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Fitness & Health

27th Sep 2019

Lifting atlas stones with a top British strongman

You've seen atlas stones being thrown around at World's Strongest Man, but how difficult is it to actually lift them? We gave it a go with a top strongman

Alex Roberts

‘Until you stand next to them, you don’t really get an appreciation for just how hard it is to lift them’

You’ve seen atlas stones being thrown around at World’s Strongest Man, but how difficult is it to actually lift them? We were put through our paces by Dan Thomas, strength coach at Commando Temple. Thomas is also a competitor at Britain’s strongest man.

Commando Temple is a tremendously well-equipped gym in Deptford, South East London. It’s home to some of strongest men and women and Britain, all of whom compete in events such as the atlas stone lift.

Thomas’ first lesson was clear: know the difference between natural stones and atlas stones. Natural stones are simply those found in nature, whereas atlas stones are manufactured to be spherical, often with added concrete.

Thomas said: “They (stones) are completely different to a standard barbell or a dumbbell. A 45 kilo stone will move totally differently to a 45 kilo dumbbell. It’s the same weight, but just so much harder.”

With natural stones, you have to take some time to feel around for corners and ledges. Atlas stones allow you to wrap your arms around them, making them easier to control.

Thomas’ technique tips were pretty simple, but easier said than done.

“I’m imagining a line going across the middle of the stone that’s cutting my feet in half – and I’m lining my middle finger up with that line as well.

“And I’m going to just hinge down, get hold of the stone, breathe, brace up, sit into it, wrap my arms and pop the stone up. And try not to tear my shorts open as I do it!”

With atlas stones, the secret to success is in separating the lift into distinct stages. Not attempting the rep in one go – which was my initial error.

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