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How can you get stronger and healthier by adding one simple exercise to your gym routine?

The answer is surprisingly simple… The exercise itself is also surprisingly simple…

The exercise is the one arm farmer’s carry or suitcase carry.

Why the suitcase carry?

It is simple to learn – you pick an object up in one hand and take it for a walk with it down by your side.

It doesn’t need any special equipment – all you need is something heavy and somewhere to walk.

It has great carryover into everyday life – bags of shopping need carrying, gardening needs doing, boxes need moving around the loft.

It has no real mobility requirements – if you can walk then you can do a suitcase carry.

It makes your abs work – it forces your body to learn to stabilise itself from side to side while moving

It makes you find new muscles – those little muscles in your sides that you find the day after trying these are called obliques!

It increases your grip strength – a stronger grip is never a bad thing and has great transfer to loads of other exercises like deadlifts and pull ups.

It makes your core work in all directions – all other exercises will start to feel more stable after a few weeks of consistent practice.

How often should you do it?

Carries can be a great warm up before other lifts so start moderate and build up the weight.

As a finisher they provide a low stress way of getting a bit more work in.

If you are interested in building strength then grab something heavy and try to walk for 30 seconds before resting for about 2 minutes and do 3-5 sets per arm.

If you want to ramp up your fat loss then grab something that you can carry for a minute and walk for 60-90 seconds before resting for the same amount of time – aim for 4-6 sets.

How do you know if you’re balanced and strong around the core?

The suitcase carry can provide a very simple assessment.  

We, at SCFIT, like the Active Life RX breakdown of this as it is simple to perform and measure – for every rep of a deadlift that you can do with a given weight you should be able to walk 10 metres with 50% of that in one hand.

So if you can do 5 deadlifts at 60kg and you are balanced, you should be able to walk for 50m with 30kg in one hand without stopping.  If you can deadlift 140kg for 2 reps and you are balanced then you should be able walk for 20m with 70kg in one hand without stopping.

How often should you be doing suitcase carries?

If you are testing then once a month is plenty, but if you are training the suitcase carry it is hard to overdo it – you can realistically do a good volume of carries 2-4 times per week as well as your regular training.

Try it out for 6-8 weeks and let us know if:

  • – Your abs look a bit better
  • – Your back feels better on a day to day basis
  • – You feel more stable when lifting weights
  • – Your grip strength has improved
  • – The weights you can confidently lift have gone up
  • – Getting your shopping into the house is easier than before

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