Inside Steve Slater's quest to make the world stronger, one enormous boulder at a time

In Greek mythology, Zeus doomed Atlas to bear the weight of the world on his shoulders. These days, however, lifting an Atlas stone is more of a fitness feat than a cosmic punishment, and those looking to prove their boulder-bearing power often look to Steve Slater.

The co-owner of Slater’s Hardware in Lancaster is also the creator of Slater Atlas Stone Molds, used to form insanely heavy orbital stones of concrete and lead that are lifted in strongman/woman competitions. They range from the first 170-pounder he produced to the massive 565-pound version that will be used in the Rogue Record Breakers event at the Arnold Sports Festival on Sunday, March 8, on the main expo stage. That’s 5 pounds heavier than the stone that world-record holder Brian Shaw lifted over a 48-inch bar at the event in 2017.

Slater, a longtime bodybuilder, encountered Atlas stones in 1998 when training for his first strongman competitions. A Cincinnati-based training pal, Knut Bjorvatn, owned a set, the lightest weighing over 250 pounds. When Bjorvatn returned to his native Norway and had to leave the stones behind, they were given to Slater.

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Still, they were a bit heavy to be practical for amateurs. When Slater co-founded the Buckeye Strongman Contest, he began creating lighter iterations to train with and sell to anyone needing a synthetic boulder. “People buy them for athletic training, but many also buy them for landscaping,” he says, smiling. Today, Slater’s stones have been used in competitions for America’s Strongest Man and The World’s Strongest Man, and they’ve been featured twice on Today.

Thanks to his creations, the world’s strongest are lifting weights previously thought impossible. “Brian Shaw has a 629-pound stone I made him,” Slater says. “Now that these competitors have the right equipment and are getting smarter with training, we’re going to see guys get stronger and progress. No one has ever lifted a 600-pound stone before—that would be monumental.”

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