For an exercise to be valuable enough that we can confidently prescribe it to everyone it needs to be simple, it needs to be scalable and it needs to be safe.
One of the ultimate embodiments of all of the above is the humble farmers’ walk.
You might hear farmers’ walk and think of World’s Strongest Man competitors straining with huge objects in each hand across 15m courses, but what about simpler, everyday tasks like carrying shopping bags or suitcases?
Being able to pick things up and move with them is not only a great expression of physical health and athleticism, but a great way to train for health and athleticism.
Which parts of your body does a farmer’s carry train?
If the weight you are using are heavy enough or the time you carry for is long enough then expect then expect to feel the burn in:
- Your grip – you’ve got to be able to hang onto the weights to carry them
- Your forearms, biceps and triceps – they’ll be working overtime to keep your hands from swinging wildly
- Your shoulders and upper back – standing up straight while carrying stuff is a great way to work on your posture
- Your core – your abs, lower back and obliques (the sides of your abs) will be stopping you from getting folded in half
- Your legs – your quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves will have to work hard to keep you moving
- Your lungs – if you choose the right weights and times you’ll be breathing heavy in no time
How heavy? How long? How often?
That depends on your goals, so let’s break it down into:
- You want fat loss – walk for 2 minutes, rest for 1 minute, repeat 3-5 times. Try doing it 1-3 times a week at the end of a session.
- You want to build some muscle and lose some fat – go heavier than the fat loss group, walk for 1 minute, rest for 1 minute, repeat 3-5 times. If you load it heavy enough then 1-2 times per week should be plenty as a finisher to a workout.
- You want to maximise muscle growth (and burn a bit of fat while you’re at it) – go very heavy for 20-30 seconds, rest for 1-2 minutes, do 6-8 sets. Hitting this once or twice a week should be plenty if you’re going heavy enough.
- You want muscle endurance around your core – pick a distance to cover, such as a mile, or a time to walk for, such as 12 minutes, pick up one object and keep it off the ground for the whole time. Loading one side of your body will provide an incredible stimulus to muscles you didn’t know that you had!
Try adding some serious carries to your training for 4-6 weeks and see what happens to your body and fitness levels…
If you find yourself getting bored with one kind of carry then don’t be afraid to mix it up so that you stay interested.