Saturday, May 31, 2008

Stone Lifting

Round-back deadlifting, in the form of lifting heavy, odd-shaped objects, has been a staple of grappling training since time immemorial. Ancient athletes would test themselves as a rite of passage and every village had a large stone sitting at its border, the ability to lift same signaled a lad's entry into adulthood. Often, at festivals and other celebrations, large, smooth stones were brought in as contests, along with all manner of athletic games and sports.

The ability to lift unwieldy objects to the waist, chest, or shoulder directly correlates to combat training. In hand-to-hand combat, you'll find yourself in any number of unanticipated positions wherein you need to exert strength. You must also train your back to be able to lift out of a set groove, without injury. Ancient wrestlers trained with large, round stones in order to develop this type of lower back and hip power.

Stone balls are extremely unwieldy and slippery, requiring total body strength, including grip and arms. Unlike a nice, grooved, deadlift, round-stone lifting requires you drape yourself over the ball with a rounded back, then stabilize the spine through tremendous abdominal contraction as you bring the stone into position, whereupon the spine may flex. The ability to create this inter-abdominal pressure--and to stabilize the spine in this awkward position--is crucial both to the success of the lift and preventing injury. This is the same skill needed in lifting and throwing an opponent.

People talk about this type of lift as being another kind of groove, but each time you lift objects like these, each lift is a little bit different. Because of the shifting nature of odd objects, like stones or sand bags, the stabilizer muscles of the spine constantly come into play. Unlike the deadlift, no two stone lifts are ever the same. While there is technique to it, and people do find their best "path", it's much more difficult than the standard barbell lifts.

There's something very primal and satisfying about wresting a large stone from the earth. Barbells, dumbbells and kettlebells were made to be lifted--stones were not. There's nothing I like more than stripping down to my shorts, with my woman behind the camera, tearing a slumbering stone from its terrestrial resting place, and, with all the fury of an ancient warrior testing himself with the village manhood stone, successfully hefting it aloft! The admiring glances of your woman, and the sudden surge in T-levels, can make for a hot, post-workout rendezvous. It's gratifying and I highly recommend it, even if you're not a combat athlete or wrestler.

There are many sources for these types of stones. These particular stones I'm lifting here were made by my friend, Joe Egan, out of concrete and are beautifully molded. They're much cheaper than granite and nice and smooth on the bare skin. You can buy granite stones, both rough and smooth, from various sources on the web, one is



I am a 41 year old man with mild cerebral palsy which often impedes my movement due to contraction of the muscles surrounding the joints in my legs, hips and lower body. Sometimes, I am fine and I can walk with just a very slight limp. Other times, I must walk with a cane. I have a very low fitness level and am too shy and self conscious to join a standard gym. I am extremely motivated to change as working out will directly enable me to avoid being in a wheelchair in middle and old age. Based on this, do you feel that your Joint Training DVD program would be of benefit to me ?

A: Any kind of mobility training, including The Encyclopedia of Joint Mobility, would be excellent for you, since mobility is the ability to move a joint through the range of motion--with control--and this is a skill critical to keeping you out of a wheelchair. You'll also need some strength training to keep ahead of degeneration.

You should get started on your program right away. You needn't be self-conscious in a gym, as you are there to work hard, like any serious trainee. You'd surely be an inspiration to people there, but truly, you don't need a gym at all to attain your fitness goals.

Yours in Strength & Health,

PS. Outdoor training event in the Poconos Saturday 5 July...Contact for details

PSS. The odd-object lifting goes into play--in force!--Sat 12 July at the Gladiator Seminar, with Zach Even-Esh, in Edison NJ--only 20 people permitted and you definitely want to be one of them. Click here for the video! Watch Zach shaking down the ropes! Witness me crawling out from the primordial surf!

video video


zevenesh said...

YES BEAST!! We have a 260 lb stone at The Underground! Let's see what we can do with it at our seminar! ha ha

Who's backyard is that! Beautiful training right there! See you soon Beast!


Steve Maxwell said...

Well, Zach, everyone can watch you lift it and then watch me...try to roll it! That's my friend, Joe Egan's backyard in Manchester NH and I'm doing a whole series the toys out there: The Strength Gardener's Guide to Growing Muscles.

See you soon, my friend!

Anonymous said...

Hey Steve, Thanks for a great seminar on Saturday. Hope sunday went well for ya, Dave Parsons

Steve Maxwell said...

Thanks Dave! Too bad you couldn't stay, it was a real good time this morning.

Anonymous said...


Thanks again, Saturday's seminar was fantastic! Your Encyclopedia of Joint Mobility DVD is top-notch and TONS of info that I really need. I especially like the last section on the rocking sequences, WOW!

Doug Boutot

Steve Maxwell said...

Hey Doug,
Thanks! I had such a good time in NH. It was a pleasure spending time with all you guys and I'd like to return on a more regular basis. It was great seeing you and your form and technique are flawless, very impressive.

Anonymous said...


Thanks very much for the compliments, hearing that from you is high praise for me and very humbling. Dave Parsons says I should frame it! I told him I agree! Ha ha! I hope you do come to New England regularly, I'll train with you whenever I can.

Doug Boutot

Franz Snideman said...

Awesome STEVE! I don't have any stones at Revolution but we do have some heavy D-balls that are very challenging to lift!

Awesome blog and great to see you cranking!



Steve Maxwell said...

Hey Franz!
Thanks for stopping by, it's so nice to hear from you. Give Yoanna a kiss for me and your baby, too.

Peter Kim, MD said...

Do you know about any instructional materials or programs on doing stone lifting, without injuring yourself? :)

Steve Maxwell said...

Hey Peter,

Steve Jeck wrote a book on stone lifting, Stones & Strength, but didn't delve too far into technique. Google his name, he's one of the premiere experts on it.

Round back stone lifting is an art form. - Steve