• The Farmers Walk Does More Than You Know

      by Robert King T-Nation

      Here's what you need to know...

      • If weakness is the disease, the farmer's walk will cure it. It will build muscle, slash fat, and crank up performance.

      • Everyone wants the newest, coolest exercise, but that tends to take them away from hard work, temporary pain, sweat, and calluses. What they really need to do is get back to basics.

      • The key to success in the farmer's walk is not in the walking, but how you walk with the weight. Think tall spine.

      The farmer's walk builds muscle ridiculously fast, slashes body fat, increases strength and performance in the big lifts, and has very little risk of injury.

      A heavy farmer's walk will quickly fry your back, shoulders, and grip while making your lungs feel like you've guzzled a gallon of napalm.

      The farmer's walk is the simplest exercise you can do. Just pick up some heavy weights, walk as far as you can and repeat.

      I'd argue that a biggest reason they're not used more often is because they're too simple. Everyone wants the newest, hottest exercise, but that often means an easier movement. What they really need to do is get back to basics and man up.

      Farmer's Walk Builds Size and Strength

      The farmer's walk engages all the muscle groups in one movement. It's an exercise in pure strength. Here's the breakdown:


      Your arms will scream as the weight relentlessly tries to separate your shoulders and elbows from their sockets. The forearms get an intense workout, which helps improve grip strength, while the biceps and triceps must work to stabilize the elbow and shoulder joints.

      Back and Shoulders

      The muscles in the back and shoulders are heavily targeted, particularly the traps. These muscles must work together in a continuous contraction to keep your shoulder blades together and down, and to keep your shoulder joints stable.


      Here's a way to get tighter, stronger abs without doing an ab-specific exercise. The core muscles are hit hard during a heavy farmer's walk, and the back and abdomen must work in sync to support your torso and the additional weight. Keeping your abs tight during the exercise is necessary to protect the lower back and prevent any shear stress or vertebral buckling.


      Because the farmer's walk requires you to walk, the quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, and calf muscles are used extensively.


      The farmer's walk trains your body in a way that's useful even beyond the gym. You can't underestimate the importance of grip strength and the ability to lift and carry heavy objects for health or in everyday life. The farmer's walk might be the most "functional" exercise in existence.

      Gear Required

      You can perform them with dedicated farmer's bars, or heavy dumbbells and kettlebells. You could even use water jugs, buckets of sand, trap-bars, or the Dead-Squat™ Bar. It doesn't really matter, as long as it's heavy, safe, and poses a challenge.

      How To Farmer's Walk

      Not much coaching is required beyond "grab some weight and start walking, pencil-neck." However, execution does depend on the equipment involved.

      Standard: Grab two heavy dumbbells, kettlebells, or farmer's bars and walk as far as you can. This will tear up your traps and forearms and generally make a man out of you.\

      Single: Grab one heavy implement and walk as far as you can.

      Barbell: Deadlift a loaded bar and walk.

      Overhead Dumbbell: Grab two dumbbells, press them overhead to lockout, and walk with them overhead.

      Overhead Barbell: Clean a heavy loaded bar, press it overhead to lock-out, and walk with it overhead.

      Overhead Single Dumbbell: Carry one heavy dumbbell or kettlebell overhead, one arm at a time. This move is also known as a waiter's walk.

      Uneven Farmer's Walk: Carry two heavy dumbbells or kettlebells of different loads (different weights in each hand). Switch up the hands holding the heavy weight each workout.

      Dinosaur: Pick up any awkward heavy object and carry it.

      Trap Bar: Stand inside a heavy trap-bar, grab the two handles and stand up, then walk as far as you can. At my gym we often use the Dead-Squat™ Bar for farmer's walks.

      Adding the Farmer's Walk To Your Program

      The beauty of the farmer's walk is its simplicity. You can add it to any training program and make the program better. I'll do some version of a loaded carry at the end of every strength training workout.

      Here's an example of how they could be built into a program:

      Day 1: Push Day. Add one set of standard farmer's walks.
      Day 2: Pull Day. Add one set of single-arm farmer's walks.
      Day 3: Leg Day. Add one set of uneven farmer's walks, a different weight in each hand.

      The goal every week is to increase load or duration of the set.

      Week 1: Walk 25 feet up and back 3 times
      Week 2: Walk 30 feet up and back 3 times
      Week 3: Increase the weight and walk 25 feet
      Week 4: Walk 30 feet with the heavier weight

      Be sure to note your numbers and your distance and try to improve on it weekly.

      Every week I rotate the type of farmer's carry, alternating from handles to kettlebells to fat-grip dumbbells. Training variety is endless. However, the key to success in the farmer's walk is not in the walking, but how you walk with the weight.

      The Walk

      Everything starts with posture.

      The temptation during the farmer's walk is to adopt a head forward/rounded shoulder posture, but performing the exercise this way places considerable stress on the neck, upper body, and joints. To make the move safer and more challenging, it's important to work on improved positioning, even if maintaining a tall spine comes at the price of additional weight.

