Stone Fiction // The Competitor’s Cut

No Access to Stones?  No problem. Our resident Strongman breaks the atlas stone lift down into accessory moves that work. We know this because he won his strongman contest-without practicing on stones.

// By Robert DaStrongman Racine

          You think you’re pretty strong, right? Maybe you’ve even done a strongman contest before so you know you’re strong. Problem is, you don’t have any strongman equipment to train on right now. None at a nearby gym. None in a friend’s garage. None in a backyard.                                                     

          Are you screwed? Nope. That was me last year when I was determined to compete in the 2011 Central Florida Strongman, masters division. Not a stone, or conan’s wheel or yolk in sight. And here’s this contest I really want to do looming – just xx weeks away.

          What to do. What to do.

          Instead of letting you figure things out on your own I’ve decided to throw out some more knowledge, or insanity, if you prefer. The strategy? Help you lift some massive stones-without having any to lift.

          We want a strategy that works so I broke the lift down into basic components. Then I set out to find gym exercises that would replace and assist with each part of the lift. The basics of the lift from bottom to top are: A deadlift, a power clean and a high pull. Pretty simple right? Well there are gaps to fill in, too. So I added in: zerchers and good mornings to fill in those gaps (I’ll define these moves further on). At the end of training, I believed I had lifted numerous stones. And you will too.

Zerchers. Our resident strongman Robert Racine uses zerchers as an accessory or substitute move to recreate the first part of stone lifting (here he lifts 225, 314, 425 and yes 495 from the knees).

          The first move is the deadlift, a staple of any strength routine and something you can’t neglect if you want to win a strongman competition. I prefer to do these from a 2” box to assist with the initial pull. Find a weight you can do doubles or single reps with for multiple sets. A couple good exercises to supplement with are trap bar deadlifts and Romanian deadlifts. The trap bar is diamond shaped. You step into the bar, grab the handles and stand up. Romanian deadlifts start at with the bar mid-shin or just below the knee. You lift until just before lockout to keep the stress on your hams and knees. These two will help with the middle section of any stone pull, just before you lap the stone. These two moves are great at rep ranges of 5-8.

          Now I just need something to fill in the first part of the lift gap. From the lap to belly height I added Zerchers. What is a Zercher? It’s a deadlift, but from rack pull height. The Zercher is just a way of holding the bar, specifically you hold it in the crook of your elbow. I recommend some padding because the bar’s knurling will chew you up. The traditional Zercher is done from the floor. If you are flexible enough try it. For lifting stones I would suggest lifting from the kneecap. Get the arms wrapped around the bar and stand up. Single reps work best! Don’t forget to keep adding weight.

Deadlifts are the staple of strongman training and recreate the middle part of stone lifting. Here our resident strongman Robert Racine lifts 360×3, 410×3, 460×6.

A nice exercise to include here is a seated good morning. If you have a sandbag, use that.

          Next act involves a power clean from the hang position and the high pull. This is the part where it gets crazy. The hang clean will make or break you here. Start with the bar at the knees and pull as high as possible then dip under it. Bring the bar to your clavicles or rack position, let it drop back to the hang and repeat. Single reps are your friend here. To help with the pull try the high pulls. Act like you are doing a shrug but pull fast and high as possible. This is like an upright row you are cheating. I would suggest using straps on these. Doubles are good for reps with high pulls.                                                         

          I’m not sure if developing this training was an act of desperation or inspiration or a little of both on my part last year (it was a rough, damn year), but it worked. I won the 2011 Central Florida Strongman, masters division. My first win ever.  You don’t have to let lack of equipment (or frankly anything) stand in your way, if you don’t want to.

About Robert DaStrongman Racine: Got my first weight set when I was 10. I was bit by the strongman bug in 2003 and have never looked back. Have been competing in North American Strongman (NAS) competitions for eight years. Qualified for NAS Nationals in 2006 at the Illinois Strongest Man. Won the 2011 Central Florida Strongman in masters division. Follow my life and training here and at