Tag Archives: Dinnie Stones

Dinnie Stone Gathering

By Chad Ullom

Group photo of the Dinnie Stone lifters.

Group photo of the Dinnie Stone lifters.

When I first heard from Stevie Shanks that he was hoping for a gathering of anyone that had lifted the Dinnie Stones to come together at Potarch I couldn’t have been more excited!  I got my Dinnie trainers back out and started working up to the full weight.  At some point in May, I saw that there were plans to walk the stones over the bridge!  I let my ego get the best of me and sent Stevie a message that I’d like to give the walk a shot! Just as I was thinking this was a bad idea, Stevie sent me the schedule with the rules.  A carry and drop would be allowed and you can continue as long as your hands don’t let go.

My wife and I really made a great trip out of this!  We did a great tour of Scotland, spent a couple of days on the Orkney islands and really had a great trip.  Even managed to lift the Dalwhinnie Stone a few days prior.  The night we arrived in Aberdeen we met a really nice American staying at our hotel who didn’t have a car or anything to do so we invited him to the Aboyne games with us the next day.  The Aboyne games were amazing!  As we were walking into the gate, we hear “and now her Majesty the Queen will douse the new caber with Scotch to officially dedicate the newly made Aboyne games caber…”  What???!!  The Queen was here??  The crowd was huge, so we never got a chance to see her, but on the news that night saw that, sure enough, it was Queen Elizabeth.

I knew the Dinnie stones were usually at the Aboyne games, but couldn’t see them anywhere.  We met up with Travis Willingham and decided to walk around after watching some the Highland Games comp and finally went to the overseas tent.  There they were!  We had walked right past them when we arrived but the crowd was too big to see.  The butterflies started right away!  Jim Splaine, Jack and Stevie Shanks along with James Grahame from Australia were posing for a pic right when we got there!

The morning of the gathering I could hardly sleep.   Our new American friend, Roberto, was really interested so we invited him along.  This really helped Tasha, because I wasn’t in much shape for conversation for the whole day!   As soon as we were ready to make the drive, the butterflies started.  We got registered and just started talking to old friends and making new ones.   It was great to see the people that showed up for this, Stevie did an outstanding job.  Terry and Jan Todd from Texas were there, David Webster, Bruce Aitken (maybe the greatest scottish hammer thrower of all time!) and many others.

Chad setting up for the Dinnie Stone walk.

Chad setting up for the Dinnie Stone walk.

The lifting started at noon and I was scheduled to walk at 2:50! The waiting was really tough!  It was even harder because a lot of people that had lifted the stones in the past were really having a hard time.  I was starting to second guess my walk attempt and thought seriously about just jumping in  for a lift.  As I was on my way to the car, Mark Haydock talked me out of it.

After the lifting attempts were finished, they moved the stones to the bridge.  They had us all line up and we paraded up to the bridge being led by a pipe band!  That was a great moment.  Luckily, I was second up so I didn’t have to wait too long.  There were mats laid out across the bridge and the first person to attempt, Brian Irwin from Northern Ireland, made it all the way!

Finally, it’s my turn.  To make sure I had enough energy to go as far as possible after talking to some people about, I was trying to pull just enough to clear the ground and move them.  For some reason, the light stone was giving me more trouble.  At one point, I dragged it to catch up and got a warning for this from Stevie.  If it happens a 3rd time, you have to stop.  I think I made it about 10 feet and my legs just gave out on me, I wasn’t getting any more clearance at all.

Travis Willingham, Stevie Shanks, Jim Splaine, Chad Ullom, Jack Shanks, and James Grahame at the Aboyne Games.

Travis Willingham, Stevie Shanks, Jim Splaine, Chad Ullom, Jack Shanks, and James Grahame at the Aboyne Games.

After two more attempts, Mark Haydock was up last and he really put on a show!  I had been watching his training leading up to this, and the only question in my mind was if he was going to try and carry them side by side the whole way!  In the end, Mark did the straddle like everyone else.  He completed the 17 feet in 1:40! About 2/3 of the way, he smashed the small stone into his right ankle and there was concern that he had really damaged it or possibly torn his Achilles.  In the end, it turned out to be nothing serious (thankfully).

This was such a special event to be a part of, I really wish Al and James Gardner could have been there, but each had other commitments.  I was extremely honored and humbled to be a part of it.  I can’t thank Stevie Shanks enough for putting this together.  It was conceived while they were making Stoneland.  If you haven’t seen that, put that on your list immediately!  It has been viewed over 16 million times on youtube.


