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From the alleys behind notorious German Beer Halls, to the fabled “Basque Stomp”, to Highland Games competitions and virtually every bush league strongman contest to the pinnacle World’s Strongest Man, some variation of the farmer’s walk is used.
Functional training does not mean a bastardized rendition of a traditional lift with an odd object on a bosu ball—functional simply means how well a training modality transfers to the desired activity.
Anything that requires explosive power, athleticism, grip strength, overall limit strength and core strength will benefit from the farmer’s walk. So, basically, the farmer’s walk is the epitome of functional training for about anything.
The farmer’s walk involves walking while holding weights at your your side. As technique is mastered, the objective is no longer to walk but to move as fast as possible.
In strongman competitions and training centers specialized farmer’s walk implements are used. These can be purchased fairly inexpensively and if you have a welder buddy, he can slap a pair together with ease in no time.
No access to handles, no problem! Grab a pair of weighted barbells or even dumbbells will work.
Go to an area with plenty of open space, set the implements parallel to one another on the floor. The handles should be approximately shoulder width apart so you are able to stand in between them.
Reach down and grab each handle and stand back up with the implements at your side. Begin to walk forward with short, quick steps; as you are comfortable with the weight you can begin to move faster and lengthen steps. Do this for the desired distance.
Many folks classify farmer’s walks as a grip test. While grip at the high level for the symmetrical, well-trained athlete will be the limiting factor, farmer’s walks do, in fact, build the entire body.
I have yet to meet someone great at the farmer’s walk that did not have a big, beautifully-developed set of traps. Furthermore, core stability, leg strength, calf strength and the strength of the entire posterior chain (back side of the body) will be put to the test by the farmer’s walk.
If hypertrophy of the upper back and traps is the objective—use straps! Since grip is the limit factor, why limit the growth of your traps?
One of my favorite trap growth strategies is supersetting barbell shrugs with farmer’s walks, using straps on both exercises while going as heavy as possible. Do 3-4 supersets of 75-foot farmer’s walk, followed immediately by 12 barbell shrugs.
For more “functional” athleticism, ditch the straps and because your grip is challenged your forearms will grow by default. Want to really zero in on the forearms? Perform 3-4 sets of farmer’s walks pinching plates, squeeze the plates together, holding the smooth part.
If strength is the primary objective, do 2-3 sets of 30-100 feet with heavy weight and full recovery between sets.
For the hypertrophic objective, do 100-200 feet for 3-4 sets (rest 90-180 seconds between sets) and use moderately heavy weight.
Farmer’s walks can be part of a legs or back day. If you really want to try something wild, do an entire strongman events day. Furthermore, farmer’s walks can aid in taking your physique and functionality to a fundamentally new level. For the bouncer at the king and stab honky tonk to the lady that wants to improve her tennis game, look no further than the farmer’s walk.