The Best Exercise You’re Not Doing

The farmers carry are single handedly one of the best, and most functionally applicable, exercises you could add to your daily life.  If you’re an experienced lifter, you might have done these before.  If you aren’t, you might not even be sure what it is.

What’s the problem with farmers carries?  The main problem is they are not one of the ‘sexy’ exercises:  cleans, pull-ups, squats, bench press, and so on.  In fact, they are one of the most simplistic exercises.

Don’t take that to mean easy.  Simple is not easy.  Rather, if you apply all the good elements of lifting, you will likely be set up properly for quality farmer’s carries and therefore reap all the benefits.

So… why do the farmers carry?

Better Core

This probably takes the least buy in effort for the average person.

  • You want to have a stronger core?  Check!
  • You want to have real world [functional] strength?  Check!
  • You want an exercise which can, and does, help you by helping to prevent other back injuries?  Check!
  • You want a much better bang for your [exercise] buck than, say, sit ups?  Check, check, and double check!

What you actually want from your core is the ability to resist flexion, extension, and rotation.  These are keys to injury prevention and the productive application of force (aka – getting really strong).

Improve Your Shoulders

Let’s do a quick experiment:

  1. Let your arms hang by your sides totally and completely relaxed
  2. Squeeze your fists as hard as you can squeeze them.  What did you feel?  Nothing?  Let’s try it again.  But try to tune in to your shoulders and upper back this time
  3. Let your arms hang and relax
  4. Squeeze your fists as hard as you can.  What did you feel?

Did you feel your fists? Your forearms?  All normal things, I think.  Did you feel your biceps?  Triceps?  Lats?  Upper back?  Hopefully.

The simple act of squeezing your fists is a surefire way to help stabilize your shoulders.  This is one my main arguments for having your thumbs wrapped around the bar in your bar-related exercises (both the barbell and the pull up bar).

Add this to the fact that the farmer’s walk can help you improve your posture and you’ve got yourself another important benefit to being a durable, and more powerful, athlete!

Pulling Strength & Muscle Mass

One big piece of the muscle building formula is doing compound [multi-joint] lifts, doing them well, and doing them with heavy weight.  This combination tells your body to release growth hormone and testosterone [among other hormones] and that in turn tells your body to add muscle and to burn body fat.

You can build your pull up strength, your deadlift strength, your bent over rows or DB rows, your muscle ups [if you’re so inclined], cleans, and snatches.  The list goes on…

What Can You Carry?

The list of equipment you can use to perform a farmer’s carry includes some things you already use, some things you might already use, and some things you probably don’t.

  • Heavy Dumbbells and Heavy Kettlebells
    • These are simple and effective tools and are readily available at most gyms
  • Barbells
    • These are also widely available but require a lot more in the way of balance and space
    • In other words, don’t use barbells if you don’t have to
  • Farmers Walk Handles
    • These are purpose built to suit this exercise.  They require less in the way of balance and space
    • For Example
  • Strongman Frame
    • This is more specialized but still effective.  Most ‘regular’ gyms will not have this piece
    • For Example

How To Properly Farmers Carry

Once you have figured out what implement you are using for your farmers carries, you need to know how to properly do it…

  1. Utilize the steps you would use for your deadlift to set up for your carries
    • Set a neutral spine
    • Create stability, or brace, or get set
    • Hip hinge down to your farmer’s carry implements
    • Grab the handles with your thumbs wrapped around as well
  2. Deadlift the weight to a standing position
  3. Think tall with arms straight and hanging by your side
  4. Follow a narrow forward path as wide steps will not work well
  5. Set it down with that same deadlift
  6. Rest, reset, and do it again!

When it comes to adding this to your workout, you need to also utilize the same warm up principles as you would with any other big lift.  While this seems like it would be easy to simply load heavy and go.  This would not just mean you’re likely weaker in that lift but you’re also more susceptible to acute injury.

Go For A Walk

Doing farmers walks (aka farmer’s carries) are an amazing means to get strong, to get fit, to drop body fat/weight, and to build yourself better posture.

Don’t shy away from simple.  Simple is often the most effective way means to get results.

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