Among current elite strongman competitors, Mitchell Hooper might be the next big thing. After storming onto the scene in 2022 — notching a podium finish in six of seven contests and winning two of his last three, including the 2022 Arnold Strongman Classic UK — many understandably expect even more from Hooper in 2023. However, before he tries to build on a terrific debut year that saw him captivate the sport, the Canadian athlete is first dispensing some worthwhile training tips.
On Jan. 11, 2023, Hooper posted a video to his YouTube channel where he gave a group of athletes a walkthrough on how to lift Atlas stones properly. The session isn’t necessarily new for Hooper, who occasionally shares similar technique training videos in between moments of refining his own strength.
Hooper wastes no time diving into his de facto lecture on Atlas stones.
Set Your Stance Mid-Stone
He first diagrams how one starts from a quality lifting stance, noting that the balls of an athlete’s feet should be even with the center of the stone when setting up. Another critical factor is ensuring that the feet have wide enough positioning.
“You want to be in a spot where you can see your feet [on either side of the stone]. See your feet on the sides of the stone.”
If a person’s feet are too close to the Atlas stone, Hooper maintains that it could negatively change the hands’ positioning as they grip the stone. In addition, with the stone in hand, the knees might rub up against an athlete’s elbows, making for a non-ideal setup while lifting.
Cup the Stone with Hands and Forearms
In regards to specific notes about an athlete’s hands while trying to lift an Atlas Stone, Hooper clarifies that the hands should never be directly under because that will force the relatively weaker biceps muscles to support the load.
“The name of the game is creating friction by creating as much surface contact as possible. You want your hand and as much of your forearm to be on the stone as possible.”
Instead, the aim should be about having as much of one’s arms touching the stone as possible, almost “cupping” the large trademark strongman implement by placing your hands slightly forward of the weight’s center.
“Straight arm, hands forward, arms locked in. That way, we’re using our chest and our lat to squeeze the stone. We’re not using our biceps to pick up the stone.”
Deadlift High and Lap the Stone
Hooper maintains that once an athlete is in a proper position, their goal should be to lift the stone to their lap by putting it as far above their knees as possible. Then, once ready, the hips can sink back, and the stone can naturally be rolled into the lap.
“What you should aim to do is deadlift the stone as high as possible. You don’t want to just get to your knee and immediately sit it in.” Hooper said. ” … Think about how muscles oppose force and where that force is going.”
A common technique principle for strongmen and strongwomen, lapping the stone helps the athlete seamlessly re-grip for improved leverage before standing.
“The first goal is to get the stone from the ground to your lap … Once the stone passes your knee, you can sit and roll. You replace your hands, and you can bring it up [to a standing position].”
Get Hips Under the Stone to Stand Up
Per Hooper, once someone is prepared to change their grip for the hip movement, the stone should “sit on the sternum” with the body as tight as possible to the stone. The stone should then move straight up as the athlete stands up.
Hooper clarifies that some make the mistake of actually trying to lift the stone higher when it’s against their sternum. To combat this overcorrection, the strongman advises making a stringent effort to keep the stone tight to the chest and simply extending the hips underneath for improved leverage and full extension.
“When it comes to extending [into a standing position], you should not think about bringing the stone up … Your thought should be to shoot your hips under the stone, and then it will roll up.”
Special Technique for High Platforms
If a strongman or strongwoman competitor has the task of lifting the stone onto a taller podium, Hooper said they should strive to ensure their hands aren’t directly around the center of the stone when repositioning grip. This sort of “hugging” leaves limited flexibility for strength maneuverability with the stone at a higher position and has a higher chance of a failed lift.
Instead, when an athlete is working for their re-grip, the arms should be placed at a 45-degree angle over the top of the stone, leaving more room to work the stone onto a higher platform.
Ultimately, Hooper offered a reminder that the balls of the feet indicate where the center of the stone is. As such, the arms should still be in lockstep with the balls of the feet on initial positioning. While reviewing several video participants’ sample performances, Hooper offered one final correction to a common mistake being made in the early phase of the lift.
“The motion off the ground is not a squat, it’s a stiff-legged deadlift. Hips really high.”
Already an established superstar, Hooper, the teacher, will soon seamlessly shift to Hooper, the strongman. The athlete is set to compete at the 2023 Australia’s Strongest International (ASI) on Jan. 21, 2023, in Yapeen, Australia. If his exploits there go anywhere close to his success from 2022, Hooper just might start the new competitive year with a bang.
Featured image: Mitchell Hooper on YouTube