On to the actual training for the day....
I find that I generally use three different ways to warm up but only utilizing one of the following three ways per workout: 1) If it is winter, I generally keep everything inside the garage and moving it all to the backyard or the drive way is more than enough warm-up... BELIEVE ME! 2) If everything is already on the field; I will either jog carrying one of the sandbags under each arm stopping and starting as necessary for a duration of 10 minutes or 3) Do 2 sets of a clean and press with the 135lb flat stone. I then go immediately into the training.
I generally order the workout going from the rocks to the logs to the sandbags, but sometimes I will throw everything out in the field and attack the about to be mentioned exercises in no particular order.
I have 4 core exercises that I do with the flat rocks and I think your training could benefit tremendously from entering them into your program (although there are many other useful rock movements and I would perform any that you feel have value, I have found the following to the most result producing):
The clean and press should be performed with the flat stones (I have pressed my round stones a few times, but it really is too dangerous because of a lack of grip) and is reasonably self-explanatory. The real key is to get the rock high enough on your chest that you are forced to arch your back significantly (this feeling being the first thing you will probably notice that differentiates them from standard presses) enough that you really involve the rhomboids and lats and force the erectors and lumbars into a very tight position (and very back strengthening position). I cannot say for sure, but I believe this exercise has helped my deadlifting power more than anything, it taxes your back that much. I will either press and then throw it all the way to the ground again or press for reps from the chest. It can be said (and is true) that a large hand tends to find rock pressing easier because of the ability and confidence engaged to being able to grip the rock well. While my hand strength is one of my best strength attributes, I have relatively small hands and have never felt 100% comfortable with the rock press but I just deal with it.1) Clean and Press
Throughout the movement from the ground to overhead, you will be forced to change your hand positions multiple times and this will toughen your hands up quite nicely. It depends on the competition, but sometimes you will be forced to push your press back over your head to complete the rep. I would not train this way because it is reasonably more dangerous. I would simply press from the chest up and out, it is much easier to maintain your balance and grip on the rock. Oh and chalk up well, on both the hands and the chest. The intricacies of the movement should be pretty natural and will come to you. As far as rep ranges go, or at least two months (four workouts) I would rep high (8 to 15 reps) with the lighter stones (135er, 170er or 200lber depending on your strength going into it) to develop the technique and confidence to lift heavier. Do not, I repeat DO NOT attempt a rock that is way out of your league the first time out (it is too dangerous), relax the ego for a while and you will be much better off in the end. By the way, the world record is 330lbs, so I do not expect anyone to lift the 400lb rock overhead and getting the 300lb will make you among the best rock lifters (and overall strongest men) in the world.
Rock rowing can and should be done with both flat and round rocks. The position that you are forced into when using flat rocks (especially if the rocks are wide) will work your upper back and biceps like no other exercise; and the movement with the round rocks will increase your confidence when picking up Mavrock type stones and also improve your chest crushing ability. I find this actually quite fun. You are forced to bend over quite far when doing these types of rows (as opposed to standard barbell rows which are best done at about a 60 degree angle) and this works wonders for the lower back as well. Do both higher reps 6 to 12 and max pulls. On the max pulls (which would go up to the 400lb flat rock, POSSIBLY, and the 360lb spherical stone) hold the finished position for a few seconds to groove in the strength and improve your overall rock lifting.
Arched back squats are best done with round rocks (although flat rocks work quite well and you are generally actually able to get more roundness to the back) and also work the body in a very unique way. You stand up with a round rock with arms parallel to the floor and you simply squat done until the rock is in your lap and then back up again. This tests many aspects of your strength, and I donít have to tell you which ones you will find out when you try them and develops a unique type of explosiveness that cannot be duplicated. You might find that your grip on the rock goes before your squatting and lower back strength goes. That is Ok, your ability to grip the rock will come and when it does you will be a much more proficient rock lifter. Go for reps on this one (3 to 20) and donít do one rep limits (that really isnít the point of the exercise.
Many people don't carry round rocks for distance, but it is a great exercise and feels comfortable somehow (maybe it is just me... hehe) but of course flat rocks are the mainstay for carrying. You can pick them up off the ground or from a platform. There is nothing unmanly about taking them from a platform, usually at this point in the workout I am just not interested in picking it off the floor and this exercise is not really about that type of strength. The movement is very straightforward, just keep trying to go farther and use different rocks so as to improve your ability to hold on to any type of rock. I generally do three sets with pretty long breaks in between (because you will be so out of breath).
The two basic movements that I always do with the round rocks are 1) cleans and 2) pick and throws. Cleaning a round rock to each shoulder alternately is a great exercise and should be done in one motion, although as the rocks get heavier you will find that at first (and of course possibly always) you will not be able to do it in one motion. You will first get it to your lap and then throw it up to the shoulder. This is a slower and more physically exhausting way of cleaning a rock, so progressively try and get through that part of the motion and get the clean in one movement. Alternate to each shoulder, but I can guarantee you that one of them will always feel easier than the other (generally the same side of the body that your writing hand is on). Not much else to say about this movement except it is also more beneficial when going for higher reps, even when attempting to shoulder a weight for the first time (say the 300lb spherical rock, which is quite a great clean) try to do it a second and third time (allowing enough rest in between as needed).
Pick and throws with a round rock is my name for a movement that signifies that loading spherical stones has become easy to an individual. When Magnus ver used to pick up and load the MacGlashen stones in his later competitive years, he would get it to his chest and seemingly bounce it off and propel the stone forward onto (and sometimes over) the barrel. This exercise duplicates that movement and will add infinitely to your understanding and power in loading round stones. What you do is simply grab the stone off the ground in the same fashion as you normally would and then get it up to the chest. When at chest level, swing back with your trunk and then pop your chest forward while releasing your arms from the rock. Let me see if I can get you to visualize in more detail. You are standing up with the rock with arms around it (exactly on the sides, not lower or higher) and you arch your back steeply (causing your whole torso to rock backwards, while your feet are in the same position with legs just following the lead of the torso) and you then quickly rocket forward with the arms now higher than parallel with the ground (the chest having been puffed out) and you release the arms and push the rock off with the whipping motion of your torso and chest. You are not pushing the rock off of you with your arms, but are sending it flying with the snap of your torso and explosion of the torque in your back. Oh and as far as distances to try to get with the rock, this is not the point (and yes they will not be far). The point is to develop a strong follow through with the rock once at the barrel, so that you can power it on to it.
Next month, I will go into the specifics of the log usage and sandbag training. I realized that that detailing this training will take almost as much writing as everything up to this point, and I think there is a lot of good information to digest here and delaying the rest til next month will give you all time to find your rocks, logs and sandbags. Stick with me, take my advice to heart, train every session like everything is on the line and maybe someday you too can become The Strongest Man Alive!! Best of luck in your Training!
Chris Mavromatis has a double B.S. in Neuropsychology and International
Economics from Indiana University-Bloomington. He lived and Sweden and
Belgium for 2 years and attended and learned from many strongman championships
all over Europe. He has competed in Regional Strongman competitions in
Belgium and Denmark. He has contacts and knowledge from numerous strongmen
over Europe and North America. He produced the premier strongman
competition "The Strongest Man Alive Contest" in St. Louis, MO on November
7th and 8th , 1998. Results of this contest can be viewed at StrongestManAlive.Com
Reproduction of this article, in whole or part, for any purposed other than personal use is prohibited without written consent. Copyright 1999 Chris Mavromatis.