My journey into the primordial ooze of powerlifting is in the initial stages. I have only been utilizing this stuff for about 3 months. The motions I am doing and terming “Dinosaur Training” may differ from Brooks Kubiks book so, we can make this the rookies’ version and call it “Caveman Training.” What better to call throwing rocks and hoisting trees? I am slowly adding more motions to the list of things I do. It takes a little time to adjust to the increased volume of work each week (I do these on Saturdays). Since the majority of the things I do are compound movements I am trying to keep it simple for the time being. These are extra work and sort of fun so I don't regiment the program...for now. I do go balls out on the intensity though. I have fun tossing rocks and lifting trees but, I am trying to do this for the purpose of getting brutally strong. It will definitely get you in touch with your “Caveman” ancestry. I come back from these workouts covered in dirt, sweaty, and grinning from ear to ear. My wife thinks I have absolutely lost my mind.
My initial days of Dinosaur stuff were basically restricted to dragging. I utilize a “Louie” program and it is plenty of work so I wanted to start off easy. I didn't have any weights to hook up (traditional drag is with 45# or 100# plates) so I decided to improvise and use some trees. I made a “little” log and a “big” log to drag depending on what was slated for my next conventional lifting day. If I had a Squat or Heavy legs day coming up then I would take the “little” log out. If it were a chest day of sorts then the “big” boy got the nod. Now when I started dragging these logs it was early January and there was snow on the ground. This made the dragging part easier but, the breathing part was a challenge. Gasping cold air is not a recommended activity. In addition to dragging I would toss around a chunk of wood. Generally I would do about 2 sets of 5 reps throwing the wood chunk vertically, a push-press type of bench motion, and a twisting over-the- shoulder throw for each side. The dragging really works the hip/glute area as well as killing your legs and calves.
My dragging trail is about 1/4 mile long for the full length and at the half-way mark it starts to incline. This continues 'til about the 2/3 mark and then does a little downhill run to the end. It is nice because the beginning is somewhat easier and provides a ‘warm-up’ time then the hill really works the muscles. The little log is taken the full 1/4 mile while the big log gets taken to the top of the hill before the return trip. The variation of the terrain makes for nice changes in the intensity. I kind of get a peak-rest type of workout. The strap I use to drag the logs is nothing fancy. I tie a rope through a hole in the front of the log and then attach a motorcycle tie-down strap to a loop at the other end of the rope. The tie-down is about 2-3" wide so it distributes the load pretty good. I'm sure there are an infinite number of variations so use whatever you can.
Once February came around the temperature started to rise somewhat. In Michigan we were actually experiencing 50+ degree days. This was not normal and to boot it took my friction eraser away (snow: in layman's terms)! Dragging these logs without the benefit of the snow was a WHOLE different story. I came away from the drag sessions gasping and had nothing left for any type of throwing. Give me a break eh? It is amazing enough for me to walk a 1/2 mile...let alone drag a tree! So the dragging was the norm until the end of February. In the waning days of February I spent a day looking for some good rocks and trees. My family has a chunk of land and luckily they have a big rock pile and some very large rocks. Too big for this stage of the game anyway. At the end of the rock hunting session I had three good size stones for lifting/carrying and three good throwing/pressing stones. I tried to vary the shapes and weights so I would not adapt to moving them too quickly. With the different shapes you can pick a multitude of ways to grasp and lift the stones. Believe me, they all hit a little different areas depending on where you grip it.
After the rock hunt it was time to find some trees. I have the two I use for dragging and the little one is good for lifting but, the big one is just a little too cumbersome for me right now. I want to try some Highland games this year so I figured a Caber would be a good addition to my un-conventional training. Let me just interject some thoughts here. Turning the Caber is NOT, I repeat NOT, an easy thing to do. My first attempt at one was 19' and not really all that straight. I couldn't weigh it at the time so I am unsure how heavy it was. Straight is good for Cabers and bent is bad in case you didn't know. Just trying to balance it was a chore. As a result this tree got cut down to about 12' and is now a practice Caber to actually learn *how* to do it. I also made an 18' foot tree that I want to utilize but, it is Ironwood and I think it is too heavy. The collection of these materials coupled with some playing was sufficient for a days work. I had a good chunk of paraphernalia to work with and didn't see the need to overextend on what I was doing. This marked a little more structure to my Dinosaur training from this point on. I had gained a good amount of endurance and my strength was improving nicely from the conventional training. I figured it was time to start pushing a little bit more on the Dinosaur day!
