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There are tons of articles on neglected or forgotten muscles and movements, but IMO the king of neglected is the humble, simple, but not easy farmer’s carry. Holding weights in your hands and walking, what muscles do this work, and how does this improve me? Just because this exercise is not performed in front of a mirror and there is no muscle pump doesn’t mean squat.
The farmer’s carry exercise and its variations arguably have the most significant carryover from the gym to your activities of daily living. And if you ever find yourself hanging from a cliff, you’ll be thanking yourself for all the grip strength work you did. Because if you didn’t, well, let’s not get into that.
Here we’ll dive deep into the farmers’ carry and how you can program them into your training for maximum effectiveness.
No, it’s not something a farmer does. Well, they do, but it’s a movement you should be incorporating into your routine as well. The most commonly performed farmer’s carry is the dumbbell farmer’s carry. You pick up a pair of heavy dumbbells from the rack, grip tight at arm’s length, stand up straight and walk in a straight line for 20 to 100 yards and try not to drop them.
What muscles does the farmer’s carry work? Glad you asked…
Many carry variations train similar muscles but depending on which variation, you might be focusing on the upper back or focusing shoulder strength more. But dumbbell carries train these upper and lower body muscles for the most part.
It doesn’t seem like picking up weights and walking with them would have many benefits, but it does. Here are just a few of the essential benefits of performing carries.
Just think of carries as a loaded standing on your two feet plank. You can do carries with crappy form, but it’s better and safer for you if you don’t. To get all the benefits listed above, it’s best to do every carry variation with good posture.
If you are new to performing carries, start with 25% of your body weight in each hand and go for at least 40 yards each time. If you cannot do 40 yards or if it is a walk in the park, go up or down in weight from there. Try to walk at your usual pace, and take your time. Hurrying with the load may cause you to drop the weights or lose your balance.
Neither of them is good.
Although increasing your load is always the name of this game, it pays to vary your load, dumbbell position (more on this later), and distance for variety’s sake or depending on your goals. If fat loss or improved cardiovascular conditioning is a goal, reducing the weight and rest periods between sets and increasing distance works well.
When your goal is absolute strength, increasing the load, decreasing walking distance, and increasing your rest period are excellent places to start. Building muscle lies somewhere between those two. Experiment to see what works best (or worst) for you.
The world is your oyster when it comes to programming carries into your routine. It can be put in your warm-up or core circuit, or you can put it in your strength training routine. Pairing carries with any press variation, or any exercise that doesn’t tax your grip and doesn’t take away anything from that exercise works well.
Or include it in a core circuit before your training as part of your warm-up or after your workout to improve your core strength when you are tired
Save this circuit for the end of your training when you’re looking for extra bicep work. Do this tri-set twice weekly for guns of steel and Popeye forearms.
Repeat this circuit three times with minimal rest in between exercises.
Note: Start with 25% of your body weight in each hand.
Nothing fancy here. Use the dumbbell two-handed carry variation, walk for 40 yards, and place the weight down. Rest for 30 seconds and repeat. Keep repeating until you can no longer walk for 40 yards before losing your grip. Record the number of rounds and try to beat it next time.
The two-handed carry is excellent, but to progress and prevent training boredom, here are four dumbbells carry variations to increase your awesomeness. Except for holding dumbbells by your side, there are three other positions to hold a dumbbell in. Goblet, rack, and overhead, and each one is progressively more difficult.
Why? Because each position is further away from the muscles, it’s working; your legs and core and the dumbbells are harder to hold in each position, which only adds to your enjoyment.