By Tony Gracia, Head Coach and Co-Founder at Industrial Strength.

This series of articles will highlight fifteen of my favorite exercises that I think are awesome and do not get the appreciation they deserve.  The first week of installments focused on major lower body strength developers, the second week on upper body strength movements, the third week on unilateral lower body strength exercises, and this week will emphasize various functional strength and athletic development exercises.

UNDERRATED EXERCISE #10 = Farmer Carry

One of the most pure displays of strength is to pick up something heavy from the floor and carry it somewhere. Various forms of heavy carries have been included in strength contests for ages, and so if you are looking for one of the most raw, true tests of functional strength, this just might be your ticket. There are a variety of ways to do this and no shortage of different implements available to use, such as yokes, stones, sandbags, trap bars, specialty implements, and so on.  For most people, the right place to start is with kettlebells due to their availability and the ease of picking them up and setting them down safely.  Doing carries with kettlebells would be labeled by most people as a “farmer carry” or “farmer walk” because the two objects are independent and are held at arms length at your sides (compared to a trap bar which also held at your sides but is one fixed object, or a sandbag which is held a variety of other ways). One of the great benefits of this style of carry is the development of grip strength – not only are the weights heavy, but the handles are somewhat thick and the weights have a tendency to sway back & forth, adding difficulty to the lift.  In addition to being a great grip developer, the farmer walk with develop your ability to maintain a strong & upright posture under load, will build isometric shoulder strength, and will develop your ability to maintain balance and move athletically since the weights will be trying to throw you off-balance as you walk with them (especially during any turns).

HOW TO DO THEM

  • A pair of kettlebells will be the right piece of equipment for most people, however as you get stronger you may need to find some other object like specialty farmer walk handles or a trap bar that allows you to load it heavier.
  • Safely deadlift the kettlebells up (either a conventional style deadlift of a semi-sumo deadlift is fine).
  • Once you are standing maintain a tight grip on the kettlebells and walk your desired distance.
    • Adding 180° turns to your set will add substantial difficulty because not only do you need to turn around, you also need to decelerate the weights and then accelerate them again, which is much less energy efficient. There is a lot of benefit to this style of carry and I encourage you to include it in your training.
  • Walk with good posture – do not let the weights cause you to hunch your back or roll your shoulders inwards
  • Be in charge of the weights as you walk – if the weights keep swinging in front of you and pulling you forward as if you are “chasing them” then you are missing the point
  • Do your best to walk with as normal of a gait as possible; try to avoid walking on a tight rope or worse yet having your feet cross over your midline each step
  • Try to maintain straight elbows during your carries – even a small bit of elbow bend can lead to accidental injuries (minor or major) to your biceps.
  • Be sure to use good form when parking the weights after your set
  • I recommend a distance of 100-300 feet for your carries. Of course, adjust the load proportionally to the distance (heavier weights for shorter distance and lighter for longer).
    • A total distance of 200 feet with three 180° turns is something we use often at Industrial Strength (50-feet, turn, 50-feet, turn, 50-feet, turn, then the final 50-feet).  If you do this protocol, a good goal to work towards is 48kg (106 pounds) per hand for men, and 32kg (70 pounds) per hand for women.
  • Add these into your training for a couple months and you will never again need more than one trip to bring in the groceries