With the addition of my new “toys” this training really has taken a turn for the better. I start off the sessions with a drag (big or little depending, see above) and follow it with some rock play. I escalate from smallish rocks to bigger ones and do about 5 overhead presses until it is too heavy to clean. The final rep (number 6) is generally a push-press bench type throw with the rock. This is great for explosion and I can feel the effects when I bench. Once the pressing/lifting is done I move to my three big rocks. These are about the size of my torso and I don't know how much they weigh but, I find them very heavy and it is work to get them up to chest height. The whole motion reminds me of watching WSM and the McGlashen stones. I pick the rock off the ground and squat WAY down to get it up on the legs. I can get a more solid grip from this point then it is just a Zercher type squat. The rock is much more cumbersome and puts a lot of strain on the lower back. I think the training with somewhat rounded back (you can't keep it straight with the rock in hand) has helped my lumbar strength tremendously. I try to make a lift with each of the three big rocks. They are similar in weight but, shaped differently and it adds a little variation. The last rock usually gets a walk too, roughly 20 yards down and back. This will really test your back so I suggest being VERY careful with the rocks and the walking especially.
Okay, this brings me to my final segment of training. I like to keep working on the abdominal region so I have devised what I call “Tree Benders.” This utilizes my very small caber and is hell on wheels for your obliques and surrounding stabilizers (these puppies hurt the day after the day after!). Really all they are is side bends with the weight on your shoulders instead of in your hands. The length of the tree is so unbalancing and cumbersome it requires a lot of stabilizers to perform. I generally keep this in the 5-7 rep range per side and follow it with some twists. To do the twists I highly suggest you use a tree in front of you to stop the momentum of the tree on your shoulders. You can do them much harder and the only dangerous aspect of the twists (I have come across to date, anyway) is trying to stop the twist motion. Very stressful on the pec/delt tie-in and hard on the lower back too. With a tree to stop the motion you can bang it as hard as you want and even get some explosion out of it (just don't drop the tree cuz’ you hit your stopper too hard ;-p). Once I finish the “ab” stuff I am moving into an experimental “aerobic” type phase. I know, I know...the nasty “a” word but, I look at Lumberjacks and they all seem to have big barrel chests (besides, “Kaz” used to lumberjack). My version of “aerobic” is simply to use a sledgehammer and beat on a stump or tree. I use the stump for overhead strikes and a tree for sideways strikes. You get a rhythm going and you are breathing heavy after a few minutes. This is still experimental and I haven't had a chance to really see if it is going to help but, it is fun nonetheless (“bad tree...bad tree!”). At this point I am pretty much whipped. The conventional stuff during the week has sapped a lot of energy and then this stuff on my day off...(*angry pause*) takes the last motivation I have. I do try to do a little grip work before I leave. Generally playing with the sledgehammer is good. I do some tilting and standing it up with forearm strength. I have to short grip the handle cuz’ I am not that strong...yet.
Well, there you have it. It is pretty simple and I am happy with the results so far. Especially since I started doing this stuff before my lower back was 100% healed. It has helped to re-strengthen it and I think it is past where it was. I am being a little on the cautious side for two main reasons. (1) The fact I was coming off a back injury and had spent the last year getting it straightened out. (2) I have a meet on April 4th and I don’t want to overdo it before the meet. The meet is a push/pull so it is test time for the back to see how well it has rehabilitated. I am confident it is going to hold up fine and even give me more than I am expecting. I seriously attribute a great deal of this to the fact I have been using un-conventional training. I give Louie Simmons credit as his system has been EXTREMELY beneficial to me as well. I think the rocks and trees have solidified all that training and connected everything. I am going to keep pushing this stuff and will see how much it can help in the future. Again, is it the regular program or is it the unconventional “Caveman” type stuff? I think it is both...I could be crazy but, I like it, and I think it is beneficial to my training.
I will keep everyone updated on the progress and any new variations I come across. I hope this has sparked some ideas or maybe motivated someone to go give it a try. It is fun and is great for tying all the stabilizers and so forth together. It is humbling at first because rocks and logs are MUCH harder to lift than weights and bars. I was disappointed at the meager size of some of my implements at first. Now, I am manhandling most of them and I have upgraded many as well. It is just like any other lifting...start at the bottom and work your way up. It is much nicer to toss a rock off your chest than setting it nicely down like you would with a bar (unless you are lucky and get to use rubber weights).
If you have some time one of these days and you got a few rocks and trees...head out and play with them for a bit. Grow some hair on your knuckles and reduce your vocabulary to grunts and high- pitched wails (when you drop a rock on your foot). If you get really good you can advance to the status of everyone's favorite Caveman...Grog!! Hair, lips, and legs!
What more could you ask for? Try yelling “GROG” at the top of your lungs on heavy deadlifts and see how much attention you get. I doubt you will get asked for training tips very often but, once people see the iron you toss...they may overcome their fear of hair and your odor of “au natural” long enough to learn something new and useful. So in the meantime, keep cooking your food and help to keep Bic in business. Maybe you'll hear one of my ‘Grog’ calls and we can talk about lifting over some real “Grog.” Stay strong, lift smart, and best of luck.
Reproduction of this article, in whole or part, for any purposed other than personal use is prohibited without written consent. Copyright 1998 Wade Hanna.