Keg toss is one of my favorite events in Strongman. It is a visually appealing test of vertical power. In powerlifting, athletes can “dominate” the weight by moving it quickly. In Strongman, you must “dominate” by launching heavy objects in the air.
Throwing events are a big separator between Strongman and powerlifting. Sometimes you might see a “grinder” in Powerlifting, someone who takes forever to complete a single rep.
While an awe-inspiring display of force, this strength is less likely to transfer to sports as the velocity component is not there and, therefore, less power. In Strongman, throwing events force you to generate power. Try throwing an object slowly; it won’t work.
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The keg toss involves throwing a weighted keg over a height. Generally seen at World’s Strongest Man in a series where athletes will throw 5-8 kegs over a set height as quickly as possible. However, it is also performed for max height at other times (such as WSM 2016).
It is designed to test explosive strength in the sport of Strongman, where all aspects of strength are tested to determine who is the strongest.
Step 1: The Setup
For a max height throw, it’s best to stand just slightly forward or directly under the crossbar. Standing this close will allow you to put as much vertical force into the keg as possible.
The length of your arms will lead to the keg gaining a slight trajectory allowing it to go slightly behind and over the crossbar. If you stand too far forward, you will need to throw the keg a further distance horizontally. This energy is better directed vertically.
Lift the keg and hit it on the ground a few times to ensure any sand inside the keg is pushed to the bottom. Wet sand sitting unevenly could lead to the keg’s trajectory being thrown off in flight.
If you throw the kegs in a series, they are usually set up quite away from the crossbar. This means you must take a few steps back to the crossbar if you cannot make the distance.
Series are usually done for time, so throwing from where you start can sometimes be advantageous if you have the power to cover both the horizontal and vertical distance.
Step 2: The Grip
Having the half keg stand vertically is a good starting position for most people. For a full-size keg, if you are a shorter athlete, you may need to hold it horizontally with a wide stance. Grip the sides of the keg and start by swinging the keg slightly forward like a kettlebell swing to gain momentum.
For more advanced athletes, doing a small jump back to your start position and simultaneously swing the keg into position is possible. This will take advantage of the stretch-shortening cycle. This is another trick Brian Shaw uses.
Step 3: The Swing
Let the weight of the keg pull itself between your legs while you guide it. There are two main techniques from here. They are both viable and both seen in the upper echelons of WSM.
The first is to stay more upright and bend your knees as you let the keg pull you down into more of a squat position. With this style, you tend not to let the keg pull you as deep. Athletes who perform this style exceptionally well are Adam Bishop and Maxime Boudreault.
In their bottom position, the torso is at about a 45-degree angle, and the hands are close to shin level or slightly deeper. Compared with the following technique, Brians’s torso is almost parallel with the ground, and his hands are deeper behind his shins.
Leading to a much deeper start position and allowing an athlete a larger range of motion to produce force.
The other option is to keep the knees extended and let the keg pull you down into more of an RDL position.
Both techniques can be viable. In my experience, the more upright torso tends to be more explosive with a quick turnaround in the deep position to accelerate the keg up.
The RDL position tends to allow a larger ROM and to generate force a bit slower on the way up. In my experience, taller guys with decent deadlifts tend to favor this technique.
Step 4: The Finish Position
With either technique, the athlete will reverse the momentum of the keg and throw their hips forward while extending through the torso.
Step 5: The Release
Athletes will need to enter into a strong triple extension position not dissimilar to that seen in Olympic weightlifting and release the keg. If the keg is released too soon, the keg may fly slightly forwards or not over the crossbar.
If the keg is released too late, it will likely travel too far behind the athlete horizontally. Ideally, the force should primarily be vertical, with the keg spinning leading to it crossing the crossbar.
My personal favorite is “deep start, big finish.” I use more of the RDL style, and this cue helps me a lot. This was how the late great Matt Rossiter taught me (Former New Zealand’s Strongest Man), and I run this through my head pre-every throw.
“Deep start” reminds me to let the keg pull me into a deep position and not cut the pull short. A big finish reminds me to finish my extension which adds a lot of vertical power.
I have had clients who use more of an upright torso respond well to “rebound jump.” Encouraging a quick turnaround from the bottom position and a powerful triple extension similar to a jump.
At World’s Strongest Man, the keg toss for height is usually around 16kg/35lbs. A series of kegs to be tossed over the crossbar in the fastest time is also a common event, with 6-8 kegs ranging from 18-25kgs on average or around 40-55lbs. Athletes usually have a 60-second time limit with the crossbar set at 16 feet, depending on the year.
At the amateur level, I’ve seen keg toss series range from empty kegs, usually about 5-7kgs up to 25kg like in WSM.
At World’s Strongest Man 2021, Brian Shaw threw the 35lb keg for 7.75m/25.4 feet. When there is a keg toss series, the crossbar is usually set at 16 feet/4.9m. At amateur and other pro-level comps, I’ve seen various keg toss heights and rules.
At WSM 2021, Brian Shaw threw the 35lb keg for 7.75m/25.4 feet.
The best way to get better at throwing is to practice throwing. If you are throwing in your next competition or it is a weakness, I recommend performing it at the start of the lifting session while you are fresher.
This will allow you to focus on the timing and ensure you are at full power. It will also serve as a nice warmup for the rest of the session.
When I was training for World’s Strongest Man, I would take my keg to a park, find a tree or pole at a decent height, and practice throwing it over. I would perform anywhere from 5-12 singles throwing for max height.
I would also hold back a little in terms of power if I did a full 12 throws. Driving to the park to train and lug kegs around was a pain, plus groundskeepers won’t be fans of you creating lots of divots in their fields.
Fortunately, throwing bags are a common tool now. Find a decent space and ensure you’re not going to hit anything, and away you go. If I were to train for keg toss nowadays, I would do most of my throwing on a bag, as it is much easier to throw in a warehouse-sized gym or a field without causing issues.
A note on safety when training the throws: DO NOT TAKE YOUR EYES OFF THE BAG OR KEG. DO NOT TRY TO CATCH THE KEG OR BAG ON THE WAY DOWN.
You only have to search for keg toss accidents on youtube to see what can happen if you don’t pay attention. It seems obvious, but I’ve seen some very smart people forget in the heat of the moment or when their focus is elsewhere.
The keg toss and throwing events, in general, are great fun. They require a lot of power and a degree of athleticism. All the while being fantastic for spectators. You must find what technique works for your body shape and train it consistently to excel. Finally, remember to keep your eyes on the object and don’t neglect safety, as nothing will halt progress faster than a needless injury.