By John Mckean

Steve Angell, one of IAWA's strongest ever, displays his own idea of leg training with handled weights on the Dinnie Stones!

Steve Angell, one of IAWA’s strongest ever, displays his own idea of leg training with handled weights on the Dinnie Stones!

Sooo, a Crossfitter and an All-Rounder walk into a bar (a healthful juice bar, of course!). The Crossfit fan can’t help but notice that the IAWA guy is a well seasoned muscular behemoth, yet strolling gracefully, being propelled by amazingly thick thighs. Mr. CF queries, “Really been hitting those “GOBLET squats,” mate??? You know, those modern leg lifts where you hold a fairly heavy kettlebell at chest height and do front squats.” Chuckling, England’s legendary Steve Angell replied, “Heck, that mild conditioning exercise won’t do anything toward building real body power, unless someone happens to construct me a 200K goblet!”

Seriously, though, big Steve did once try a few goblet squats. He’d been doing wrist curls with a 78K globe dumbbell, then flipped the chunk of iron onto his chest to see what this recent fitness fuss was all about. But as one who has officially straddle lifted 680 pounds and Zerchered 555, this tiny gobble seemed less than nothing. Mr. Angell concluded that such iron ball squats, often weighing less than 40K, would be ok for perhaps a few thin, developing teenagers or most “personal trainers,” but would never supply ample resistance for any serious weightlifter.

SAngellFor a 70/70 (wt. class/age group!) guy like myself, with each thigh smaller than one of Steve Angell’s huge arms, I’m not about to search for a 440 pound kettlebell just to START progression as Steve would enjoy doing! But his comments did get me thinking of new off-day, or “active rest,” heavy exercise apart from normal all-round workouts. Somewhere around the house, I reasoned, were a few various kettlebells, which I always considered to be just glorified “HANDLES with weight,” probably being used as doorstops. However, with sufficient numbers and strengths of rubber flex bands inserted through that ample handle space it would be simple to build almost any variable resistance that anyone could care for in an exercise! So, derived from a past practice of placing bands over barbells to create a heavier pressure, continuous tension lift, I developed my new experimental combo – “KETTLEBANDS”!

Well, it turns out that all I needed was the rather sturdy, oblong curved handle of the weighty old globes for the new format of flex band lifting to quickly prove its efficiency! Not only did the extra resistant apparatus cut reps way down to yield planned high intensity training, but at times, with proper banding, had the lift stalling before completion – a true isometric hold. Essentially, I had created a non structured “power rack” that I could use in my living room!! It also became an exciting challenge to develop new & unusual exercises that would benefit from kettlebanding.

One of my favorite new movements is the close grip bent over row – grasp the handle with overhand, underhand, or even cross grip (my favorite!), tramp on the inserted horizontal draped flex bands at your feet (adjust your foot spacing so just enough rubber will allow the lift to begin), and merely do some high tension pulls for 4 reps. Add another band for a follow-up set and just row to mid level (the stubborn additional stretch will stop you!) and hold 3 reps for a few seconds each, for max+ work! Another nifty manuever that seems to be positively influencing my more standard all-round lifts is the Straddle (or Jefferson) lift with a kettleband directly between the legs; again, determine the proper length of band to stand on, left and right, secure a cross grip on the hefty handle then simply rise steadily under this newfound form of tension. You can use heavier ‘bells and more or thicker flex bands here. If you get stuck, hang on for a while and enjoy the isometric! Of course, various forms of curls are a natural while using the combo equipment, and a unique application to the floor press – one or two handed – can be done by placing a band under your lower back, through the handle, with the other band end placed behind your neck; this one is great to quickly reach an iso-hold level which soon proves to be a “burning” method to overload the triceps! I’ll let imagination and ingenuity develop others for your own particular needs and interests!

No kettlebells around the house or gym? Simply obtain one of Al Myers’ sturdy iron rings (or stack two together for better gripping), place it on the center handle of a standard plate loading dumbbell, and build sufficient weight on both sides around it. Remember, it need not be all that heavy – most resistance should come from flex bands! Oh, a dumbbell will tilt and dangle a bit, but one’s fist will hold secure against the inside plate to steady the proceedings, while ring circumference will allow more space and freedom than a short db handle for a firm cross grip. One hand lifts and hook grips can come into play. But any style ring hold offers its own unique feel, challenge, and enjoyable performance. After all, ole supreme physical culturist Steve Angell didn’t complain as he 20 repped with those rings secured on the famous Dinnie stones (combined weight of 785 pounds)! But, hey, just imagine – had Steve carried a few flex bands to Scotland with him, he could’ve saved himself a ton of time by achieving the same workload with only 4 reps!!

