Westside and Stone Lifting
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Westside and Stone Lifting
Blood, sweat, tacky and tears.. There is nothing quite like the feeling of a 365lbs stone stuck to your chest while it attempts to tear your biceps from the bone, rip all of the flesh from your forearm and crush you into the ground. Stone lifting is ancient and probably one of the most popular and traditional strongman events. On top of that, it is also a great builder of general physical preparedness (GPP) and the posterior chain.
One of the problems with stone lifting is overdoing the training. Landing a PR stone onto a box can only lead to one thing.the next stone. Those of you that have worked with the IronmindT Grippers know about this tendency. You close the trainer and then you kill yourself trying to get the #1 shut. This continues as you progress through the grippers. The same thing happens with stones. I've seen a ton of athletes, myself included, put an hour and a half into stone work and then have little energy left over for other events. They receive token wor at best and the stones overtrain you with no remorse.
I'm writing this article in an attempt to assist people in creating a plan of attack for your stone lifting as well as introducing these wonderful concrete and granite beasts as an excellent tool for powerlifters and athletes.
Safety with the stones is of extreme importance. They carry with them the potential force of a wrecking ball and they need to be treated with care. Know when you are going to miss a lift, accept it, and get your feet out of the way. A double stack of tires is great for unloading stones from the platforms. You need to square yourself with the box and guide the stone down with two hands. We have good footage of stone loading and safety on our videos so you should check it out if you have any questions.
Your goals will determine what type of stone training you will do. I'll target this article at producing a maximum stone lift. You can't do a stone series if you can lift the heaviest stones as singles so it is a good idea to build up a strength base and then work on your endurance. I like to mix the two in my training in sort of a periodized fashion. I'm going to cover some techniques for building speed and endurance later but I want to start with how I believe Westside techniques can be used to build up your stone lifting. If you are not a strongman competitor then stone lifting will definitely help your squat and deadlift and lightweight high rep lifting will build up GPP. The form and execution of the stone lift uses great hip drive with an explosive triple extension of the ankles, knees, and hips. This movement carries over well to augment Olympic lifting and certainly is applicable to the combative athlete. The stone lift uses the same muscles involved in executing the "perfect tackle" and you also build great core strength and power as well as improving your ability to give and receive force.
There are many elements to a proper stone lift. They are difficult to describe here but you can pick up the technique from watching strongman contests or by checking out our Video 1. There a few different lifting methods but we will concentrate mostly on the deadlift/powerclean method. You pull the stone up into your lap, sit back, re-grip over the top of the stone and then fire you hips through while achieving triple extension of the hips, knees and ankles and explode the stone up onto the platform.
The stone lift can be broken down into a speed/dynamic day as well as a max effort day. You will have to choose your auxiliary lifts based on you own weakness but I will outline a model for you.
Stone Max Training Schedule
Workout 1 (Speed Day)
Warm-up all related muscle groups
Assistance lifts to be scheduled based on weaknesses.
Power cleans 10x3
Workout 2 (Max Effort Day)
Warm-up all related muscle groups
Assistance lifts to be scheduled based on weaknesses.Front squats 3x8
Rack pulls w/ bands 3x6-10
Arched back good mornings
Glute ham raises 3x12
Reverse Hyperextensions 3x8-12
Heavy core work (your choice)
MAX EFFORT LIFTS (some can be assistance lifts as well)Snatch Grip DL
Good mornings (any variety)
Snatch of multiple varieties
Cleans of multiple varieties
Max stone triple with controlled negative deload
Heavy stone already lifted to higher box (go for PR)
New stone PR attempt
Rack pull (with/without bands/chains and different pin heights)
You will have to adjust the volume depending on your own abilities and you have to find and destroy your own weaknesses. Some will have a tough time lapping a stone and other will have a tough time with the top portion.
For your speed work, you cannot easily adjust the weights of the stones. Most will be using stones in the 160-220lbs range. For those will lighter maxes, such as females and smaller athletes, the heavy medicine balls sold by Elite Fitness Systems would be great for speed work. To increase the intensity with a lighter stone in a wave you could go to a higher box with the same stone. For example, on dynamic day you could load a 160lbs stone to a 48" box. On your next dynamic day you could load the same stone to a 52" box. On the third dynamic day you could load a 180lbs onto a 48" or perhaps the 160 onto a 54-56" box. You will have to use what you have available but I think you will see the waved pattern here. On the next week you drop back down to the 160lbs stone onto the 48 and cycle up again. The next cycle you would probably start with the 180lbs stone onto the 48" box. Play with it and find out what works for you. You can also occasionally throw in an extra set with a heavier stone to see if you can move it with the same good speed you use on the lighter stones.
Deloading a stone yourself adds an element to the lift that you will not encounter in a strongman contest but we have found the technique to be very beneficial when it come to giving and receiving force and it is also extremely taxing to your system. A 5-stone series now involves handling the stone 10 times. We think that this technique is best for building endurance and is a preferable technique for athletes and those interested in building up GPP.
Lifting stones to a variety of different heights helps to prevent the body from learning only one stone-lifting groove. Athletics happen at many different angles so it is a good idea to train this very athletic lift in many different ways. An additional and more advanced lifting method that benefits athletes and takes time off of a competitive series is the "scoop" or "one-timer" as we call it. This requires great back and arm strength and a good bit of flexibility. You get down low, squeeze the stone like a pec-dec and then stand right up with it very explosively. It never stops on your lap.
The stones in a strongman contest are contested in a series. The lighter stones go up on the higher boxes and you work your way on down the line until you load the heaviest stone onto the lowest platform. This is traditionally done with 5 stones but is starting to expand to six and perhaps will even be more as the sport advances. This is a timed event so speed and endurance is of the utmost importance. There are several ways to train this type of endurance but what we recommend is to go through a cycle like the one listed above. This will help perfect your technique and develop maximal strength. After this, move on to a cycle where you work on increasing your speed and endurance on a full stone series. I will cover more of the series in a future article.
We have many people, of all shapes and sizes learn stone lifting here. Regardless of their sport, stone lifting has helped them to strengthen their posterior chain and it also adds an interesting element to your training. For a more in depth analysis of the technique please see our video series at www.elitefts.com or come see us if you are in the Boston area.
About the author:
Bob Jodoin is the director of strength and conditioning for Total Performance Sports. He is an ISSA certified trainer with multiple certifications as well as an accomplished power lifter and strongman competitor.
Total Performance Sports is a private training facility located in Everett, Massachusetts, offering multiple martial arts, kickboxing, personal training and a very unique strength and conditioning training program, no chrome and ferns here. Hard work in an organized program is what dictates our success. We make athletes of all ages and abilities faster, stronger and more resistant to injury. We can also help anyone attain his or her fitness goals. TPS is the only fully equipped Strongman training gyms in Greater Boston. Call (617) 387-5998 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or for more information see our web site at : www.totalperformancesports.com
C.J. Murphy is the owner, and head strength coach of Total Performance Sports in Everett, Massachusetts. He is an award-winning trainer with multiple certifications, and over 14 years experience in the trenches training many athletes to championship levels. He is also a competitive strongman athlete.