with a lighter weight on a high platform and work your way down before you reach the heavy stone on the lowest platform.
If achieved at a much lower weight and with the quickest period available, the loading medley is great for building up the conditioning. This is usually performed at Strongman tournaments.
Another kind of loading used in competitions is over a Super Yoke, with the aim of getting as many reps as possible in a time limit of 1-3 minutes.
This is just another excellent conditioning workout. It’s worth remembering that if you’re planning to perform this sort of loading, you should have a training buddy who can drive the stone to you with each rep; otherwise, you’ll have to sprint around the yoke to carry it yourself, which would be a hassle and waste a lot of time.
Generally, both of the above would be good at teaching explosiveness.
However, doing stone lifting to the shoulder would most likely be the most powerful. This is also the most complex form of atlas stone raising.
You must step quickly when raising the stone from your knees to your back, otherwise, it may lose strength and collapse to the floor. The only way to shift the stone easily is to use destructive power with a single step.
Atlas Stone Technique [How I Teach in 7 Stesps]
- Step 1: Take your position by straddling directly over the stone’s top.
- Step 2: Reach straight down and squeeze the stone between your forearms and elbows, then place your palms as far as possible on the stone to increase surface area.
- Step 3: Inhale deeply and brace the torso.
- Step 4: Using a method equivalent to a Romanian deadlift rather than a traditional deadlift, lift the stone off the stage.
- Step 5: Roll the stone next to your torso onto your lap by pulling your feet together and sitting back.
- Step 6: At 10:00 and 2:00, cross your arms over the top of the wall.
- Step 7: Hug the stone tightly against your core. Allow your hips to rise first, then dynamically pull them through and stretch as the stone reaches its maximum height. Consider the stone “walking” up your chest.
How Can You Train Atlas Stones Without Using Stones?
Unfortunately, many gyms do not have atlas stones to practice with, making them difficult to obtain for many users.
If you are one of these individuals (as I was for a long time), there are alternatives that will support you.
Sandbags are my preferred choice. Picking one up and filling it is quite similar because you can exercise the same muscles as you can for an atlas block.
One piece of advice will be to stack the sandbag tightly so that it more closely resembles a stone. Otherwise, it would be like attempting to lift a body; it would be all over the place and impossible to control.
The best thing about a sandbag is that if you’re low on cash, you can tailor the weight to meet your needs and avoid purchasing several bags with varying weights. Since there is only one container, it would be easier to carry than a collection of atlas stones.
Furthermore, if you ever wish to buy a sandbag, you are not limited to just packing it; you may use it for a variety of workouts.
I got mine from Amazon, and it’s been a wonderful addition to my home gym (Radien Sports Sandbag).
2- Kettlebell Swings
These will be excellent for strengthening the hip and glute muscles, which are required for stage 2 of the Atlas Stone Lift. You’ll want to do these heavy to create the explosive power you’ll need at the top of the stone lift.
3- Front Squats
Front squats are not only a great all-around workout, but they are also excellent for developing the core strength and leg drive needed for stage 2 of the Atlas Stone Lift.
You may also do these with a stone for a closer carryover, or as previously described, a sandbag.
4- Stiff Leg Deadlifts
In practice, any deadlift variation would be excellent, but a stiff leg will be the most similar to an atlas stone lift.
It will emphasize the hamstrings and train you to hold the lats and back close and engaged to support you keep your shape straight on the lower portion of the atlas stone rise.
5- Farmers Walks
Ideally, a heavier weight could be used. They will support you in two respects.
1. They can train you to handle awkward and heavyweights. Since you’ll be gripping the weights for longer than a traditional barbell or dumbbell raise, it’ll train the grip like nothing else.
2. While walking with this heavyweight, you can use a variety of muscles to stabilize the weights, including those in your core, hips, and legs. This will apply to the Atlas Stone Raise as well.