Scottish Heavy Athletics

Wouldn’t it be cool if you could get some of your friends and just go throw heavy stuff? Wouldn’t it be even better if there were drums, bugles, and bagpipes playing in the background and women dancing on a stage nearby? And wouldn’t it be complete if you tossed a telephone pole on your way to enjoy a cold Guinness?

There is such a place, my friends. It’s called Scottish Heavy Athletics, better known as Highland Games. I recently completed my second Highland Games at the Texas Scottish Festival, and I’m looking to make this my summer/fall sport.

The Highland Games contest up to nine different events
* 56# weight over bar
* 22-26# Braemar Stone throw (like a stationary shot put but with a big rock)
* 16-22# Open Stone (like a shot put, including an approach to the toe board)
* 20# sheaf toss (a bag of rope or straw thrown over a bar via pitchfork)
* 56# weight for distance (thrown with a discus-type approach)
* 28# weight for distance (same but with a lighter implement)
* 22# Scottish Hammer throw (similar to Olympic hammer but wound around over the head and around the body with feet remaining stationary)
* 17# hammer (same but with a lighter implement)
* caber toss (16-20′, 100-200+ pounds)

Dan John throwing a heavy weight for distance

Some of the events make some sense from a combat perspective (I guess you could throw a rock or launch a hammer at someone who wasn’t too far away). And I guess the sheaf reminds one of throwing hay to the top of the barn (if one has done such things). But most of the events feel like the creation of a couple blacksmiths who fell into a barrel of mead.

Throwing the #22 Braemar Stone

Games are held throughout the country, usually beginning in the spring and running through fall. The pros are behemoths (and so are most of the amateurs), but don’t let that keep you away. Everyone in HG is cool, and they’re happy to welcome new people to their sport.

If you haven’t done it before, there’s not much you need to change. Just find a group to throw with and go from there. If the bug bites, then you can start worrying about specific training, buying/making implements, etc. I trained for this just like I do for judo. Instead of conditioning, I just substituted more throwing and event practice.

The great Shannon Hartnett, 10 time World Highland Games Champion

If you’re not signed up for something this summer, get your kilt together and do one of these. You’ll meet a good group of athletes and participate in something that’s somewhat off the wall. has listings, athlete data, and a discussion forum that addresses preparation and training. Get on it. You’ll thank me later.

Edit: I had to include this video because the timing of the throw and the music is pretty cool.

If you haven’t realized it already, Highland Games is a very 70sBig-friendly sport. I am 5’10 215 in the picture (I’m the guy holding the beer and the trophy), and I was the lightest guy by 25 pounds. My friend, Aaron (red beard, front row), is 280 and was maybe the fourth biggest guy there.

A fine group of lads. (L-R) Joseph, Gant, Harold, James, Aaron, Luke, Rob, Kyle