All Arounders and the Dinnie Stones

By Al Myers

The Dinnie Stones

The Dinnie Stones

After the other days stories on Stevie Shanks and James Gardner and the Dinnie Stones, it got me thinking about how the famous Dinnie Stones have intrigued a number of all around weightlifters.  As I look over the list of accomplished Dinnie Stone lifters I noticed a number of USAWA and IAWA(UK) lifters who have lifted them. Today I want to summarize these all around Dinnie Stone lifters and give them a bit of recognition for this amazing accomplishment. I’m only listing lifters who have them unassisted (without straps) which is the ultimate goal (next to carrying them!).  Also, I’m only including those that have also competed in USAWA or IAWA competitions.

Frank Ciavattone (USAWA) – September 24th, 1996

Nick McKinless (IAWA-UK) – April 4th, 1998

David Horne (IAWA-UK) – April 5th, 1998

Steve Angell (IAWA-UK) – October 8th, 2001

Kevin Fulton (USAWA) – October 8th, 2001

Roger Davis (IAWA-UK) – June 28th, 2009

Chad Ullom (USAWA) – November 4th, 2012

Mark Haydock (IAWA-UK) – November 4th, 2012

Al Myers (USAWA) – November 4th, 2012

Stevie Shanks (IAWA-IRELAND) – October 3rd, 2015

James Gardner (IAWA-UK)- August 6th, 2016

Complete bios and details of these Dinnie Stones lifting accomplishments may be found on the website thedinniestones.com    I consider this now the official website covering the Dinnie Stones.

If I have accidently left someone off this list who has competed in an USAWA/IAWA competition and has lifted the stones, please let me know so I can get them added!

James Gardner Lifts Dinnie Stones

By Al Myers

James Gardner lifting the Dinnie Stones unassisted in front of the watcher of the Stones, David Webster.

James Gardner lifting the Dinnie Stones unassisted in front of the watcher of the Stones, David Webster.

I can’t believe I haven’t done this blog yet.  In fact – it’s BIG NEWS to me when someone lifts the Dinnie Stones unassisted (meaning bare hands only – no straps). It even means more to me when it’s someone I know, and someone who I consider a good friend as well!  James Gardner, of Barton under Needwood in England, accomplished this great feat on August 6th, 2016 at the Aboyne Highland Games in Scotland.

At the Aboyne Games they held a competition with the Dinnie Stones. Many stone lifting dignitaries were in attendance, including David Webster, Dr. Terry Todd, Bill Crawford, and others. James performed two unassisted lifts with the Dinnie Stones, and then later won the competition for hold for time with the stones, with a lengthy 13 second hold. This secured James a spot in the Dinnie Stone legacy.

The history of the Dinnie Stones was on display at the games.

The history of the Dinnie Stones was on display at the games.

I have lifted with James many times, and he has one of the best hook grips I know of.  He’s been performing big single arm deadlifts for years and through his years of competing in tug of wars has developed an unbelievable grip so I’m not surprised one bit that he was able to lift the Dinnie Stones.

Congrats to James!!!!

Stevie Shanks and the Dinnie Stones

By Al Myers

Stevie Shanks making a successful lift of the Dinnie Stones unassisted on October 3rd, 2015.

Stevie Shanks making a successful lift of the Dinnie Stones unassisted on October 3rd, 2015.

It’s about time I revisit a passion of mine – the Dinnie Stones!

Recently Stevie Shanks of Belfast, Northern Ireland, has launched a new website honoring the great Donald Dinnie and the Dinnie Stones.  Stevie is a fellow IAWA and all round lifter as well.  He lifted the Dinnie Stones unassisted in October 2015, to join his father Jack as the only father/son duo to lift the Dinnie Stones unassisted since Donald Dinnie and his dad did so 150 years prior!  Stevie’s work on this new website is to follow in the footsteps of the work the late Gordon Dinnie had done with the prior Dinnie Website.  All of the information from the previous Dinnie website is contained in the new website.

The address for the NEW Dinnie Stone website is –


This new website has a full listing of all the lifters that have lifted the Dinnie Stones unassisted and assisted, as well as those that have successfully carried the Stones unassisted and assisted. It also contains history related to Donald Dinnie and the Dinnie Stones. There’s a “news section” that gives any updates on any recent news regarding the Dinnie Stones.  The website has been developed brilliantly, and contains all the information anyone would want in regards to the Dinnie Stones.  I applaud Stevie Shanks for all the hard work he put into this project and  keeping the legacy of the Dinnie Stones alive!

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