Farmers’ carry is one of those head-scratching exercises.

It looks simple because you’re carrying weight in your hands. How hard can that be? If you keep reading, you’ll find out. There are muscles it works besides your hands because you’re not lifting the weight; you’re carrying it.

What muscles do the farmers carry work? You’re about to find that out, too. Coaches like me know the value of the carry, but their clients or everyday gym goers often do not.

Here, I will dive into everything farmers carry so you know about this awesome exercise.

The first question is about how hard it is. Yes, the farmers’ carry is hard because lifting and carrying heavy things isn’t meant to tickle. Let’s dive in.

What Is The Farmers Carry?

If you say something that a farmer carries, go to the back of the line while I’ll boo you. I have heard all these jokes before.

The most commonly performed variation of this exercise is the dumbbell farmer carry. You pick up a pair of heavy dumbbells from the rack, with 25-50 % of your body weight in each hand. Then grip tight at arm’s length, stand up straight, walk straight for 40 to 100 yards, and try not to drop them.

All the questions about what muscles work and what it does for you will be answered. But don’t worry, I will answer it anyway.

How To Do The Farmers Carry

Select a weight between 25%-50% of your body weight in each hand from the dumbbell rack.

Hold tight with the dumbbells by your sides and at arm’s length.

Keep your shoulders down and chest up for good posture.

Stroll straight, paying attention to your gait for 40-100 yards.

When you’re done, place the dumbbells back in the rack or carefully to the floor.

Muscles Trained

All of them, but that would be a cop-out. Many farmers carry variations train the same muscles, but the dumbbell carry primarily trains these upper and lower body muscles.

Upper Body

Forearms: Any time you use your grip, your forearm muscles work overtime to hold on to them.

Upper back:  To keep your shoulders down and chest up, your upper back works hard to make this happen.  

Rotator cuff: The rotator cuff is active when you grip something. 

Shoulders: The shoulders and the rotator cuff work hand in hand to give your shoulders the stability they need to carry heavy dumbbells.

Lower body

Core: All the muscles of your midsection work overtime to keep you upright and stable when walking with the load.

Glutes: Every step you take, every move you make, the glutes keep you upright to move you forward.

Farmers Carry Benefits

Don’t worry; for all that hard work carrying around weight in your hands, it has a few vital benefits, which are listed below.

Better Posture

Think of the farmers’ carry as a moving upright front plank. You do know what that is, right? Carrying weights in your hands with less than optimal posture will look silly and put you at more risk of injury.  

Breathe Baby

Farmers’ carry makes breathing difficult into your chest, which is okay when you need short, sharp breaths. But most of the time, breathing into your belly is where you are meant to breathe, and the farmers carry encourages this.

Shoulder Strength

The rotator cuff and your deltoid muscles work hard to keep your shoulder socket in place while carrying heavy weights. Both work isometrically (muscle tension without movement) and when carrying for a distance, this tension doesn’t go unnoticed by your shoulders.

Better Grip Strength

Grip strength is vital to lifting heavy weights, opening a pickle jar, or hanging on for dear life when your life is in danger. Most importantly, a firm grip helps you live longer, especially if you find yourself hanging from the edge of a cliff. (1)

Improved Mental Toughness

Every time you overcome the discomfort of your grip failing, muscles burning, and lungs gasping for air when performing carries, you have gotten mentally tougher. Ignoring that voice and keeping going makes you stronger and mentally tougher because you have withstood the pain and not quit.

Farmers Carry Programming

The farmers’ carry is a versatile exercise because it can be put in your warm-up or core circuit, or you can put it in your workout routine. Pairing carries with any press variation or any exercise that doesn’t require too much grip strength works well. For instance

Strength Training Superset

1A. Bench press

1B. Farmer’s carry 40 yards

Strength Training Triset

1A. Goblet Squat

1B. Single-Arm Dumbbell Bench Press

1C. Farmers Carry

Core Training Triset

1A. Pallof Press Variation

1B. Dumbbell Farmers Carry

1C. Med Ball Slam

Farmers Carry For More Muscle

Farmers carry, with all the time, under tension for your forearms, shoulders, and upper back, setting the table for some upper body muscle and strength. Here’s an example to give you bigger arms.

1A. Any Biceps Variation

1B. Overhead Triceps Extension

1C. Farmers Carry

For Fat Loss

For every liter of oxygen you breathe in, you burn five calories. And by increasing your O2 requirements by doing these workouts below, you’ll enhance your fat loss. (2) And not only will they burn fat, but they will also improve your cardio. You do cardio, right?  

Dumbbell Turkish Get-Up & Overhead Carry Combo

Getting up and down under load combined with overhead carry strengthens your heart and increases your toughness.


Set the timer for 10 minutes, and ensure you have space to walk.

Perform a full Turkish get-up and carry an overhead dumbbell for 40 steps, keeping your bicep behind or by your ear.

Reverse the Turkish, get up and swap hands, and repeat B.

Continue alternating sides for 10 minutes or until you give out.

Push-Up Carry Combo

Getting up and down from the push-up and going straight into the carry will drive your heart up and have you breathing heavily. Sounds great for fat loss, right? Although it’s hard to think about all the calories, you will be burning during and after this.

Note: You can substitute the dumbbell floor press here if you choose.


Choose dumbbells between 25-50% of your body weight and carry for 40 yards.

Perform six push-ups.

Rest the rest of the minute and repeat until you can no longer carry the dumbbell 40 yards. 

Wrapping Up

Not only is the farmers’ carry great for vanity, but it’s excellent for your health and will play a vital role in keeping you above ground longer. All you have to do is do it, suck up the discomfort, and soak in the gains.


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