23 Sep Atlas Stones
Atlas stones are the pinnacle of Strongman. There is no greater test of full-body strength or exercise. Stone loads will build and strengthen your biceps, shoulders, hamstrings, and core. For those who are lucky enough to have access, the benefits to stone training are enormous.
Loading atlas stones closely mimics the power movements of the majority of power sports. This is because the extension of the hip, knee, and ankle, known as the triple extension, is a movement necessary to be performed explosively for many sport movements and is the key to athletic power.
Holding the stone also builds crushing strength that fighting, wrestling, and contact sports will find hugely beneficial.
ATLAS STONE BENEFITS
During the stone lift, the torso musculature is highly active in stabilizing the spine and performing the extension that allows the stone to be loaded or locking out phase.
It has also been found that the Atlas Stone generated the lowest compression of the spine compared to traditional barbell movements because the strongman athletes curved their torsos over the stone.
This results in the stone keeping its centre of mass closer to their lower backs. Along with all of these benefits, muscle activation levels reveal that the largest gluteal activity occurred during the Atlas Stone, as did the quadriceps, the upper erector spinae, and many of the abdominal muscles in comparison to traditional explosive barbell movements.
For strength sports, all the above benefits can transfer to the competition lifts. Powerlifters will have the benefit of training the whole body, and increase spinal stability, which will increase power transfer in all three of the competition lifts.
It will assist in the deadlift as the stone is essentially pulled from a deficit, then utilizes triple extension needed to finish the lift, so it strengthens locking out pulls.
Weightlifters can also benefit from occasionally training with atlas stones. When further out from competition, it’s a great way to train the full body specifically the back and abdominal muscles that are necessary for huge snatches and clean & jerks.
INCREASE ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE
Using Atlas Stones to increase athletic performance is an absolute no brainer. It’s a full body, multi joint movement that requires the athlete to take an external force and move it through multiple planes. These characteristics will have carryover to the playing field. No matter what the athletic endeavour is, training with stones will help performance.
Stand directly over the stone with your feet shoulder width apart. The centre of the stone should be between the arches of your feet.
When you bend down to pick it up, assume you are at the bottom of a Romanian Deadlift: soft knees, bent at the waist, hips high, with a flat back.
Spread your fingers wide to maximize surface contact with the stone. Get your hands as far under as you can.
With your weight on the outside of your feet and heels pull the stone up to knee height then create ‘the lap’ by bringing your knees together.
You then place the stone on top of your quads and pull/roll it into your hips as you take a partially seated position.
It is vitally important that you pull the stone in as close to you as possible against your chest and bring your hands over the top at the 2 and 10 o’clock positions.
This will allow you to create a platform on your body for the stone to sit and not fall out from under you when you stand.
You will now pull the stone tightly into your body.
Take in a massive belly breath.
Move your hips forward and let your eyes look up towards the ceiling.
Exhale and place the stone on the platform or in the chosen finishing position.
Atlas Stone Alternatives & Variations
If you do not have access to Atlas Stones and want to find other exercises which work the same muscle groups then below are some ideas you might find useful.
Sandbags can be found in a number of gyms and their utilization possibilities are endless. Sandbags can be taken to your chest or to your shoulders with a very similar technique to Atlas Stones.
I will cover these in their entirety in a separate blog as part of this Strongman Series but if you want to improve your core strength, grip, and spine stability like you would with the Atlas Stone lift, then Farmer’s Carries are the exercise for you.
You can perform farmer’s carries by picking up a pair of heavy dumbbells or kettlebells and walking with them for a specified distance or period of time.
The sled push is a superb replacement to the leg drive and hip power that an Atlas Stone lift would require. Loading and pushing weight on a sled can be a great way to simulate glute and overall leg activation.
CARRYING HEAVY OBJECTS
One of the most simple alternatives to the Atlas Stone lift is carrying heavy objects. Take a heavy object and carry it for a distance or time. While the effect will not be exactly the same, this is most definitely a way to improve your grip, core and trunk strength.
ZERCHER SQUATS OR FRONT SQUATS
Both are great for building strength and building the muscles needed for Atlas Stone Lifts. The weight in both exercises is front-loaded, which is similar to the way an Atlas Stone would be. These squat variations target the quadriceps, glutes, adductors, and match the Atlas Stone muscle activation in a number of ways.