Even if your name isn’t Magnus and you don’t have any plans to make a run at the top of the World’s Strongest Man podium, you can still reap the benefits of practicing the penultimate strongman event – the atlas stones.

The origins of lifting a stone for sport come from modest beginnings in different parts of the world, but our knowledge of their history comes from primarily Spain, Scotland, and Ireland. Irish countrysides were littered with stones of different sizes, making it impossible to properly farm the land. In order to grow food, farmers would have to move all the stones by hand. These stones were often moved to the outer edges of the property lines where they were neatly arranged into small walls, separating their neighbor’s parcel from their own.

Some of these larger stones made their way into the landscaping surrounding the farmer’s home as decoration. They later became a strength challenge for anyone who passed by. I’m willing to bet the conversation that started the first challenge stone went something like this:

Seamus: “That’s a big stone.”
Angus: “Yeah it is. I bet I could pick that up.”
Seamus: “Ah, no you couldn’t! You’re a f**king liar!”
Angus: “Oh really? Watch this!”
*lifts stone*
*fistfight ensues*
*drinking ensues*

Aw, that’s stereotyping! Totally not politically correct, Clay! Okay, okay, you’re right. I’m sure the drinking was first.

And thus began the proud and noble tradition of stone lifting.

But enough history for now my little quadzillas, let’s get to the event and why stone lifting should get put into your program.

Lifting a stone uses every muscle in the body, making it one of the most functional exercises in existence. But being amazingly functional is not always enough to convince people to try it. Functional, effective exercises aren’t sexy or exciting but they will pack on slabs of muscle in all the right places. Not to mention that stone lifting will help build strength in two gym lifts that trainees typically need more help with – the front squat and deadlift. It also teaches the triple extension commonly used in the Olympic lifts.

To set up, let’s draw an imaginary line around the middle of the atlas stone like the equator around a globe. Everybody take out their imaginary pens!

 globe 100kg-Atlas-Stone-new

Whoa, two round objects with equator lines around them? Did I just blow your mind or what?

Position the arch of your feet over the equator of the stone. Your feet should be spaced just far enough to allow your hands to get under the stone. Feet should be screwed into the ground to create tension in the lower body and prepare it to bear load. Bend at the hips and reach your hands as far under the stone as your flexibility will allow. Your hips should be high, knees slightly bent and slightly bowed out to allow your arms to pass by, and your back should be rounded.

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“Isn’t round back lifting dangerous? I read something about how you can hurt yourself lifting that way.”

Everything’s dangerous if you’re not careful! You can tweak your back picking up your car keys if you don’t set up properly.

“Hey, this position looks kinda like something that we’re already doing in the gym. I think they call it a deadlift or something?”

Why, yes indeed! My, you are quite the astute trainee. Of course, most times you aren’t deadlifting the bar when it’s all the way down at your toes. A deadlift from a deficit and stone lifting are very similar movements; one will help the other too!

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From here you will squeeze your hands and forearms onto the stone as hard as possible and begin to pull the stone off the ground. Your hips should stay high as the stone rises. As soon as the stone gets to your knees, bring your knees together slightly (remember, they were bowed out in the beginning) and roll the stone onto the tops of your thighs.

From here, roll the stone high onto your lap against your stomach and drop your butt down. Then regrip the stone, reaching your arms as far over the top of it as you can

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There are a few different ways to grip the stone:

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                            Overhand grip                             Underhand grip                              Middle grip

The underarm position should be avoided at all costs. This is a bicep blaster and not in a good way. A grip around the middle of the stone is okay in most situations where the platform is a little higher or if the stone is too small to easily grab over the top. But the preferred method is to reach over the top of the stone. The stone should be firmly pressed against the top of your stomach. Having a bit of a belly will help, as will wearing a lifting belt. Our lovely strongwoman model Cortney isn’t so lucky to have a powergut. Poor girl.

Retract your shoulder blades and keep that stone tight against the belly as you start to stand.

A quick note about standing with the stone and where to place it on the belly. If the platform is lower, you don’t have to squat all that low when regripping the stone. But if the platform is high, you’ll need to squat much lower before regripping. Take a look at how high the stone is when the lifter holding the stone in the higher squat position when he stands. Then look at where the stone is where the lifter squatting much deeper stands with the stone.

