When it comes to getting strong, the farmer carry demonstrates that simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
This high-impact power exercise involving walking while holding weights is so functional that you probably already do it in you daily life without even realizing.
As practical as it is, the farmer carry is highly underrated despite the numerous benefits it can offer to functional fitness athletes.
In this article we’ll dive into how you can incorporate farmer carries into your training to get stronger and ultimately enhance your other CrossFit skills.
Whether it’s improving your barbell endurance or being able to bring all the groceries inside in just one trip, there are important gains to be had!
What is the Farmer Carry?
The farmer carry is one of many loading exercises that consist of picking up weight and walking for distance. The farmer carry specifically refers to when the athlete walks while carrying weight in each hand. This can be performed with dumbbells, kettlebells, farmer carry bars, or nearly anything else that you can grasp in your hands.
In few words, this exercise does exactly what a Crossfitter needs; create a stable core to give you a strong foundation for running, lifting, and gymnastics.
CrossFit is a core-to-extremity sport meaning that to efficiently perform the exercises, you must engage your midline (torso, glutes, and hips) to produce power.
This power is sent out to your extremities (arms and legs) to complete the exercise.
From thrusters to muscle ups and everything in between, a well-reinforced midline equates to better work capacity.
Aside from developing the core, farmer carries improve grip strength and shoulder stability. Two aspects which can mean better endurance for barbell cycling, bar & ring gymnastics, and lifting heavy dumbbells.
This exercise also targets muscles in your arms, abs, shoulders, upper back, glutes, hips, and hamstrings.
On top of all that, the farmer carry is one of the safest ways to get stronger.
Not much technique or strength is required making the exercise accessible if you’re a beginner.
As long as you can pick it up properly (deadlift, anyone?), you probably won’t hurt yourself.
As you become more proficient, progressively load the weight and change up the distance in order to continue to see improvements.
How to do farmers walk
- Set your feet hip-width apart with a weight outside of each foot.
- Lower yourself down in a squat-deadlift position so that you can take the weights in your hands.
- With your hands on the weights, your shoulders should be over your knees with your hips back.
- Brace your core by taking a deep breath into your belly and pushing it outwards to create pressure in your stomach.
- Load your legs and keep your back flat as you stand with the weights at your sides.
- Stand tall and set your shoulders down and back.
- Keep your core supported and maintain good posture as you begin to walk.
- Take slow, small steps to avoid losing control of the weights as they move.
- Focus on maintaining good posture instead of moving with the forward momentum.
- Use farmer carries as accessory work at the end of your training session.
- Aim for three to five trips of 15 to 20 meters unbroken.
- Scale for weight or distance as necessary.
We’ve already seen what the farmer carry has to offer, so now let’s look at some other ways we can apply it to your training.
Suitcase carry/one sided
This is the unilateral version of the traditional farmer carry.
The weight is held only on one side which forces your core to work harder to stabilize itself.
The trick is to not let the weight drag you down.
As you walk, think about pulling your rib cage down towards your hips on the weightless side to keep your shoulders and hips squared.
This version is a bit more sport specific as it promotes wrist, shoulder, and scapular stability, thoracic mobility, as well as maintaining a neutral spine while in overhead positions.
This is a great variation for anyone who wants to improve their overhead positioning or who struggles to lock out their handstands, presses or jerks.
The idea is to walk while reducing movement of the arms as much as possible.
Your core an upper body must stay active under the weight.
This variation can get spicy so rather than using a dumbbell or kettlebell in each hand, try it as a unilateral exercise first.
Alternatively, you can use both hands to support a single weight (like a plate or barbell) overhead.
You should be able to maintain your arms fully extended and by your ears without having to arch your back.
When choosing weight for this exercise, make sure to use one that you can control.
If you can’t get it over your head on your own, you shouldn’t attempt to move with it.
Bear hug carry
A strongman classic best performed with a keg, sandbag, or D-Ball.
A heavy backpack or even a stack of plates will suffice as long as you can get your arms around them.
The objective is to use your arms, shoulders, chest, glutes and midline to create the force and tension that keeps the weight pulled into your body as you move.
If you’re looking to develop trunk stiffness this anti-rotational variation is for you! This is a great way to develop brute strength and practice bracing for your heavy lifts.
The bear hug carry will really light up your forearms, biceps, and posterior chain. For an added challenge, squeeze the load in tight but don’t interlock your fingers.
The farmer carry is a simple, low-risk exercise that should be used more often in training.
Adding this exercise to your training regularly can enhance core strength, balance, coordination, and power output.
These benefits are especially advantageous for fitness athletes whose sport is based on a core-to-extremity is a model.
By now you’ve seen that loaded carries have lots to offer so put down your phone and go pick up something heavy.