A couple of years ago I went on a quick 3-day road trip and left a couple of key items in my traveling weight trunk back at home. My first thought was, “Dammit, Player X needed to get in a lower body workout today and I don’t have much to train him with.” This is Minor League baseball and we don’t always have the best conditions or facilities available to us, especially on the road in the lower-levels. I could’ve easily put him through a body-weight circuit, but as I was walking around the ballpark, I came upon a row of shiny stacked beer kegs. The sudden image of behind-the-back keg throws over a 30-foot wall from those late-night “Strongman” competitions that aired on ESPN 2 suddenly popped in my head. Thankfully, for the pitcher that I was training that day, common sense and creative thinking prevailed and I was able to put him through a safe and challenging workout that didn’t endanger either of our careers.
An empty keg weights approximately 35 lb, +/- 2-3 lb. I have done a number of total body and upper body workouts in the past with kegs but wanted the primary focus of this workout to be lower body with a metabolic conditioning approach. I put the player through a circuit of 5 exercises in the following order: 1) Hip Thrust: 2) Goblet Squats; 3) Plank Roll-Outs; 4) Lunges (in-place); and 5) RDL (for the hip thrust and RDL, I usually use a mini-band or “Sling Shot Hip Circle” placed above the knees to further activate the glutes). I chose to leave-out the Supine Hamstring Curls due to the ground being very wet, but this exercise could be an option in a circuit as well. I kept the rest intervals between sets low; just enough time to stretch the forearms for a few seconds (and curse me out), and went through 3 cycles with minimal recovery. A description of each exercise is presented in the following paragraphs.
- Hip Thrust: Place feet about hip-width apart and knees bent at 900. The keg should be placed directly under the shoulder blades. Keeping the keg still, lower the hips down and raise them up using the glutes to press the front of hips up to the sky. Make sure to keep the pelvis neutral and avoid hyperextending the lower back. Pause briefly at the top, lower the keg and repeat for the desired number of reps.
- Goblet Squats: Open the feet wider than the hips, allowing enough room for the keg to clear the thighs and achieve good depth. Inch the fingers under the keg, grasp firmly and rise up from the lowered position, pause, return to start and repeat for the desired number of reps.
- Plank Roll-Outs: Position the keg directly under the forearms. If there is a small pad available, use it. Rotate the shoulders and forearms internally, to take pressure off of the ulna. Make your way into a plank position with the glutes activated, pelvis at neutral, back flat and shoulders firmly into the sockets. Roll the keg out as far as you can while maintaining a tight core and no compromise in form. When you reach the furthest controllable position, roll the keg back to the starting position, pause and repeat for the desired number of reps.
- Lunges (in-place): Hold the keg from the bottom with elbows bent at 900 to allow the keg to clear the front lunging leg. Another option is to hug the keg from the lower portion. Take a step forward, keeping the back straight and erect as the lead leg bends to a 900 angle at the knee and hip. The knee of the back leg should be approximately 1-2 inches above the ground. Pause, push back with the lead leg to start and repeat. Rest and repeat the exercise on the opposite leg for the desired number of reps.
- Straight Leg Deadlift (SLDL): With the keg lying flat, grasp the edges of the keg. Keep the hips back with a slight bend in the knees. Keep the lower back flat. Begin to lift the keg off the ground, keeping the keg close to your legs, while activating the glutes and keeping the core tight to brace the torso. Once at the top, hip-hinge forward and return the keg the same way you brought it up. Rest and repeat for the desired number of reps.
While I would not recommend keg workouts on a regular basis for baseball players, they can provide a change of pace and add variety to a long season of workouts. The bulk and unpredictability of the keg forces the athlete to continually react and make adjustments in the grip and core bracing throughout the range of motion of each lift. The odd shape of the keg also forces the body to stabilize itself during lifting and lowering, a skill that’s not developed as well when training with barbells and dumbbells.
Ed Yong, MS, CSCS is minor league strength and conditioning coach for the Texas Rangers.