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                                       Squat high…                                                              …to load to a low box

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                                         Squat low…                                                             …to load to a high box

You can squat to rock bottom every time you practice stone loading and build some good strength that way, However, it’s a more efficient use of your energy to only do as much work as is needed to get the stone to the platform. If you are in a contest situation, squatting to rock bottom every time is going to eat up more time and may keep you from performing at your full potential. But if you’re just adding stone lifting to get the ass of a 20 year old, then drop it low grrrrl.

Stone lifting also hits the same muscles and has a similar stimulus on the body as a front or back squat.

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In the back squat, Cortney’s back is flat and the load is balanced between the heel and arch of the foot The load in the front squat and stone squat are directly over the middle of the foot. Her rounded back is a little more upright to counterbalance the load of the stone.

The next step is the triple extension. Getting the timing right on the triple extension is a matter of practice; getting everything firing in the right order will take a number of reps to get right.

Now that you’re standing with the stone and you have your eyes set on the platform, begin to fully extend your ankles, knees and hips to get as tall as possible. This position is similar to the extension executed in the snatch or clean.

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The final piece of the puzzle is the release and load. Now that your ankles, knees and hips are fully extended, pull your shoulders back hard to roll the stone a little higher up your chest and pop the stone as high as possible.


In addition to simply loading a stone onto a platform, there are a couple other stone lifts you can do to build functional strength and all-around badassery.

One such lift is the stone squat. To execute this, simply lap the stone, regrip, then stand to full extension. Instead of releasing the stone at the top onto a platform, carefully roll the stone back down your chest and bend down into a full squat again. Stone squats recruit more muscle fiber than your standard barbell squat, so don’t be surprised when you feel like you’ve been hit by a truck the next day!

 stonelap stonestand

Another of my favorites is the stone to shoulder. Once the stone is in your lap, squat as low as you can and reach your arms around the middle of the stone. This lift is easier if you supinate your hands and reach all the way under the stone, but it puts a lot of strain on the bicep tendon. Strain the tendon and it may tear, which will require surgery and leave you with a misshapen muscle. And if you don’t have aesthetic symmetry in your biceps, do you really have anything anymore?

Once you have the stone locked in, stand up and explosively roll the stone up your chest to the shoulder. It should be noted that you should have a game plan going into this lift; that is, figure out which shoulder you’re going to roll the stone onto before you even touch it. I know that sounds remedial and borders on insulting, but I’ve seen lots of people start to roll the stone onto their chest only to get confused about where it’s going and drop it again.

The last part of getting the stone to shoulder takes a bit of finesse, balance, and proprioceptive awareness. Let’s say you’ve decided to load the stone to your right shoulder. As the stone comes up high onto your chest, quickly shift your left hand under the stone to help hoist it onto the right shoulder. Once you have the stone balanced atop your shoulder, lower it under control and bend back down into a squat position to perform another rep.

 stonelapedited  stoneshoulder1edited  stoneshoulder3edited

Stone loading can be done with many different volume/intensity schemes. For example, you can work stone lifts into your conditioning drills by using a light stone for many reps as part of a circuit or heavy singles and doubles to build some serious strength. Here are a couple sample workouts:

5 Minute AMRAP
5 Stone Squats
3 Stone to Shoulders Left
3 Stone to Shoulders Right
5 Stone Rows

3 Stone Squats then Load to Platform @ 70% of 1RM
3 Stone Squats then Load to Platform @ 80% of 1RM
2 Stone Squats then Load to Platform @ 90% of 1RM
1 Load to Platform @ 90-100% of 1RM

Now go dig up your neighbor’s yards looking for stones to lift!

1510883_337007586437135_959597505_n Clay versus the 105kg+ champ Henrik Hildeskor

The first Norwegian Open Championships was a great success for all involved. Many thanks to Knut Bjorvatn for putting together a fun and well-run contest.

There were 31 competitors from 4 countries and all walks of life – students, professional strongmen, and even the mayor of Tvedestrand.

The USA was represented by yours truly and I finished tied for 2nd place, but was bumped down to 4th after taking into consideration the bodyweight of the other competitors. I lost my first match against Henrik Hildeskor but won my next three matches 2-0. Odd Haugen also tied for 2nd with me but was awarded 3rd because of bodyweight.

Congratulations to Vasilii Alexeev and Tatiana Grigor, the men’s and women’s absolute champions, both from Russia. Also congrats to Henrik for kicking my ass and winning the 105kg+ title and Glenn Bjornsen for beating some much heavier and stronger opponents with his tenacity and technique.

