To avoid having to check this page every ten seconds for updates on supplements, music, and sundry little details, hit us up on Facebook and like the page. That'll keep you updated without getting spammed with a million twitter-length posts!

30 October 2012

How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love The Zercher Part 4


When not lifting stones, Basques have been known to kick a motherfucker or two dead in the mouth, just because.

So I've covered the stone lifters about whom you've likely never heard.  Now, it's time to cover the ones of whom you have.  The big boys.  The guys who've kept stone lifting on the lips of anyone who knows a motherfucking thing about strength training.  That honor basically belongs to three groups of people:  the Basques, the Icelanders, and the Scots.  Of the three, perhaps the least is known about the Basques, who are an enigmatic people known mostly for speaking an incomprehensible language and blowing up trains in Spain.  If any of you have seen Grosse Point Blank, Benny "The Jet" Urquidez is actually half Basque, though from what I've seen he was missing about six inches and one hundred pounds to truly be representative of that pack of pissed off goofballs.  Next on the list are the people of Iceland, less well known than their Scotch counterparts in terms of stone lifting, but no less prolific.  The Icelanders have more or less dominated stone events in strongman competitions in the modern era, and for good reason- they're huge, they're descended from Vikings, and they love picking up heavy shit.  Finally, the bearded, ginger, crossdressing descendants of William Wallace are pretty much what the world thinks of when stone lifting comes to mind, as the Highland Games are the progenitor of the most prolific of stone events- the Atlas Stones.  Those skirt-wearing, plaid-loving, haggis-eating maniacs probably lift more stones, per capita, than any other group of people on Earth.  Unfortunately, they seem to be too busy drinking beer, buggering sheep, and watching men's field hockey to be bothered to win a major strongman competition.  Nevertheless, they're worth checking out.

The Basques: I've covered the Basques and their stone lifting fetish before, but as a refresher, the Basques are stone-lifting virtuosos.  The shit these guys pull off as a matter of course is beyond amazing- it's practically inhuman.  The two top lifts for men in the stones are 322 and 329 KILOS, or 708.4 and 708.4 lbs for the metrically and mathematically handicapped.  They didn't just lift them off the ground, either- they shouldered the motherfucking things, while weighing around 130kg (286 lbs).  Women also get in on the action, as the Basques have always been far more progressive than their machismo-laden neighbors and have been rocking a remarkably egalitarian society for the entirety of their history.  Unfortunately, however, I couldn’t find records information for the broads, as all discussion of Harrijasotzaileak revolves around two guys- Miel Saralegi for lifting the heaviest stone to date, weighing 329 kg, and Iñaki Perurena, who’s lifted the 322 kg stone.  The latter also holds the records for heaviest weight for reps, having lifted a 660 lb stone to the shoulder three times in three minutes.
Time to reconsider that Under Armour bullshit you've been wearing to the gym.

As I've no interest in reinventing he wheel, I'm just going to repost an interesting bit I found on Basque stone lifting.  The TL:DR is that every Basque on Earth, newborns included, are harder than you.

"Stone-lifting, perhaps the most spectacular of Basque sports, has its origins in the quarries and in the use of large standing stones to mark off boundaries. Over the years it has managed to avoid the dangers threatening the survival of other traditional games, which are so often forgotten by the press, overlooked in the distribution of official grants and squeezed out of education programmes by more fashionable disciplines imported from other continents. However, the sports events of the Basque Country continue thanks to the support of local councils which include exhibitions in their festival programmes, and thanks also to their extensive coverage in the press by expert journalists who have managed to carve a niche for themselves among the pages reserved for football, the king of sports in Spain.
The first step for a “harrijasotzaile” (the Basque word for “lifter”) is to go to a stonemason’s workshop, find a stone he likes, and have it properly prepared for the challenge: to lift one kilo more than at his last attempt. This is done by injecting lead into holes that are worked into the original granite slab, until the stone weighs exactly what the lifter wants. The current world record for stone-lifting is held by Migeltxo Saralegi, a 27-year-old from Navarre, who succeeded in lifting 320 kilos. But because of his youth Saralegi has not yet replaced the greatest lifter of all time, his neighbour, friend and teacher, Iñaki Perurena, in the memories of stone-lifting aficionados. Perurena, who is also known as “the colossus of Leiza” (his native town), has achieved popularity ratings in Spain that are unheard-of for a rural sportsman, though they are understandable in light of his competition history. He became national champion at the age of 17 with a lift of 175 kilos, and defended his title year after year with progressively heavier stones until 1987 when, at the age of 31, he achieved what was thought to be impossible: lifting a 300- kilo stone onto his shoulder. Once this psychological barrier had been broken he continued to break his own records, up to 318 kg. There was competition among the Basque local councils to host his record attempts, which were supported by private sponsors, while booking agents helped maintain a rising interest in the events.
Despite the inevitably rough-hewn image of a man weighing almost 130 kg who lifts stones for fun, Perurena, who also works as a butcher and farmer, has given free rein to his more sensitive side by writing poetry about his land and its people. As he grasps the stone and tries to lift it onto his shoulder, he talks to it and asks it for help. He is even capable of disqualifying his own valid lifts if they are performed with the necessary strength but “‘without grace”. The main ambition of stone-lifters is to be considered as sportsmen, not just as local curiosities. Like all other athletes they need daily training, a balanced diet and a refined technique. Because of their exceptional physical condition some have received offers to become boxers or weightlifters, but most stone-lifters reject such offers without a second thought. They don’t want hasten the demise of an entire people’s tradition"(Russell)

