Also Known As: Farmer’s walk
Targets: Shoulders, biceps, triceps, forearms, upper back, quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, calves, and core
Equipment Needed: Dumbbells or kettlebells
Level: Beginner to intermediate
The farmer’s carry is a powerhouse exercise that involves holding a weight in each hand and walking for distance or time. It fits into most workouts or warm-ups and only requires a set of dumbbells or kettlebells to do.
How to Do a Farmer’s Carry
Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart and arms resting at your sides. Place a set of dumbbells or kettlebells on the floor, one next to each foot.
- Squat down and grab a weight in each hand.
- Engage the core and pull your shoulder blades down and back while standing back up, returning to an upright posture.
- Step forward and begin walking. Keep your head up, shoulders back, and core muscles engaged.
- Continue walking for your desired time or distance.
You can perform a farmer’s carry for time or distance. Either way, make sure you have enough space to walk as far or as long as you intend.
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Benefits of Farmer’s Carry
The farmer’s carry targets your entire body. It strengthens the muscles in your biceps, triceps, forearms, shoulders, upper back, trapezius, quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, lower back, obliques, transverse abdominis, and rectus abdominis. If you use a heavy weight, you may feel the burn in your chest as well.
Since you carry the weights for a distance, this move is a good pick for improving grip strength in the hands and wrists. Grip strength is essential for performing daily activities like lifting and carrying grocery bags.
The farmer’s carry also helps strengthen your core. This may lead to reduced back pain, improved balance, and better flexion, extension, and rotation of your trunk.
Other Variations of the Farmer’s Carry
You can vary this exercise to better meet your fitness level and goals.
Reduce Time or Distance for Beginners
If the workout you’re following calls for walking 40 yards but this is too far for you, cut the distance in half. You can also reduce time and weight. If you find that either is too much, put the weight down and rest before finishing the exercise.
To add resistance to the farmer’s carry, increase the weight. Just make sure you don’t compromise form and remember that a little bit goes a long way. There’s no need to make significant jumps in weight. Sometimes even five pounds makes a big difference.
Increase Distance or Time
You can also add to the distance or time when doing a farmer’s carry if you want to boost its intensity. Challenge yourself during each workout session by increasing your distance by 10 yards or adding 15 seconds to the exercise.
Walk a Straight Line
Work on balance by following a straight line. To do this, find a line or the edge of a surface you can follow for the prescribed time or distance. Try to take each step on this line without falling to either side.
Use Heavy and Light Weights Simultaneously
If you really want to challenge yourself, grasp a heavier weight in one hand and a lighter weight in the other. Hold the lighter weight overhead while walking and keep the heavier weight by your side. Change sides at the halfway point.
To keep the move safe and effective, avoid making any of these common mistakes.
Using the Wrong Weight
While you shouldn’t be afraid to use a heavier weight, if your form is being compromised, that weight is too much. Keep the weight heavier when going shorter distances and lighter if you’re carrying for a longer distance, such as 40 to 60 meters.
Not Keeping the Core Engaged
Any time you are upright and moving, you’re engaging the muscles in your core. The power, stability, and support generated from these muscles will help you move quicker and protect your lower back from injury.
Leaning Forward at the Waist
Performing the farmer’s carry bent over at the waist causes pain and discomfort in the lower back. This can happen when you get fatigued and your technique begins to suffer. To properly perform this move, brace your core, stand tall, and look straight ahead for the duration of the exercise.
Raising the Shoulders
During this exercise, the shoulders should be pulled down and back. This can be a challenge for people who have a tendency to walk (or do another type of activity) with their shoulders hunched up toward the ears.
Walking with a hunched posture while holding dumbbells or kettlebells creates discomfort in the neck and shoulders. You will know if you’re doing this move correctly if it feels like you’re pushing the kettlebell or dumbbell toward the ground.
Safety and Precautions
Generally speaking, the farmer’s carry is a safe move for most fitness levels, especially since you can adjust the resistance and modify distance or time. However, if you have any health conditions that limit your ability to perform cardiovascular exercise, you should talk with your doctor before trying this move.
Some health conditions can be worsened by the farmer’s carry, such as pain-related conditions in the neck, shoulders, or lower back. Ask a physical therapist if this exercise is safe for you to perform.
If you experience any discomfort while doing the farmer’s carry, stop and take a break. Rest for at least two to five minutes before resuming the activity.
To prevent injury, start with lighter weights (10 to 15 pounds) and go shorter distances (10 to 20 yards). Once you’ve developed some endurance and this exercise starts to feel easier, start by increasing the weight you carry, then increase how far or long you walk.
Try It Out
Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:
Winwood PW, Cronin JB, Brown SR, Keogh JW. A biomechanical analysis of the farmers Walk, and comparison with the deadlift and unloaded walk. Int J Sports Sci Coach. 2014;9(5):1127-1143. doi:10.1260/1747-9522.214.171.1247
Bohannon RW. Grip strength: An indispensable biomarker for older adults. Clin Interv Aging. 2019;14:1681-1691. doi:10.2147/CIA.S194543
Brumitt J, Matheson JW, Meira EP. Core stabilization exercise prescription, part I. Sports Health: Multidiscipl App. 2013;5(6):504-9. doi:10.1177/1941738113502451.
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