As for me, I’m gonna keep livin the dream.


Join me every Wednesday at the world famous Boss Barbell Club in Mountain View from 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. for strongman training classes! Ever wanted to try the strongman events but didn’t know where to begin? Well, this is the place. They’re located at 241 Polaris Ave, Mountain View, CA 94043.

Every Wednesday we cover a different event including a brief history of it, technique instruction, some time practicing the event, and then finishing off with some type of strongman circuit.

Last Wednesday’s class had 8 people in it who all learned about the penultimate event in strongman – the atlas stones.

The class is free to all BBBC members but if you’re not a member the drop in fee for the gym is $15.

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Strongman Clay Headed to Norway!

Posted: December 11, 2013 in Uncategorized

1484088_10202796311087900_1168931777_nDoes your trainer do more than talk?

It’s an honor to have been invited to compete in the Norwegian Championships taking place Friday, December 27th and Saturday, December 28th in Tvedestrand, Norway. This two day contest combines strongman, grip strength, and mas wrestling into one awesome weekend of strength athletics. The strongman and grip events are:

  • Apollons Axle (2″ thick barbell) clean and press
  • Thick handled dumbbell one hand clean and press
  • Thick handled dumbbell deadlift to 15″ box
  • Max deadlift

On Saturday, there will be a mas wrestling tournament against the country’s best. You can bet I’ll be rocking my American Flag fanny pack and USA socks from The Sox Box.

Make sure you follow me @3colorstrong or @clayedgin on Instagram for pictures and videos of the event as it happens.

A special thanks to The Sox Box for being instrumental in getting me to Norway to compete. Make sure you go to their website and buy some awesome socks!




Clay Edgin, 33, of San Jose, California, has been selected to compete in the Mas Wrestling World Cup in St. Petersburg, Russia on October 19, 2013. He is the first athlete from the United States to ever participate in this competition.

Mas (pronounced “moss” and which is Russian for “stick”) wrestling is a sport where two men sit facing each other, each with their feet braced on a board between them, and attempt to pull a stick from the other’s grasp. An athlete may also win by pulling his opponent over onto his side or causing the opponent to touch the board with any part of his body other than his feet. Mas wrestling comes from a northern region of Siberia called Sakha and has been practiced by the Yakutia people for hundreds of years. It has gained widespread popularity in Russia and Eastern Europe.

Edgin, who works part time as a strength coach at Santa Cruz Strength, will likely be one of the biggest men in the competition at 6’5” and 300lbs. Although he is an American record holder in the deadlift with a 705lb pull, he admits that raw strength only goes so far in mas wrestling and technique is equally important.

“It’s every athlete’s dream to represent their country in international competition,” says Edgin, “I’m really looking forward to seeing how I stack up against the best in the world. And I’m anxious to bring what I learn in Russia home to teach my training partners.”

For more information on mas wrestling, check out http://www.norcalmaswrestling.com or http://www.maswrestlingusa.com


One of the many hats I wear is contest promoter for the sport of strongman. This weekend, we had 26 competitors and over 100 spectators for the Santa Cruz Strength Strongman Challenge. Athletes came from as far south as Orange County and as far north as Sacramento and Reno to compete in five events, all while enjoying beautiful weather in Santa Cruz.

Several strength athletes whom I write programming for set personal records throughout the day but, more importantly, they had a lot of fun. Working out and staying healthy is SUPPOSED to be fun!

Not only did it do my heart good to see them doing so well, but it reinforced my belief that I can help you reach your goals.

This is what it’s all about – putting in the hard work in the gym and then smashing personal records on contest day!

If you’re ready to take that next step, contact me and let’s get started!

Here is a list of competitors for the Santa Cruz Strength Strongman Challenge happening this Saturday at 10 a.m.:

Up to 21 competitors for this Saturday’s contest! Here is the updated list:

Mens LW
Tim Nakashima LW (175 and Under)

Men’s LW (176-200)
Jason Kibbey
Robert Lira
Jared Miller
Daniel Ortiz
Joel Snodgrass
Jacob Ward

Men’s LW (201-231)
James Agee
Justin Harris
Mike James
Joey Weimer
Graciano Rubio

Men’s MW (232-265)
Clay Elliott
Ronald Strahan
Trent Talmadge

Men’s HW (266+)
Shaun Reid
Chris Carroll

Women’s Open
Amenah Razeghi
Satrina Villasenor
Cortney Vasquez
Peleiake Rice