Workout Tips

Zen and the Art of Keg Lifting

Build raw functional power with a strongman classic.

josh bryant thumbnail by CSCS, MFS, PES
Man lifting beer keg

For the college-aged young man that has found his groove hittin’ the weights, but has yet to find the groove with the ladies, a surefire way to get an invite to the sorority parties, particularly ones located above the ground-level floor, is to be able to lift a keg and carry it. None of the posers in the preppy frat will be able to!

Beyond accolades gained from the co-eds, lifting and throwing kegs has long been synonymous with strength. Mac Batchelor was undefeated in arm wrestling for 20 years, from the 1930’s through the 1950s. Batchelor was a bartender in Hollywood, CA and would never turn down an impromptu arm wrestling match to anyone that walked into his barroom.

Folks realized they could not beat Batchelor in arm wrestling so the impromptu events turned into picking up kegs and racing down Hollywood Blvd.

World's Strongest Man Takes Notes

At four years old, I remember watching Bill Kazmaier win the keg loading event in the World’s Strongest Man (WSM) contest, while other competitors picked up and ran the kegs to the loading platform, “Kaz” got in a psychotic rage and threw them, saving time and, ultimately, running away with the event.

Since that event, keg lifts and throws have been a staple in everything from the local bush league strongman contest to the WSM. Watching Kaz was one of my early inspirations to pursue strength.

Benefits of Keg Training

* Builds upper back hypertrophy
* Functional transference to the field of play
* Builds explosive power
* Builds limit strength
* Builds core strength
* Improves conditioning
* Inexpensive
* A lot of fun

Chrome machines require a rich man’s budget, but yield poor man’s results; kegs yield rich man’s results and can generally be obtained with little to no cost. Just go down and ask the bartender at the local kick n’ stab beer hall, more than likely he can hook you up, if not, a keg can be obtained for about $30.

Filling the Keg

In strongman contest, generally, kegs thrown for height are empty, kegs being loaded are filled. The weight of an empty keg is approximately 30 pounds; the weight filled depends on what it's filled with. Some of the most popular materials include:

Water –A keg filled with water weighs approximately 160 pounds. Because the water sloshes around, handling the keg is difficult and a fun challenge.

Cement/Sand / Dirt /Lead Shot – these materials won’t break the bank. These materials make the keg have less shifting, more like lifting traditional limit strength test.

Be creative, after all, it’s called “odd lifting.”

Keg Lifting Symposium

Instead of attempting to describe all of the things one can do with a keg, I enlisted the help of Matt Mills. Matt is a longtime client of mine and the owner of Lightning Fitness in South Windsor, CT and a top-ranked professional strongman.

Final Thoughts

If you are not satisfied with your current levels of strength and conditioning, instead of drinking the keg with the local herd of has-beens, start lifting it!

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