Quick guide to becoming super strong – by the woman who lifted 53st boulders

Leigh Holland-Keen is only second woman to lift Scotland’s legendary Dinnie Stones

Leigh Holland-Keen lifting the Dinny Stones.

The two granite boulders known as the Dinnie Stones together weigh nearly 332.5kg (52st 5lb).

Ninety men have lifted them since their rediscovery in 1953 – they are named after Donald Dinnie, who carried them across Potarch bridge in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, in 1860 – and just one woman, Jan Todd, who lifted them in 1979.

That is, until this month.

Leigh Holland-Keen has became only the second woman to do it. “It was fantastic, quite an emotional experience,” she said from her hotel room in Scotland. “I felt ecstatic to be able to do that, and having the crowd being so positive created an amazing atmosphere. It was something special. I’m hoping other women can look at me and say, ‘that’s something I can definitely work towards’.”


Here’s how.

Set your sights on a goal

Holland-Keen, (29), who is Australian and a nurse, was inspired by her mother’s and stepfather’s love of weight-training, and started going to the gym when she was about 14. She first attempted to lift the stones last year, while accompanying her mother and stepfather who had come to try it (her stepfather, Lance, successfully lifted them in 2009 and again last year). She hadn’t expected to attempt to lift them and hadn’t trained for it, but couldn’t pass the opportunity up. “I tried it and was very close, so I thought maybe I could actually do these within the next couple of years,” she says. “My mum and I made it our goal to train and get these up.”


The appeal of weightlifting, she says, is in not giving up. “It’s good to constantly challenge yourself. If the first time you try, you can’t lift it up, it’s something to work towards. You keep persevering and then you can do it. It feels good to achieve it.” Did she expect to be successful before lifting the Dinnie Stones? “A little bit half and half. Training can go so well and then on the day anything can happen. I tried to just be positive and if I did make it, it would be fantastic, and if I didn’t, I would just come back next year and try again.”

On the day, her mother also made a partial lift.

Put in the hours

Holland-Keen borrowed some replica Dinnie Stones rings and loaded them with weights, and trained in her garage three to four times a week, for up to two hours at a time, doing grip work and dead lifts. The image of female weightlifters is changing, says Holland-Keen. “It’s getting better but there is a common myth that if you lift heavy weights then you’re going to look very manly and it’s not a feminine thing to do. The idea that it’s healthy for your body to be stronger is slowly progressing. It’s also an accomplishment,” she says. “You feel pretty badass when you can lift heavy weights.”

– Guardian