At Redefining Strength, we love training with awkward weights because awkward weights make your body work in a functional way.
In every day life, most of the weights we lift aren’t balanced and stable. They don’t have nice comfy handles that we can grip easily. They are awkward and slosh and shift and are sometimes hard to get a grip on.
That is why we love training with barrels.
The barrels we train with are large and awkward. They are hard to grip and they will move and shift and slosh and try to make it really difficult for you to push and pull them.
Some are filled with water that sloshes and requires your core to work so hard to stabilize them from going over while others are filled with sand and don’t want to budge.
They are heavy and cumbersome and oh so functional and FUN!
There really is no more empowering feeling that pushing around a 300-600 pound barrel!
So what do we do with these 55-gallon recycled food storage barrels?
We push them, pull them and rotate with them for a full-body workout!
Each move requires your entire core to work. Everything from your shoulders to your knees will be working to maneuver the barrel around.
Check out these basic barrel exercises below and start using barrel training in your program today!
Barrel Presses – Stand with your feet about hip-width to shoulder-width apart. The closer to the barrel you are and the wider your feet are, the easier the movement will be.
Place your hands on the barrel’s cap. Sink your butt back with your elbows bent and back flat. Then using your hips as much as needed, press the barrel away, straightening your arms.
Use your glutes as much as needed to power the press, driving through your heels. The more you stay low and the less you use your legs to drive, the more upper body intensive the move will be.
Do not let your back round as you press. Move slowly to press out and then slowly lower the weight back down as you bend your elbows and sink back. Sink your butt down as you lower. Do not stand up straight and round your back.
You will feel this movement in your legs as well as your upper body. Stay low and keep your chest up throughout the entire press. The slower you move, the harder the move will be on your core.
You can also do the barrel push with one hand in a staggered stance.
Or even kneeling or half-kneeling with one or two hands. Also if you push from lower on the barrel, it will make the movement tougher.
Barrel Pull – To pull the barrel, stand with your feet about hip-width to shoulder-width apart. The further you stand away from the barrel and the wider your feet are, the easier the movement will be.
Grab the cap of the barrel and sit down and back as you pull the barrel toward you. Keep your chest up tall as you pull the barrel in toward your chest then slowly release it back down to toward the ground.
Try to stay low as you pull. Only stand up if you need to use the hip drive to pull the barrel.
Move slowly the entire time. If you are using water in your barrels, you don’t want the water to slosh up and out because the barrel is rocking. You also don’t want to bounce the barrel at the bottom, but just barely touch it back down before you pull it back in.
Make sure to maintain a nice tall posture as you pull.
Just like with the presses, you can do the pulls in a staggered stance, kneeling or half-kneeling. You can even do them single-handed or pull a barrel with each hand!
Barrel Rotation – With barrel rotations you are pushing and pulling the barrel side to side. Stand with your feet between hip-width and about shoulder-width apart. Grab the barrel at the top almost as if you are sort of hugging or twisting off the cap with your arms.
Then push and pull the barrel to the right, pivoting your feet as you rotate. You want to pivot and use your hips to rotate the barrel. You will almost be pivoting from a lunge on one side to a lunge on the other.
Keep your back flat as you rotate. Then pull it back up and push it across to the left, pivoting your feet to the left as you rotate.
Use your hips and legs as much as needed to rotate the barrel. This isn’t only an upper body exercise. It should work your entire core.
You can also do this move from kneeling or half-kneeling as well. You can even bear hug the barrel more instead of just gripping the top if you want to.
Sometimes we even do what we call “Barrel Fighting” where you rotate, push and pull the barrel around a small space. You constantly are re-adjusting and resetting your feet to move it back and forth from different angles. It is a great way to move in every direction and work your entire body.
Plus it gets your heart rate up! Just make sure you don’t knock over the barrels as you go because they aren’t fun to get back up and can sometimes leak when knocked over.
Want to learn more about barrel training? Check out John Brookfield’s Barrel Training Certification. He is one of the most innovative trainers out there when it comes to repurposing tools for functional fitness!