Note- This post first appeared here. This is the unedited version.
At first glance, the farmer’s carry seems simple. You pick up a heavy weight and walk. However, when you’re performing this (You do, right?) you come to the quick realization that it’s hard.
Very, very hard.
Your shoulders ache, your grip starts to fail and it becomes a mental battle against one’s self.
You may feel like letting out a few choice words and dropping the weights like a hot potato, but you quickly realize there are other people around including a grandma who is warming up with your max.
You’re better off not drawing any unnecessary attention to yourself. The gym is already full of those people anyway. Yes, that means you excessive gym grunter guy.
Carries have been around since the dawn of time, but have enjoyed a recent surge in popularity thanks to Strength Yoda Dan John. He says that in three weeks, carries will change your life. When the Yoda speaks, we should all listen.
But why do the average gym goers avoid carries? My guess is it’s because they are thinking
- They’re hard
- There’s no pump
- What muscle does it work again?
- Where’s the mirror?
Whether you’re trying to get stronger, build muscle, lose fat or rehabbing certain injuries, the farmer’s carry has your back.
Your grip gives out during the deadlift? Do more carries. You have puny forearms? Do more carries. Have a couple of banged up shoulders? Do more carries.
Farmer’s carries will also improve your
Posture- Trying to carry heavy weights with rounded shoulders is almost impossible. Strengthening the upper back should always be a priority.
Breathing patterns– It’s pretty hard to be a chest breather when you’re carrying heavy weights around.
Shoulder stability- Your rotator cuffs are working like crazy to keep your arms in their sockets.
Core and hip stabilizers- Every step of the farmer’s walk is a single leg stance. Enough said.
It’s probably the biggest bang for your buck exercise in the gym that you’re not doing. Let’s look at the basic version and then how you can plug the carry (plus all the variations) into your routine.
DUMBBELL FARMER’S CARRY
If you’re just starting out or it’s been a while since you’ve carried heavy, start with this variation. The cues that work here are shoulders down and chest up, but if you want to think sexy, just walk like a supermodel.
Pairing this with any press variation works well because it doesn’t tax your grip beforehand. For example
1A. Overhead/bench press or push up
1B. Farmer’s carry 40 yards
Or pair it with a Pallof press (my favorite) to give your core a double whammy.
1A. Tall kneeling overhead Pallof press 8 reps
1B. Dumbbell farmer’s carry 40 yards.
The standard dumbbell carry can and will give you all you need to improve in and out the gym. Think of it as vanilla ice cream of carries. However, if you like a little more flavor, keep on reading.
CARRIES FOR FAT LOSS
1. 10 minute carry
Most people who train do so to look better naked. Adding this 10 minute carry at the end of your training will fry you and your body fat.
Instructions – Depending on your strength level, start with one 20, 25 or 30 pound kettlebell. Hold the bell overhead (bottoms up) and walk, keeping your biceps by or behind your ears. After you lose your grip, stop and reset. When you lose your grip for the second time, bring the bell into the rack position and keep on walking.
Once you lose neutral wrist position or your upper back is screaming at you, hold the bell suitcase style by your side and keep walking. Do this for a total of five minutes on each side.
2. Carry and swing
If you’re proficient with the RKC kettlebell swing, then give this combo at the end of your training.
1A. Two-handed kettlebell swings – 10 reps
1B. Suitcase carry 40 yards.
Instructions- Alternate hands on the suitcase carry. Do one round (one carry is equal to one round) every minute on the minute. If one round takes you 40 seconds, rest 20 seconds before you start your next round. Do six to ten rounds or until your grip gives out.
2. CARRIES FOR MUSCLE
A stronger grip has a huge carryover to most of your major lifts and at times can be your limiting factor. The longer you can hang on to the bar while you’re lifting, the better chance you have of building some muscle. Have you ever seen a skinny strongman/powerlifter? I didn’t think so.
A. Try this for bigger arms
Save this circuit for the end of your training, when you’re looking for some bicep work. Do this tri-set two to three times per week for guns of steel.
1A. Zottman curl 12-15 reps
1B. Barbell wrist curls 15 reps
1C. Dumbbell farmer’s carry 40 yards (at least 25% of your bodyweight in each hand)
Repeat this circuit three times with minimal rest in between exercises.
B. 30 second finisher
Nothing fancy about this one. Use any two handed carry variation (dumbbell, kettlebell or a trap bar), walk for 40 steps and place the weight down. Rest for 30 seconds and repeat. Stop when you can no longer walk for 40 steps without letting go. Record the number of rounds and try to beat it next time.
Note- start with carrying half your bodyweight.
CARRIES FOR STRENGTH
Everything I’ve mentioned up to this point will build your overall strength and change your life in three weeks. However, in my experience the overhead barbell carry is the cherry on top in the world of carries. Every single step is a challenge for the whole body.
One false step you, the barbell and the floor become one.
Sometimes a little fear in your training can be a motivating experience.
This is a taxing movement, so program these near the beginning of your training, just after your big strength movement for the day. Pairing the overhead walk in a superset with an upper body movement works best. For example:
1A. Bent over barbell row, chin up or bench press variations.
1B. Overhead barbell carry- 20 steps forward, then 20 steps back.
No matter what your training goal, there’s a carry to fit your need. Now is the time to embrace the carry so you can crush your personal bests in and out of the gym. Throw in a smile and you’ve got it made.