In Basque stone lifting, four different kinds of stones are used for four different events: a cylinder, a rectangular cube, a granite cube, and a granite ball.  Of those, they utilize the two cubes, both of which weigh in at 440 lbs.  Typically, Basque stone competitions are timed events, in which the lifters lap their beast of a stone, shoulder that motherfucker, then toss it backward over their heads into a padded pit like they're 1990s Steven Seagal tossing some hapless jamoke over a bar and through a window.  The events usually last three minutes, and begin with the weight on a base of automobile tires or sandbags.  From there, these wacky badasses lever the weight onto their padded thighs, then rotate it onto their padded chests and then drop it.  If they're using the ball, the weight is instead rotated rolled around their neck and dropped, rather than dropped behind them. Occasionally, they'll see who can lift the heaviest stone in an effort to see which of those leather-clad maniacs is the baddest of the bunch, but most often it's reps for time (Jeck 44-46).


Iceland:  Like everyone else, the Icelanders have their own spin on stone lifting.  Frankly, it's hard to conceive of there being so many ways to compete in stone lifting, but one's imagination seems to be the only limit in this sort of testosterone-fueled shenanigans.  The Icelanders have two main stone-lifting events- the lift and carry and the lift and load.  The former is most famously done with the Husafell Stone, which is a 396 lb. flat monstrosity with three oval corners.  The stone was carved by an Icelandic pastor with a fetish for stone lifting and stone wall building who was apparently named after one of the seven dwarves, Snorri Björnsson.  To test the strength of travelers, he set the stone out with the challenge of carrying it around a goat pen he constructed just for that purpose.  The event can also be conducted with the smaller Dritvik Stones, which comes in four flavors- the fullsterkur ("full strength"), a 341 lb. stone; the hálfsterkur ("half strength"), a 228.8 lb. stone; the hilariously-named hálfdrættingur ("weakling"), a 107.8 lb. stone; and one I cannot imagine anyone wanting to lift, the amlóði ("useless"), a 50.6 lb. stone.  While I imagine this sort of thing began in the Viking Age as a way for a man to prove he was worthy of raiding, it's been used since the Vikings turned their swords into ploughshares to determine who was fit to work on fishing boats, "with the hálfdrættingur being the minimum weight a man would have to lift onto a ledge at hip-height to qualify" (Wikipedia, Lifting Stones).


Scottish:  The Scots take stone lifting incredibly seriously, or at least as seriously as they take sheep-rape.  They are constantly testing their strength with a wide array of stones, and have traditionally had what they refer to as "manhood stones" in every clan for their youth to lift as a measure of their maturity.  As such, they have a dizzying array of stones in places that range from pretty much unpronounceable to "holy shit is that even a real human word"-type unpronounceable names.  The most famous of these are perhaps the Inver Stone (268 lbs), the Dinnie Stones (which weigh 413 and 321 lbs, respectively), the Menzies Stone (253., the Blue Stones of Old Dailly (which Steve Jeck estimated to weigh 290 and 320 lbs., respectively), and the North Sea Stone (which Jeck estimated to be between 350 and 400 lbs).  There are, however, a set of stones even more famous than the aforementioned that have become the gold standard of stone lifting strength, and perhaps the only you've ever seen lifted- The original set of Atlas stones, the McGlashan Stones.  These stones have been used by those furry motherfuckers for years as a Scottish Highland games staple, and consist of five stones weighing 90, 110, 120, 130, and 140kgs.  The guy who created the McGlashan Stones later produced a second set, which he called the Atlas Stones and are used in every World's Strongest Man competition, weigh 95, 105, 115, 125, and 135 kgs.(Jeck 73)


That pretty much covers stone lifting in every public permutation I can find, though I highly doubt it's a comprehensive list.  In the final installment of this series, I'll tell you how the world's best stone lifters train, and how I mimick their movements in the gym without stones.  I realize that will get the Diesel Crew all abuzz with fury because they believe there are no gym lifts that mimic those movements, but fuck 'em- some of us don't feel like wandering around the countryside looking for rocks to lift when there are perfectly good weights right in front of us.

