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Full-Body Fortitude: Advantages of Farmer Carries

What's a #FarmerCarry?

Farmer carries: a strength training exercise where you carry heavy weights in each hand while walking.

We like exercises that get a lot done in a short amount of time. The farmer carry checks all the boxes:

  1. total body exercise

  2. improves grip strength

  3. strengthens muscles and joints safely, very low risk to reward ratio

  4. easy to progress and regress

  5. improves posture and balance

  6. provides a conditioning effect

  7. low impact and joint friendly

  8. versatility ie can be used with a variety of implements - Dumbbells, Kettlebells, Trap Bar, etc.

  9. functional. Mimics real world activies - carry groceries for eg

  10. challenges every muscle (see #3)

The Farmer Carry is usually what we start with and progress accordingly, either by varying load, distance, and/or walking speed.

There's a variety of different carries - from single-hand to load placement (overhead, rack, regular) for eg, which I'll go over in a different blog.

For this blog, I wanted to go over the main variables to progress the Farmer Carry as shown above:

4 Main variables to consider:

  1. Loading proctocol: start light. usually we start with 25-50% of an athlete's body weight and progress by 10%.

  2. Distance: as a general rule, the heavier the weight, the shorter the distance and vice versa. If the goal is conditioning, then increase the distance and adjust the load accordingly to make it challenging yet safe

  3. Walking speed: we usually have athletes walk at their normal walking speed, again, in control the whole time. If they're pushing load limits, nothing wrong with walking faster. Inexperienced athletes always start with lighter loads and walk slower to get them to feel the benefits of the drill and to learn how to be in control when walking with load.

  4. Implement used: Each tool provides a slightly different effect. For eg, Dumbbells provide a balanced grip, however can at times create excessive wrist strain with heavier loads for younger athletes or for those that are walking for distance. Kettlebells keep the load centered, are great for challenging grip strength. The Eleiko Oppen Bars are great for higher loads, especially when looking to carry weights equal or higher than one's body weight. The open side makes it easier to walk without hitting your shins. The Sorinex Ranch Hands Farmer Carry handles are great when we're coaching a group. The Rogue Farmer Carry handles typically used in Strongman type competitions push the limits of one's grip strength and overall total body strength development.

2 final important notes:

  • For technique - Keep your back straight, shoulders back and look straight ahead.

  • If an athlete is going to get hurt doing this exercise, it's usally when they pick up the weight or set it down. For most atheles we place the kettlebell or dumbbell on two boxes. Each box placed to the side of the athlete. This avoids excessive load on the lumbar spine especially during spinal flexion. Additionally, it also's avoids having to deal with getting into a low hinge or squat position and picking up a heavy weight from the ground for those that don't have the mobility to do so yet.

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