The biomechanical characteristics of the strongman atlas stone lift

Benjamin Hindle*, Anna Lorimer, Paul Winwood, Daniel Brimm, Justin W.L. Keogh

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

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Abstract

Background: The atlas stone lift is a popular strongman exercise where athletes are required to pick up a large, spherical, concrete stone and pass it over a bar or place it on to a ledge. The aim of this study was to use ecologically realistic training loads and set formats to (1) establish the preliminary biomechanical characteristics of athletes performing the atlas stone lift; (2) identify any biomechanical differences between male and female athletes performing the atlas stone lift; and (3) determine temporal and kinematic differences between repetitions of a set of atlas stones of incremental mass. 

Methods: Kinematic measures of hip, knee and ankle joint angle, and temporal measures of phase and repetition duration were collected whilst 20 experienced strongman athletes (female: n = 8, male: n = 12) performed three sets of four stone lifts of incremental mass (up to 85% one repetition maximum) over a fixed-height bar. 

Results: The atlas stone lift was categorised in to five phases: the recovery, initial grip, first pull, lap and second pull phase. The atlas stone lift could be biomechanically characterised by maximal hip and moderate knee flexion and ankle dorsiflexion at the beginning of the first pull; moderate hip and knee flexion and moderate ankle plantarflexion at the beginning of the lap phase; moderate hip and maximal knee flexion and ankle dorsiflexion at the beginning of the second pull phase; and maximal hip, knee extension and ankle plantarflexion at lift completion. When compared with male athletes, female athletes most notably exhibited: greater hip flexion at the beginning of the first pull, lap and second pull phase and at lift completion; and a shorter second pull phase duration. Independent of sex, first pull and lap phase hip and ankle range of motion (ROM) were generally smaller in repetition one than the final three repetitions, while phase and total repetition duration increased throughout the set. Two-way interactions between sex and repetition were identified. Male athletes displayed smaller hip ROM during the second pull phase of the first three repetitions when compared with the final repetition and smaller hip extension at lift completion during the first two repetitions when compared with the final two repetitions. Female athletes did not display these between-repetition differences. 

Conclusions: Some of the between-sex biomechanical differences observed were suggested to be the result of between-sex anthropometric differences. Between-repetition differences observed may be attributed to the increase in stone mass and acute fatigue. The biomechanical characteristics of the atlas stone lift shared similarities with the previously researched Romanian deadlift and front squat. Strongman athletes, coaches and strength and conditioning coaches are recommended to take advantage of these similarities to achieve greater training adaptations and thus performance in the atlas stone lift and its similar movements.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12066
JournalPEERJ
Volume9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2021

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