36 comments:

  1. Absolutely fascinating, and really makes me want to life heave heavy-as-fuck stones about.

    ReplyDelete
  2. ever tried "the bearhug deadlift"? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FthB1tDNUA0&list=UUMXkGsfXaxw2vRs16Uc7uzw&index=4&feature=plcp
    I reckon it's about the closest emulation of a stonelift inside the walls of a gym without actual stones to lift.
    Sure, you'll be needing an appropriate-sized piece of pipe but that is not really an issue to obtain or bring along to the gym.

    great stuff in here as always, greetings from sweden!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nope. I've seen them on boards and perhaps T-Nation, but never had the equipment to try one.

      Delete
  3. i do something similar to what grip guy posted.

    ReplyDelete
  4. just wanna point out that it is not me in the vid I linked, just used as an example...

    ReplyDelete
  5. Awesome, as always!
    http://s3-ec.buzzfed.com/static/enhanced/terminal05/2012/10/18/12/anigif_enhanced-buzz-1918-1350577975-11.gif

    ReplyDelete
  6. Full points awarded for the use of "Jamoke"

    Also, in your paragraph about the Basques, you list the same weight in pounds twice for the 2 different Kilo measurements, and proceed to insult those who are bad at math. The numerical equivalent of incorrectly spelling "misspelled" ...

    Otherwise the article was the tits.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'll edit that fucker up- I blasted this thing out with the quickness out of guilt for having not posted anything recently.

      Delete
  7. Not sure where the comment about getting "the guys from Diesel Crew abuzz with fury" is coming from. I have two different videos up on YouTube showing how to train for stone lifting in the gym setting using regular weights, and I have been a proponent of the Zercher lift since 2003, so that comment is kind of confusing...?

    I do feel the "best" way to train for stone lifting is with stones. This day in age, for a new strongman competitor to go to a contest where stone loading is contested without having had prior practice with actual atlas stones would not only be asking for a poor finish but also a possible injury.

    Jedd
    DieselCrew.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not sure either.

      It's just banter on a blog page. Grow thicker skin.

      Delete
    2. I was just stirring the pot, man. The article I was obliquely referencing made out like there was nothing whatsoever you could do in a gym to assist your stone lifts, and was rather emphatic about that point. I've no interest in inciting a "rumble" between myself and DC. I haven't yet unpacked my bike chains, jeans with rolled cuffs, or hair grease.

      Delete
    3. It's kind of comical that you repeatedly called Scotts a bunch of animal-fuckers and yet the only person you managed to piss off was someone from DC.

      Delete
    4. There was an old farmer back home used to say "nothing feels quite as good as a warm bullock".

      Delete
  8. Dave Lemanczyk is a good name to look up for this kind of training.

    I do my stone lifting at a local underpass. The sides of many underpasses are lined with stones of all shapes and sizes. When you're new to it, don't be afraid or ashamed to start out light and do a lot of reps.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Is that where you live now Glen, the local underpass? I guess business is easier to find there. do you spit or swallow, haha.

      Delete
    2. I'm wondering why someone would go to the trouble of tossing a boulder off a bridge, and why you decided to wander around an underpass in the first place, but good to know.

      Delete
    3. Jamie, get some fucking rest, dude! He's probably lifting rip-rap stones that they put on either side of the underpass.

      Those are usually pretty jagged. I have to say that i admire Glen's near total disregard for the condition of his skin since most of those stones are freshly blown up prior to being laid and therefore have not been eroded smooth.

      Delete
    4. I walk my dog down there. He likes to swim in the creek. My wife gives me shit about letting him do that but it makes him happy and pissing her off makes me happy.
      I've never heard of the term rip-rap stones but these look like they've been put there as an alternative to paving the slopes on either side of the underpass. Pay attention next time you drive under a bridge. Sometimes the slopes on either side are paved and sometimes they're lined with stones of all shapes and sizes. If I had to guess I'd say it has something to do with corralling rainwater but really I have no idea as to the purpose of these stones. Anyway, the only kind of gym equipment better than strongman equipment is free equipment, so I'm getting a good deal here.

