Barrel Lifting Strength Feats

Posted on Tuesday, August 7th, 2018 by John Wood
It has been well written that many so-called “feats of strength” had their roots in manual labor. Back in the beer halls of Bavaria and old, Old, OLD Vienna I’m sure a couple of robust beirmeisters once sat around shooting the breeze when one bet another that he could lift the biggest barrel — and it’s all been down hill from there.

Many of the old timers were well-known for their barrel or keg lifting feats, including Louis Cyr (who was said to have been able to lift a 400 lb. barrel to his shoulders) and George F. Jowett who included a Barrel Lifting Course in his Molding a Mighty Grip training guide. I would imagine the “Cincinnati Strongman” Henry Holtgrewe lifted a few barrels and kegs in his time. He owned a tavern down on 6th street in downtown Cincinnati just after the turn of the century.

Several modern day strongmen have included barrel lifting in their training. Probably the two most well known are Steve Justa and Brooks Kubik who wrote extensively about barrel lifting in Dinosaur Training. Keep in mind that lifting a 200 pound FULL barrel is actually easier than lifting a 150 pound HALF-filled barrel.

Henry Holtgrewe: The Cincinnati Strongman

Posted on Friday, July 12th, 2013 by John Wood

Henry Holtgrewe: The Cincinnati Strongman

Henry Holtgrewe was born in Hanover, Germany in 1862 but came to live in the United States at an early age. He settled in Cincinnati, where he ran a saloon in the Over-The-Rhine area of the city, near down town. In his spare time, he delighted in performing feats of strength, especially lifting barbells and dumbbells with thick handles — which not only confounded smaller-handed competition, but also allowed Henry Holtgrewe to build a tremendous 15-1/2 inch forearm in the process.

Holtgrewe also out “pressed” the great Louis Cyr with a single-arm lift of 287 pounds. It was said that each time Eugen Sandow performed in Cincinnati, Holtgrewe challenged to a lifting contest — and each time Sandow refused.

In 1904, Holtgrewe backlifted two opposing baseball teams at Redlands Field in Cincinnati. The combined weight was estimated at 4103 pounds easily placing him among the strongest backlifters of all time.