      You don't want to reinforce a slumped posture with a pair of heavy weights dragging you down on either side. Better to work with a conservative load and learn to control the downward gravitational pressure and build to a more substantial weight from there.

      Heavy Vs. Light

      The biggest decision you have to make is whether your emphasis is on distance or weight.

      Start with a light weight and master the tall spine. There are also distinct benefits to lifting lighter weight. A longer duration with lighter weights (a challenging load you can walk with for two minutes) can have a similar effect on your cardiovascular system as a series of sprints while working on a completely different neural and loading demand.

      Furthermore, just like all interval training, you're setting your body up for an epic after-burn. Keeping it lighter and aiming for longer distance will ramp up fat loss. This also makes it a fantastic finisher.

      On the other hand, keeping it heavy and brief by slowly building the load turns this into a more strength-based, weight-bearing exercise. Your upper body will grow in relation to the weight you're carrying and your grip strength will go up drastically. Heavier weights will also help improve your other lifts.

      Core Strength and Sip Breathing

      This works wonders for getting a stronger core, reducing back pain, and making your body into an all-out machine.

      When doing the farmer's walk you need to lock in and brace your core. You must maintain core stiffness throughout the walk and not lose it.

      An easy way to remember this is to imagine someone is about to punch you in the stomach. Your immediate reaction is to clench up your stomach/core. This is bracing. Your core contracts and your ribs don't rise. From here, lock in your core and don't let it move. You want a full 360-degree brace around your entire core, not just the front area.

      Proper breathing technique also makes a big difference. When you do your carries, imagine you're breathing through a straw.

      To Strap Or Not To Strap

      As much as I hate straps in training for the beginning lifter, once you reach a certain weight on the farmer's walk the risks of going "strapless" outweigh the benefits.

      I've found that the grip is always the first thing to go with very heavy carries. So unless you have the mitts of a 300-pound strongman, your grip will usually be the limiting factor.

      Don't use straps to build general overall strength, but once you reach a point of training heavy (roughly 50% of your body weight per hand), the straps are needed and can actually help reduce injuries. It goes beyond tearing up your hands and risking extra calluses – using straps can also reduce the risk of tendonitis.

      High-Impact Work

      Done right, a farmer's walk can make you a hell of a lot of bigger, stronger, and leaner. Don't underestimate the impact of this brutal but basic exercise.

      Source: http://www.t-nation.com/readArticle.do?****5726093
      Comments 8 Comments
      1. TheMovement's Avatar
        TheMovement -
        Damn good article and A MUST!!! Cant believe I let myself stop doing these but the overhead is the way I plan to go!
      1. hardwork25's Avatar
        hardwork25 -
        Originally Posted by TheMovement View Post
        Damn good article and A MUST!!! Cant believe I let myself stop doing these but the overhead is the way I plan to go!

        Agreed. No clue why I stopped doing this. My favorite thing to do to warm up.
      1. TheMovement's Avatar
        TheMovement -
        Originally Posted by hardwork25 View Post
        Agreed. No clue why I stopped doing this. My favorite thing to do to warm up.
        Workout in a YMCA so anything that looks "crazy" is just frowned upon. Sad I let them make me drop some things but will be bringing them back shortly.
      1. pmdied's Avatar
        pmdied -
        Awesome article. I did trap bar walks this morning with trap bar dead lifts. First two sets of walks were for strength with heavy weight and shorter distance; the second two sets were lighter weight with longer distance.
      1. fujindemon74's Avatar
        fujindemon74 -
        Great article...until the recommendation to strap.

        I have carried 140lb DBs 30 yards at a bodyweight of 170-185lb.
        And I don't train the Farmer's Carry nearly enough.

        If you're worried about elbow issues, reduce the load and slap on a pair of Fat Gripz, progressively overload for a good period of time, and then return to implements without the Fat Gripz. I'd be surprised if your carry isn't significantly heavier for the same time or distance.
      1. HardCore1's Avatar
        HardCore1 -
        Nice read
      1. JD261985's Avatar
        JD261985 -
        Never done this before I think ill start with weight that allows me to use good posture and work up from there. I plan on using this long term so I don't feel bad starting lighter on an exercise I've never done before. If I can build up weight rapidly I will but eventually I'm going to hit a point where progression slows. Hopefully this will help with my grip strength I have a very weak grip. Working up to 125 lb dumbbells would be a huge accomplishment for me. Just have to stick with it and not get greedy by adding more weight than I can handle. Better to start off too light than too heavy
      1. fujindemon74's Avatar
        fujindemon74 -
        Buy a pair of Fat Gripz asap.
        Relatively cheap, will last forever, unbelievably versatile.

        After your Farmer's Carry work, do 3-5 sets of static holds with the heaviest barbell you can tolerate for 15-20 seconds.
        You can also roll a few sets of Farmer's Carry with the Fat Gripz with lighter implements than you normally use (start around 50% of typical load, back off or step it up accordingly) the same day or a second day of the week.

        Also, per Dave Tate, your weak link in grip is the pinkie. Get one of those black spring loaded clips from an office supply store/closet and try to open it with just your thumb and pinkie. Don't be surprised if you can't right away. Work on it.
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