In 2015 my YouTube channel Strength Camp reached 1,000,000 subscribers. At the same time my life began to go down hill. It started with some physical injures (torn biceps, torn achilles tendon, neck injury) which led to some deep soul searching.
Soul searching led to some internet search-engine searching, which led me to Robert Moore author of King, Warrior Magician, Lover: Rediscovering The Archetypes of the Mature Masculine, and his work on ancestral “men’s rights of passage” and “ritual initiation”.
It became clear to me that the crisis I was facing was related to my deep misunderstanding about what it means to be a mature man. I also discovered that our ancestors realized men needed a way to initiate younger men into maturity. Through the practice of “ritual initiation” a young man becomes totally separated from his childish ways and inner weaknesses. Only then is he introduced into the ways of the mature masculine. If this was not achieved he would grow up to be a weak man, useless to society, a burden, or more likely… he’ll become dangerous.
I was an uninitiated man. I was also a virtual coach giving advice to millions of uninitiated young men on YouTube. If I were to ever live up to the title of strength coach, I needed to battle my inner weaknesses. And I needed to learn the ways of the mature masculine, today. Luckily I was blessed to have many mentors who’ve helped me grow stronger along the way. Older men who have initiated me into the ways of the mature masculine.
Strength Training as a sacred ritual.
Strength training can be seen as fulfilling some of the elements of “ritual initiation” as described by Moore in his books. Strength training is a “ritual process”. You start with the ritual of warming up. Then you learn how to use the barbell, the dumb bell, the kettle bell, the stone. Practicing proper form, and breathing, reps, sets, your training journal, etc. And if you’re going to do it well, you should have a coach or mentor show you the way. Tom Mitchell was my first strongman coach. He initiated me into the strongman ritual of stone lifting in 2007, when I was about 26 years old.
I loved lifting stones so much that I became a competitive strongman and opened my gym Strength Camp in 2007. At Strength Camp I coached young men in the use of barbells, dumb bells, logs, tires, and of course stone lifting. Stone lifting was always a highlight in the training. The men loved to do it, it gave them a powerful sense of accomplishment, and pride. Soon, men were coming from all over the world to be initiated into stone lifting, with me at Strength Camp.
Here is a video from a Strength Camp clinic in 2014, where I coached young men in Atlas stone lifting:
That soul searching season in my life showed me things about myself I could not see before. Since then I’ve renewed my mission in life: To make men strong again, inside and out. I also learned that by giving respect to a simple act like stone lifting, and treating it like a sacred ritual, it tends to become something deeply meaningful to the men involved.
Historic stone lifting for men’s initiation.
In fact, according to Martin Jancsics, author of Stonelifting: An Ancient Test of Strength Revived, “manhood stones” are stones that ancient men in Europe and Scandinavia lifted as a “rights of passage”. For thousands of years young men would be tested for their fitness to work on a ship, work on a farm, fight in an army, or fulfill any job that required strength – by the lifting of stones. If you were too weak to lift the stone, you didn’t get the job.
In his book, Jancsics writes “Lifting historic [manhood] stones is not only about testing your strength against the stone and being a part of rich history and culture, its also about learning to conquer adversity which can help you through other aspects of life.” Stone lifting, when seen as a rights of passage and given symbolic meaning by the lifter, his coach and the community, becomes more than just lifting heavy rocks. Stone lifting becomes a life-changing event.
Today, as a strength coach and mentor I use stone lifting as a way to strengthen men’s bodies, but also as a tool for building inner strength. At my “men’s only strength camps”, we use several initiation processes throughout our three day camp. Recently, I was guided into bringing back the strongman ritual of stone lifting into the camps – and it has been amazing.
Here is a video from one of our camps earlier this year:
To be a strong man, you’ve gotta do what strongmen have been doing for thousands of years: lift stones. Stone lifting is not only a great full body exercise, a true test of functional strength, and an exhilarating experience for men… it is an initiation into the ways of the mature masculine, of strong men.
By overcoming resistance and enduring the pain of stone lifting you’ll be initiated into the masculine virtues of ambition, persistence, determination, discipline, focus, fortitude and strength. Stone lifting hurts, it rips the skin, it bruises the body, it humbles even the most manly of men. And in my effort to bring back the timeless practice of ritual initiation for men, stone lifting has become an important weapon in my battle to make men strong again.
Keep growing stronger, men.
Elliott Hulse: Making Millions of Men Strong, Since 2007
Strongman, strength coach, CEO Strength Camp, father, father-figure, mentor to 2,000,000+ men world wide on YouTube.
Mission: to make men strong again.
PS – To join the hundreds of strong men who have been initiated at my “men’s only strength camps” click here. These events sell out quickly, so if you’re ready to join us, don’t delay.
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