Farmer’s Carry – A Full Body Strength Exercise

By Mike Kubas

Carry What?….. Where?….. Why?

Pick up these heavy weights and walk them over there and then come back and put them down. That’s it? Sure is. Well there’s a bit more to it than that, but at its essence the farmers carry  actually is that simple. You’ve most likely seen personal trainers having their clients doing this very exercise and asked yourself “Why are they walking around carrying two heavy weights? That looks pointless!” It looks very basic, but there is actually a lot going on and a lot of muscles being both challenged and strengthened. Farmers carries are debatably the most functional exercise you can do, as it relates directly to almost everyone’s every-day life. Picking up two grocery bags up, a suitcase, or a child, this exercise will help make that task easier for you and that’s just one of the many benefits.

This exercise also improves posture, grip strength, shoulder stability, hip strength, bone density, and core strength. It’s as full body as it gets, kind of like a Body Sculpt class boiled down into one exercise!

There are many different variations of the farmers carry, but for our purposes I’ll stick to the basic two-armed farmer’s carry. Despite the appearance of extreme simplicity, the demands this exercise places on your body are actually quite complex. The basis of the exercise is to pick up two uncomfortably heavy weights and walk 20yds-50yds with them at a brisk pace, while maintaining a strong balanced posture and control over the weights (not rocking or swinging). In doing this, you are challenging several areas of your fitness including grip strength, shoulder stability, trap strength, as well as core strength. Even though you may not realize it, your abdominals, back, delts, and hips are stabilizing the weight and stopping it from swaying back and forth. They are under constant tension for the entirety of the exercise. This time under tension is one of the biggest drivers of muscle growth that there is.

Not only does this exercise help build muscle, it can also be used for a nice metabolic burn when it’s mixed in with other exercises. This can be used at the end of a workout as a finisher or can be part of a metabolic endurance focused workout. You will grab two weights for your carry and two dumbbells for your exercises. You start the series by performing a farmer’s carry, once you complete the carry, you grab the two dumbbells and perform 8 reps of a push press, then immediately begin another farmer’s carry. After the carry you will perform 6 reps on each side of an alternating reverse lunge with the same dumbbells. You will then perform another farmer’s carry, followed by plank position rows, 6 on each side. You will alternate in between the carries and the three exercises for a set number of rounds or for a given amount of time (4-12mins). This makes for a killer finish to your workout or a great way to switch up your workout routine. The three exercises can be changed and individualized but should be focused on different muscle groups and in the 6-8 rep ranges.

This is a simple rundown of the farmer’s carry, why we use it, and how we can fit it into a workout. It’s simple, effective, and a great bang-4-your-buck exercise that can be used in a variety of ways. In addition, once you’ve mastered the proper farmer’s carries, there’s many more variations on carries to keep you challenged and progressing.

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