Exercise breakdown: Why you should add the farmer’s carry to your workouts

By J. D.

Fellow Legionnaires know that one of the core exercises we often incorporate into Survival Legion workouts is the “farmer’s carry,” or “farmer’s walk,” as some people might know it.

Simply put, we use it a lot because it is such an excellent strength and core exercise.

“Loaded carries are great for training the grip, building muscle, work capacity, core strength, coordination, and even improving function of the shoulder girdle,” notes Brian Tabor at the Strong Made Simple website.

He writes that renowned strength coach Dan John is the guy who mainstreamed the farmer’s/loaded carry concept. Men’s Health notes:

Dan John discovered loaded carries by accident. It was 2001, and the strength coach was sidelined by injury. So he did farmer’s walks because he wanted to feel like he was still training. But when he recovered, a funny thing happened: “I looked and performed better.”

But even before John picked up on them, “Brooks Kubik wrote in the Dino Files that ‘The farmers walk is one of the most productive of all exercises.’

“And prior to Kubik, strongmen, coaches and strength athletes have long utilized carrying objects as both a training tool and competitive feat of strength,” Tabor said.

Okay — so what does the farmer’s carry/walk actually do?

It’s definitely a strength-building exercise and one that should be used to increase strength over time. That is, it may be a good idea to increase both the amount of weight you are carrying and the distance you are carrying it, to build both strength and stamina.

Not only do farmer’s carries build muscle mass and boost your overall strength, they increase grip strength, and that is a physical characteristic you can definitely use on the job.

Instead of just carrying weights or kettlebells, you could also carry kegs, stones, ropes, sandbags, and other unconventional objects to increase strength, grip, work capacity, athleticism, and endurance. And again, adding distance to the carry is important as well.

How do farmer’s carries improve core and overall strength? Tabor notes:

Charlie Weingroff, another awesome physical therapist, has discussed how he uses heavily loaded farmers walks to improve shoulder function. (9) Heavy farmers walks effectively coerce the shoulder blades to set into a stable position and stimulate a PNF “threat” response to activate the rotator cuff muscles. This leads to improvements in glenohumeral and scapular positioning or simply a stronger, more stable, shoulder.

Overhead carries, which we also incorporate into Survival Legion workouts, also improve this type of shoulder function.

Stack.com adds:

The Farmer’s Walk activates nearly every muscle group. The core braces and stabilizes the entire body. Grip strength in the hands, wrists and forearms is a necessity. The upper back works to keep the shoulders and chest from sagging. The legs obviously propel the walk, and the cardiovascular system is engaged throughout the entirety of the movement. As a result, your entire body is put to work burning fat and creating lean muscle stores.

“Loaded carries build work capacity,” John told Men’s Health. And while there are many other ways to build capacity, farmer’s carries are one of the safest, he adds. “It’s really hard to hurt yourself when you’re walking around.”

Police, fire, EMS, and military personnel can certainly benefit from a stronger grip, more strength, and better athleticism — which is why we add farmer’s carries to our workouts.

We need you all to be in great shape because you’re out there every day protecting and defending our communities and our country.

J. D. Dougherty, a former paramedic, firefighter, and 15-year military veteran of OEF, is co-founder of Survival Legion, a vet-owned company that stresses functional fitness and draws it’s uniqueness from the Roman Legions.

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