The axle press is a distant cousin of an olympic lift – the clean and jerk. The strongman must lift the axle from the floor to overhead. Unlike olympic lifting, pretty much anything goes. As long as the competitor gets the axle from A to B it is usually accepted.
Olympic lifters must “clean” the weight in one move to shoulder height. Although some strongmen adopt this approach too, it is a lot more difficult with an axle because the bar is a lot thicker. This makes gripping the bar during the clean very difficult. The main methods of “cleaning” the weight are:
Full clean: As per olympic lifters this involves pulling the axle from the floor to shoulder height in one swift movement.
Hitler clean: This usually involves using a mixed grip (overhand and underhand) to overcome the thickness of the axle, pulling to shoulder height in one move and then switching back to a conventional grip in a manoeuvre similar to a Nazi salute (hence the name!)
Continental clean: This involves using the stomach or belt as a mid-way resting point before pulling the axle up to shoulder height.
Once at shoulder height the strongman has a number of options as to how they can get the weight overhead:
Strict press: This involves pressing the axle overhead with pure shoulder strength. There is no leg involvement in this lift and so is usually a lot more difficult.
Push press: The athlete will dip with their legs before exploding upwards, combining the strength of their legs and shoulders to get the weight overhead. This is the most popular way to lift overhead in strongman.
Jerk: As with the push press but the strongman will perform a double-dip, in a similar fashion to an olympic lifter. This should theoretically allow the maximum weight overhead but is heavily dependant on technique and the awkwardness of strongman equipment can limit its benefit.
Zydrunas Savickas holds the axle press world record with a huge 215kg. That’s considerably more weight than the average gym-goer could break from the floor, let alone lift overhead.