Keg Lifting 102
by Dan Cenidoza, CSCS, RKC, AKC
It's been 3 years since the first installment of this article and though my training has grown to include many more modalities, it's always nice to go back and revisit the old keg. In this article I'm going to focus on one of the more brutal methods of keg training - carries.
Carrying a heavy, awkward object is functional training at it's best. In real life, the need for us to move something, occurs more frequently than just having to lift it. Of course you have to be able to lift it before you can carry it, so if you haven't read the Keg Lifting 101 article, go back and do that now.
If you have ever tried to carry a keg, you've probably noticed that walking is the difficult part. The keg hangs down in front of your legs and limits your stride. The chances are you've instinctively taken either a mixed grip or a parallel grip holding the rims close to your body. That's fine, but the fact is that the lower the keg hangs down in front of you, the more it will impede your ability to walk. The higher you can hold the keg, the more freedom you will have to move your feet. The trick is to hold the keg at the far side of the rims and pull it up above your waist. This will make walking a little less difficult (good for competition) but you'll have to have to "lap" the keg and get your hands positioned before standing up with it.
If the keg is light enough you may be able to keep it pulled high enough with a mixed grip so that your not banging it with every step, but that will largely depend on the strength of your arms. The mixed grip will allow you to pick the keg up faster but you will find that one side of the keg will hang down in front of your leg, forcing you to drive your leg into it each step of the way. This is good for developing hip strength but be sure to switch your hand positions so your opposite leg has to do the same.
Carrying the keg in front of your body is probably what you'll want to use for competition, probably what you'll have to use as most contests don't allow you to shoulder the keg and carry it from there. However, for training purposes carrying the keg on your shoulder could provide some useful benefits. First you'll find that just holding the keg on your shoulder is no easy task. It requires arm strength from the deltoids down to the finger tips. Your core stability will be brought into play in a manner far more intense than any inflatable ball, or disc will provide. Once you begin to walk and the contents of the keg begin to move the stability factor will be multiplied! Suddenly your arm will have to hold on more securely and the reality of dropping the keg becomes much more likely. Did I mention these keg exercises should be done outside? If you need to use your opposite hand to help hold the keg in place, do so. The important thing is to hang on and keep the body tension high, especiall y throughout the midsection. Like any other exercise, be sure to do both sides.
Bear hugs are always a brutal favorite, and there's a reason I saved them for last. This is a more advanced way to carry the keg, and when I say "advanced" I mean "harder" and when I say harder, I mean "don't try these until you've mastered the other techniques". You're going to find the biggest challenge when carrying a keg in a bear hug is that your ability to breathe is severely compromised. You'll have the full weight of the keg baring down on your chest and deep breathing will be impossible. You need strong abs for this one, as you'll have the tendency to lean back as your arms fatigue, which will begin to happen immediately. Like most exercises, the area you find most difficult will be the area you benefit most from. The diaphragm, the internal muscle that's responsible for every breath you take, can and will be strengthened by having to work against the force impeding it. This is a strength that most people will never know about. This is a strength-based breathing exercise, one tha t could be dangerous for people with hypertension or other medical conditions, so check with your doctor before trying this one. And as the saying goes, "you need to learn to walk before you can run" in this case, "you need to learn to stand before your can walk". First practice picking up the keg and holding it for time before you go taking it for a stroll around the neighborhood!