Keg Lifting 101
by Dan Cenidoza, CSCS, RKC, AKC
Posted on NaturalStrength.com on May 29, 2003
Keg lifting has become a weekly event for a few of us here in the suburbs of Baltimore. No matter rain or shine, we still manage to get together on the weekends for a little strongman prep. What started out as something new has become a reason in itself to look forward to the upcoming weekend. Though the focus of this article is lifting kegs, we also include other exercises such as the farmers walk, sandbag training and soon to incorporate the truck push/pull.
It began with Dinosaur Training. Until then I hadn't considered or even thought of lifting kegs or any odd objects for the purposes of gaining strength, I figured barbells would do the job. Truth be told, I didn't quite see the value in making awkward lifts, only the potential drawbacks, which could be quite dangerous. Nevertheless, we eventually gave it a try and our training has never been the same since. In probably our sixth consecutive week, we're still discovering different techniques and new ways to lift our 15.5 gallon drum. What started as clean & presses has now taken on many variations to the original intention. Each workout we're constantly improvising, trying new techniques, new lifts and new holds. In addition to having an exhaustive total body workout, we have fun!
I've outlined a few of the lifts we've developed in our training, in no particular order. The length of a persons limbs will influence how difficult the lifts are. For example, a basket squat will be much more difficult for someone with shorter arms. Don't fret however, the harder the lift is the more satisfying it will be when you master it.
Regular grip clean and press - with the keg lying on its side, simply grab the rims nearest to you and have at it. Be careful! Cleaning the keg in this position will cause the contents to slosh towards you and if not prepared, will knock you over and maybe knock you out. This is one of the more dangerous lifts and is good to have a spotter standing behind you. To be successful in cleaning the keg, and to avoid it putting a dent in your face, you need to have strong abs and strong wrists. You may find that you have to "take it to the chin" as we say. Try a continental clean first, where you bring it to you waist in one motion and to your shoulder (chin really) on a second motion.
Mixed grip clean and press - this lift is done so in a fashion that will minimize sloshing. By gripping the keg with one hand on the bottom far side rim and the other hand on the top near side rim, while the keg is on its side, this will cause the keg to be held at an angle when it is raised overhead. In this position, it is much more manageable to clean the keg as opposed to the regular grip.
Hug clean - with the keg lying on its side, stand with it in between your legs. Reach down and bear hug it. You may need to roll it back and forth a bit to get a good hold. Once you've wrapped your arms around the keg, bring your hips down, pull it close to your body and use your leg and back power to stand upright. From this position you can walk for distance or hold for time.
Mixed grip shoulder - using the mixed grip, take the keg directly to one shoulder. Repeat for the other side. You can also do squats in this position.
Basket squats - using a regular grip, deadlift the keg, squat down and rest it on your knees/legs. Carefully position your arms under the keg so it's resting on your biceps and forearms. Stand up while holding the keg in this position. Have your partner watch your form to ensure you're not rounding your low back.
Back squats - using a regular grip, press the keg overhead and briefly rest it on the top of your head. Carefully position the keg behind your head, resting it on your traps. Now squat. To make the exercise harder, lower the keg down between your shoulder blades. Use your arm and lat strength to hold the keg in place while you squat. You'll find that you're forced to keep your torso upright, as the keg will be pulling you backwards.
These are some of my favorite exercises to do with a keg. This is by no means a complete list, I have left plenty of room for you to improvise and create your own exercises to do. Lifting various objects can be a lot of fun, but it can also be very dangerous. I wouldn't recommend this to beginners, only those who have built up a solid foundation and are used to handling heavy weights. Don't expect to be able to clean a 200 pound keg just because you can clean a 200 pound barbell though. Like anything else, start light and work your way up. The important thing is to work hard and have fun. Get a couple of your buddies to come over and just have at it. The neighbors will love you for it!