Anybody get the joke with the featured image? I’ll just come out with it: this article is about farmer’s walks. HAHAHA. I’m hysterical.
Loaded carries are a staple in all of my programs. They’re easy to teach (grab some heavy weight and walk around with it), are functional and have great carry-over to everyday life (see right), and are super effective at building trap and upper back musculature, promoting single-leg stability, and improving grip strength.
Not to mention the fact that carry variations hammer the core.
Standard loaded carry variations include the farmer’s walk, which can be done with dumbbells or using special farmer’s walk handles and barbells. Other variations include trap-bar carries, overhead carries (which can be tricky for those that have trouble moving overhead), yoke carries, and goblet-style dumbbell carries.
Here are a few other carry variations if you’re looking to switch it up a bit. They’re all brutal (for different reasons) and will leave you toasted after only a few sets.
While the goblet-style dumbbell carry is great for the core and upper back, you are probably a bit limited in how large the dumbbell can be. Here’s the solution:
1. Front squat carries.
Front squat carries combine the time-under-tension of a high volume front squat workout with all of the benefits of carry variations that I listed above. Oh, and you won’t smoke your legs doing it.
They’ll hit your upper back in a similar fashion to the goblet-style carries. And these will hit your anterior core the same way that regular front squats do.
On another positive note, if you trip over something while performing this type of carry, you won’t be crushed by the bar, so there’s that.
For many, though, grip is the primary reason for doing farmer’s walks. Although I personally like high-rep dumbbell rows (know affectionately as Kroc rows), here’s a solid solution to any grip problem:
2. Dumbbell head-hold carries.
As is mentioned in this article, holding dumbbells by the head of the dumbbell for time can be a great way to train the grip. Since farmer’s carries are so often used to train the grip, why not make them harder with this variation?
In the article, the video shows the grip straight on, parallel with the dumbbell handle, but just grabbing a dumbbell by the side of the head will do the trick as well, creating a sort-of fat grip, especially if the dumbbell is heavy enough.
The loading potential in this variation is obviously lesser compared to barbell and trap-bar carries, but the improved grip strength is the purpose.
As was mentioned earlier, improved core strength is one of the greatest benefits of loaded carries. It’s like when you see people unracking and re-racking heavy barbells just to feel the weight, except farmer’s walks don’t make you look stupid. And it’s real-life-applicable-to-doing-actual-things core strength, not the kind of core strength that prepares you to plank for five minutes. However, core training today is largely based in the sagittal plane of the body, so here’s a quick fix for more well-rounded core training:
3. Offset yoke/front squat carries.
Ever watched somebody in the gym load a bench press unevenly? I mean, just the other day I trusted a friend to load a bar evenly, only to find 10 extra pounds on one side. And I wondered why the left side of the bar went up first.
Anyway, in this variation you’ll load the bar unevenly on purpose. Versus an offset farmer’s walk with dumbbells, this variation allows for a greater loading potential and thus greater stimulus.
I’m not a big fan of side planks, so offset farmer’s walks and pallof variations have been a go-to lately when it comes to non-sagittal-plane-core-moves. The key during this variation is to keep the spine straight, as if it’s welded together like a steel pipe.
As a side note, make sure you don’t initially go crazy with the off-loading. I’m talking 20 or 30 lbs offset, not 100. And make sure you perform the carry off-loading both sides of the barbell, not just one.
If you aren’t doing loaded carries, you should.
Try carrying as far as you can for just one round, attempting to beat the time or increase the weight each week. You can also try multiple timed carries, whether the time is 30 seconds, one minute, or five minutes.
Three sets of one minute is a good place to start.
Also, make sure you’re paying attention to your form when you’re performing loaded carries. Here’s a few things to remember:
- Maintain good posture – upper back tight and chest up, don’t let your shoulders fall and your upper back round over
- Don’t arch the lower back; drop the weight if you can’t handle it
- Keep the chin tucked
- Loaded carries can provide a bit of a stretch for the hips, especially if you don’t have great hip mobility; take smaller steps if your mobility is limited
Try a loaded carry variation out at the end of your next workout; incorporating them into finishers is a great way to get some get some conditioning in.