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Atlas Stones, the Iconic Event

Article by Peter Herguth 


When many people think of Strongmen they imagine the Atlas Stones.

The Atlas stones are a huge test of strength because of their awkward spherical shape and smoothness. I asked the Starting Strongman community what their favorite event was, and it was no surprise when Atlas Stones won. Atlas stones are my personal favorite event because… Well, the event doesn’t just look badass, it feels badass. The feeling of accomplishment that you just shouldered or loaded a larger stone is huge. I’m going to jump into a brief history of this event.

But when did Atlas stones first join the sport? Their first appearance wasn’t as “Atlas Stones” but as McGlashen Stones. This event was first seen at the 1986 World’s Strongest Man. The referee, David Webster, explained briefly to the audience the history of these stones. He stated that this event was to emulate the age-old tradition of Manhood Stones in Scottland where strong men proved their strength by loading boulders onto waist Height walls. These stones were much heavier and more difficult to lift then the orignal McGlashen Stones and instead had to be loaded into a barrel at about the same height. The stones usually ranged from 100- 160kg (222lbs to 352lbs). The event was so different from other lifts that it was not guaranteed that everyone would be able to load all the stones. Before this contest Webster stated that no one had ever lifted all the stones in competition before, and that only one man had lifted the 5th stone at all.
Bill Kazmaier was the first man to load all five and he did them by loading the heviest stone first. After this they made the “Kazmaier rule” which meant Stones had to be lifted from lightest to Heaviest

The event has changed over time. Now atlas stones can come in many forms such as a max stone load, stone series for time, and reps for time, the loading isn’t waist high anymore (which is unfortunate for short lifters like me!). Now you often see that the Atlas Stones are at the end of competitions as a finisher. The addition of tacky (which is a sticky substance used to combat the difficult-to-grip-and-hold nature of the atlas stones) has enabled the lifting of much heavier stones more efficiently leading to some huge stone records.


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  1. Royzer permalink

    Nice article Peter Herguth, Like you mentioned about traditional stone lifting to determine strength in Scotland history. Why did the strongman sport change it to the 52″ platform for traditional event lifts? I am short myself at 5’2 180lbs and can lift the 260 lbs stone but i wont lift lift it over my head that’s for sure. Do you find strongman to be a height specific sport ?


    • Not Peter but I will chime in. Weights have went up, heights have increased sports evolve. Plenty of shorter strongmen and women load stones to 52″+ You just have to reach full extension

  2. Willie Robertson permalink

    Interesting to see how much these stones are now an established event. The original concept came by chance. Doug Edmunds was looking after the affairs of Jon Paul Sigmerson. He asked me if I could find a stone for him to lift at a press conference. I said I had a large sphere one of my students had cut and that was duly used. Doug, had the idea of using graduated stones. I suggested the Shotts masonry contractor who had a vertical lathe. The deal was they would be free and the stones would be called after the firm MacGlashon. Just thought someone would be interested in the real history of this event.

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