Many Oldtime Strongmen liked to lift kegs and barrels in order to build unusual strength. Not only were barrels fairly easy to find, (given many oldtimers' preferred to lift in the back of their favorite bier garten or tavern), but barrels could be easily adjusted to any strength level based on how full they might be.
One of the interesting things about barrel lifting is that a partially
filled barrel is often a greater test of strength than a filled barrel since the liquid inside will slosh around, creating an unbalanced "live" weight that will defy all efforts to lift it.
Needless to say, no barbell can match this type of training, and it is very much worth experimenting with in your own workouts.
Of course, lifting a "full" barrel is still by no means easy... The great Candian Strongman Louis Cyr could lift a 450 pound barrel
to his chest using only one hand!. ~An incredible feat !
Today, you can pay homage to the great strongmen of the past by lifting barrels and kegs just like they did. Whether lifting for repetitions, pressing overhead, bear-hugging, shouldering or carrying, Barrel lifting can give you an incredible workout.
Where do you get kegs and barrels?
The phone book is going to be your friend in this case. Find a place that sells kegs and go talk to them. They very well may have some old ones they could give you although even a brand new keg by itself probably won't set
you back all that much.
In a college town like Ann Arbor, MI, places that have kegs -- and the stuff to fill them for a Saturday night party -- aren't tough to find.
You will want to put in a little time to check and ask around because all kegs are a little different. Different brands have different shapes, some have handles, some don't, etc
Older kegs generally don't have handles so are more awkward. If you can swing it, having a couple different kegs to train with is a good idea.
A Few ideas to get you started: a quarter barrel keg,
oak wine barrel and vintage Pabst keg
For things like throwing or carrying (where dropping is a strong possibility) a steel keg is going to be your best choice.
However, I do have a few Oak barrels that I picked up somewhere which are pretty snazzy. I think they are 8 and 11 gallons? I forget the sizes but you can see them in the background of a few pictures around the site.
They are very fun to train with but I sure wouldn't want to drop one from overhead.
A steel keg is going to be easier to fill (and keep filled) so that would be my first choice if you plan on getting into barrel lifting in a big way.