The UK’s weirdest stone lifting strength challenges
Get inspired by the UK’s oldest strength challenges – and maybe give them a go!
Do you watch World’s Strongest Man every year, wishing you were as mighty as Thor or strong as Shaw? You might never make it to WSM, but there’s a whole world of weird and wonderful strength challenges out there. If you’re looking for an unconventional training challenge, this could be it!
8 famous strength challenges in the UK
The Dinnie Stones
You can’t talk about stone lifting strength challenges without mentioning the famous Dinnie Stones. These two stones are located in Potarch, Aberdeenshire and are named after strongman Don Dinnie (who apparently carried them across the nearby bridge). The granite stones weight 188kg and 144.5kg for a combined weight of 332.5kg. The challenge is to lift both stones at the same time, and hold for time – straps or no straps. Replicas of the Dinnie Stones have been used loads of times in international strongman competitions.
The Saddlin Mare – located in Sma Glen, central Perthshire - is a huge standing stone plinth with a smooth sloping side. Traditionally, the challenge was to lift numerous heavy stones onto the Saddlin Mare and balance them there. Nowadays, there’s just one stone at its base, but it weighs about 99kg so even that is a challenge! You’ll need to lift the stone over 7ft to the top of the plinth and let it sit there, hands free, to successfully saddle the mare.
The Fianna Stone
This is probably the oldest lifting stone still in existence, dating back to the 11th Century (perhaps earlier). Pretty cool! This 127kg stone - located in Glenlyon, Perthshire – is made of dolerite which means it has a high iron content so is even heavier than you’d expect for its size. To complete the Fianna Stone, you need to lift it, carry it, and place it on a plinth.
The Inver Stone
If you’re a fan of strongman comps, you’ll love the site of the Inver Stone – it’s located at the Braemar Highland Games Centre. This stone is engraved with its weight (118kg), a throwback to when it was used to measure corn and wheat. You can lift it, shoulder it, or place it on a barrel.
This 105kg stone has a pretty grim history. Situated next to a stone coffin, historians think the stone was placed on top of the coffin when criminals were buried alive. Nice! There’s no official challenge with this stone, so lift it, carry it, or take it to your shoulder.
Peak District Dinnie Stones
Matlock Farm between Matlock and Chesterfield is home of the Peak District Dinnie Stones – two awkward shaped stones weighing 163kg and 189kg respectively. A timed lift of both stones (352kg total weight) forms the finale of the Peak District Highland Games, which has been won by some of the country’s best strongmen and strongwomen competitors.
Puterach Stone and Monachyle
Want a two-in-one challenge? These two lifting challenges are located in Balquhidder near Loch Voil. The aim is to lift the Puterach Stone (94kg) and place it on top of a plinth called Pudrac. The Monachyle weighs 120kg and most people lift or carry it.
The Menzies Stone
The Menzies Stone, or Chieftains Stone, is located inside Castle Menzies in Scotland. Like so many of these stones challenges, it has a fascinating history – thought to be a traditional test of strength for men who wanted to be bodyguards to the Clan Chief. In those days, they had to carry the stone up a load of stairs into a presentation room. Be grateful that all you have to do is pick it up (or shoulder it, if you’re feeling fresh). The stone is round and pretty smooth, which adds to the challenge.
Is stone lifting a good strength challenge?
Lifting stones is the oldest form of strength training known to man. Stone lifting challenges pre-date any modern lifting events by hundreds of years. Long before we had access to strength equipment, we lifted what was around us….and in the UK that was stones and rocks.
Stone lifting has been used historically as a test of strength, loyalty, and capability for important roles in society.
In terms of building strength, stones (or their equivalents – like sandbags) are an amazing way to build sheer functional strength. The strength you’ll build is literally top to toe – you’ll feel it in your traps and forearms, feet and ankles. And everything in between! Incorporating unconventional lifts into your training is fun and very cool way to build functional strength.
Can you compete in stone lifting?
If you want to pursue stone lifting as a fitness challenge, you can set off on your own road trip adventure, taking in as many challenges as possible. Plenty of people have done it and there are loads of blogs and YouTube videos out there where people explain the logistics.
If you want to do stone lifting but you’re not so bothered about doing famous named challenges like the ones in this list, why not enter a Strongman or Strongwoman competition? There are loads of them around the country, run by functional fitness gyms or individuals with a passion for strength competitions. You can expect a huge variety of weird and wonderful challenges like vehicle pulls, car deadlifts, log presses, loaded carries – and stone lifts!
Can you use stone lifting in training sessions?
Adding stone lifts, loads, and carries into your training sessions is an incredible way to shake things up and add some serious strength work. If you’re lucky enough to have a strongman gym near you, go along and use the Atlas stones. If you train at home, or you can’t find a gym with stones, we have a great solution.
Best way to replicate stone lifting in the gym
The best way to do heavy lifts, loads, and carries in your training without access to stones, is to use heavy sandbags. Sandbags are really versatile bits of kit that you can use to lift, carry, load, or perform standard lifts with (like squats and overhead presses).