      These are not from the underpass but there are a lot of places along the Red Hill creek around here that have plenty of stones:

      http://sphotos-a.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-ash4/296545_10152043945945018_1994034218_n.jpg

      http://sphotos-h.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-ash4/405790_10152043945570018_295385570_n.jpg

      It can be hard on your skin but all you need to do is wear a sweater if it's a big deal.
      Stone lifting is great. It can be done for low reps, high reps, singles. It can be done explosively. They can be used for static holds for time, carries for distance, isometrics or throws. The best thing about stone lifting is that it's free. You don't need to buy elaborate molds. Unless you're so totally unresourceful that you probably still wear velcro shoes they're not hard to find either. If the creek or underpass or whatever is too out of the way for you, throw three different sizes of stones in your truck and take them home with you. When I was 19 two friends and I brought three stones and a railroad tie back to my mom's backyard with nothing but a shopping cart. Any full grown man who can't figure out how to acquire stones to train with isn't worthy of training with stones.

      Delete
    5. One thing I love about natural stone lifting is that you can turn the stone around, lift it, and it's surprising how much the lift changes just from that tiny difference.

      You've got it right, Glen. The idea is to slow the water running down the bank and prevent erosion.

      Delete
    6. Thanks for the info, Glen. I looked up Dave Lemanczyk.

      Also, nice photos but I don't know if it counts as stone lifting without including an improbably high estimate of the stone's weight in pounds.

      Delete
    7. << My wife gives me shit >>

      and -

      << pissing her off makes me happy >>

      Yes I see...I see.... Go on Glen....tell us more.....

      Delete
  9. Three good articles almost in a row. I was going to rate this one "shitty" like I normally do, but someone else did it before me.
    I don't know what you've been doing in the gym- apart from Zerchers, obviously- but you're really missing out on something special when it comes to lifting natural stones. Also, too much removal from nature will turn you inot a pervert.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There was never any hope for Jamie to not be a pervert.

      Delete
    2. Yeah, that ship sailed long ago. The next article will likely be more about Indian lifting, then I'll polish this one off. I'm still unpacking and get my internet installed today, so Medal of Honor will be taking up a great deal of my time.

      As for what I've been doing in the gym- I busted out an easy, beltless single with 620 on the squat the other day, jump squatted 475 for 5x2 a couple of days before, and shrugged 865 for 5 sets of 6 the other day, all at a bodyweight of about 190. The veins on my abs have veins on their abs right now.

      Delete
    3. I meant what you'd been doing for stone lifting, but it's still a laugh to think of wee Jamie jumping up and down with a barbell on his back. Paul Carter must have sorted you out with some good carbs to get looking like that.

      Delete
    4. Ah. I mix in zerchers from time to time, but they're not really a mainstay of my workout. I'd lift stones far more if it was more convenient, but for the time being it isn't terribly so. I plan on doing strongman training on Saturdays for the foreseeable future, so I'll get some stone work in then.

      Delete
    5. You were already very lean at around 197, did you change something to your diet/training to drop those extra pounds?

      Delete
  10. Fuck me, what happened to Kirk Karwoski? He looks like he strapped on Paul Carters gut!

    http://startingstrength.com/index.php/site/cadet_captain_karwoski

    There's a lesson for you there (Jamie), that's what happens when you eventually come off the gear (tribulus)...

    ReplyDelete
  11. Really i am impressed from this post....the person who created this post is a generous and knows how to keep the readers connected..Thanks for sharing this with us found it informative and interesting. Looking forward for more updates..yoga teacher training india

    ReplyDelete
  12. +$3,624 PROFIT last week...

    Subscribe For 5 Star verified winning bets on MLB, NHL, NBA and NFL + Anti-Vegas Smart Money Signals!

    ReplyDelete
  13. New Diet Taps into Revolutionary Plan to Help Dieters Lose 12-23 Pounds in Only 21 Days!

    ReplyDelete
  14. There is SHOCKING news in the sports betting industry.

    It has been said that every bettor needs to see this,

    Watch this now or quit betting on sports...

    Sports Cash System - SPORTS BETTING ROBOT

    ReplyDelete
  15. I'll bet you can't guess which muscle in your body is the muscle that gets rid of joint and back pains, anxiety and excessive fat.

    This "hidden primal muscle" in your body will boost your energy levels, immune system, sexual performance, strength and athletic power when unlocked.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Quantum Binary Signals

    Get professional trading signals delivered to your mobile phone daily.

    Start following our signals NOW and profit up to 270% per day.

    ReplyDelete