Have you ever carried two equally heavy grocery bags from the store to your car? Then you’ve done a farmer’s walk (well, basically). The farmer’s walk, or farmer’s carry as it’s also called, is a loaded carry that targets the upper, lower body, and the core all at the same time (a version where you only hold weight on one side is shown above). The move requires you to hold an external load, like kettlebells (or a bag of groceries—your preference) and move it from one point to another. It’s a true exercise in grip and strength training. And while it may sound simple to walk back and forth while holding weights, it’s effective—as in, this move targets at least nine areas of your upper and lower body.
There are also plenty of variations you can do to increase or decrease the intensity of this move and keep things exciting. When you want a heavier carry, for example, grab the hex bar (you’ve seen it before—it’s the hexagon shaped barbell at the gym often used for deadlifting). Using this weight in a farmer’s walk will truly test your strength. But if you’re looking to lighten your load and maybe test your speed instead regular dumbbells will be your go-to.
If you couldn’t already tell, the farmer’s walk is an incredibly versatile move that you shouldn’t underestimate. You’ll definitely want to add it to your next workout. So let’s make sure you know how to do this move the right way. As a SoulCycle Instructor and NASM-certified trainer, I’m going to teach you everything you need to know about this loaded carry—the benefits, how-to, variations, and more. Trust me, you won’t regret it.
The Benefits Of Farmer’s Walk
This move is a total-body exercise that hits the upper and lower body, in addition to the core. Here’s how your body will be tested in each of these key areas:
Upper-Body Benefits: Looking to increase your strength up top? DONE. The farmer’s carry targets five major areas of the upper body, including your forearms, thoracic area of the back, triceps, biceps, and shoulders.
Lower-Body Benefits: If you’re all about leg days, the farmer’s carry also has your best interest at heart. This move will target your glutes, hamstrings, calves, and quadriceps.
Core Benefits: Keeping your core engaged during this move is challenge, but if you do, you’ll see great results—and not just in the abs area. A strong core will give you a powerful base for so many other moves, as well. Think: running, throwing ability, and overall strength, just to name a few.
Bonus Benefit: Carrying heavy grocery bags into the house in one trip will finally become an achievable—maybe even easy—task.
The Gear You Need
When it comes to the weights used in the farmer’s walk,the choice is yours. That’s what’s so great about this exercise—it’s versatile and can be adapted to fit your needs. If you have a set of kettlebells or dumbbells, great. If you want to up your challenge, try the hex bar. And if you don’t have any equipment at all, you could always grab two buckets and fill them with sand or water.
How To Do Farmer’s Walk
The biggest mistake people make is assuming that the farmer’s carry is too simple an exercise to yield results. But the truth is, when done correctly, the farmer’s carry can accomplish just as much, if not more, than some of the more intricate weighted exercises. Here’s a step-by-step process on how to do the farmer’s walk the right way:
Set/reps for results: Three sets is great. You can time your farmer’s carry for 25 to 30 seconds or 10 steps forward and back.
Form tips: Start out light to ensure you don’t end up leaning too far forward or favoring a side. Make sure to keep your back straight for safety. And when it comes to moving, small strides will do. They’ll keep you balanced as you increase your weights.
Light vs. Heavy Farmer’s Walk
Okay, so I know you want to test your strength and see how much weight you can carry (honestly, same!). But first you want to make sure you’re ready for it. A light carry is great for everyone, especially beginners trying to improve their daily movements and foundational strength.
Once you’ve established this, then try going for a heavy farmers carry. But I only recommend it after you’ve already built up your core foundation, grip strength, and shoulder stability—and if you’re looking to improve speed and power. That’s when you can really challenge yourself with something like a heavy trap bar. These can handle Olympic weight plates that are 25 pounds, 45 pounds, etc. all at once. When using a trap bar (also called a hex bar), you should always use both hands and carry it down by your sides.
Variations On Farmer’s Walk
Honestly, there are so many things you can do with the farmer’s walk other than holding your weights straight down:
- Carry the weight overhead, which will further challenge your shoulder stability.
- Do the carry in a racked position. Using a kettlebell, bring the weight up to your shoulder level, with the weight hanging over the backside of your hand and close to your chest. You’ll challenge your core and upper-back stability.
- Any of these versions can be done bilaterally (using both hands) or unilaterally (using using one hand or one side). The benefit of a unilateral carry in any version (overhead, down by your side, or in the racked position) is that it can help improve muscle imbalances.
- Try an uneven carry where you hold a heavier weight by your side with one arm and do an overhead carry with a lighter weight using the opposite arm. This uses both a regular and an overhead carry simultaneously. Just don’t forget to repeat on the other side.
How To Make Farmer’s Walk A Part Of Your Routine
Here are some easy ways to incorporate this movement into your current routine:
- Do them as a warmup (or before your go-to warmup): If you’re going heavier in weights, do them after a warm up, giving your body a chance to prepare for the heavy lift. If you’re using lighter weights, farmer’s carry is a great warm up itself that will wake up key areas of your upper and lower body.
- Do them in a Tabata-style workout: Tabata-style workouts are a common type of HIIT workout in which you do 20 seconds of work and then 10 seconds of rest for eight rounds. You can mix in a bunch of different exercises, so next time you might want to try farmer’s carry, burpees, squat jumps, pushups and then repeat.
- Do them as a finisher: Using a heavier weight, try doing farmer’s walk to cap off your workout. This will elevate your heart rate and exhaust your strength to give you some extra burn.
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