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Carrying around heavy weights appears at face value to be of no value except for strengthening your grip. But when you perform a movement like the barbell overhead carry exercise and pick up the weights and walk around, you’ll realize there’s so much more to carries than meets the eye.
Your shoulders and lungs burn with every step and any deviations while you walk will be felt twofold. Plus, the voices inside your head will be telling you to quit because of the intense discomfort you’re feeling. Then you’ll realize there’s much more to carries than meets the eye. But with a simple tweak, you can take your carry game to a whole new level. What is it? It’s carrying a barbell overhead.
Here we’ll explain what overhead carries are, the benefits of overhead barbell carry, how to perform an overhead carry, programming suggestions, and overhead carry variations if the barbell overhead carry isn’t for you.
There’s no doubt regular carries (by your side, rack, suitcase, or goblet) are difficult. But walking with a barbell overhead takes this to another level because of the increased leverage. The further away the weight is from your working muscles, in this case, your legs, the harder it is to carry. Carrying a barbell overhead will put your whole body under tension and every step is a test of your single leg balance. This means starting on the lighter side with overhead carries, somewhere between 60-80% of your barbell overhead press 1RM works best.
The overhead barbell carry is a total body exercise because of the overhead position and its dynamic nature. Here are the major muscles trained by the overhead barbell carry.
When overhead carries are performed with good form, they’ll improve your
There are a couple of ways to program the overhead barbell carry. The first option is part of your strength programming, or the second option is part of your core routine before hitting the weights. Either one you choose, perform it early because this is a physically taxing exercise that requires your full attention.
Here are a couple of examples.
1A. Bench Press Variation
1B. Barbell Overhead Carry – 40 yards
1A. Barbell Overhead Carry- 40 yards
1B. Stability Ball Plank – 30 seconds
1C. Half Kneeling Pallof Press- 12 reps each side.
Below are guidelines on how to program the barbell overhead carry for strength and hypertrophy. These are only guidelines and can be changed to fit your personal goals.
Hypertrophy: Time under tension and volume is the key to gaining muscle with any exercise including the overhead carry. Performing three to four sets, walking 40+ yards using 60-80% of your 1RM overhead press is a good starting point.
Strength: Increasing the weight and reducing your walking distance will increase your strength in the overhead position. 3 sets walking 20 yards using 80-90% of your 1RM overhead press will challenge you.
Barbell overhead carries are an advanced variation and are not for everybody, especially for those who have shoulder mobility issues or suffer from shoulder pain. In these cases, incorporating an overhead carry variation can provide the same types of benefits as a barbell carry. in your routine is key. Here are three overhead variations to add spice to your carry game.