The Farmer’s Walk is a great functional exercise that works most of the major muscle groups in the body. While there are several variations of how you hold the weight (which I’ll give you a sample of below) essentially, you hold some heavy weights and walk for a specific length of time or distance. This exercise is arguably one of the more functional exercises out there. Carrying heavy objects for a certain amount of time or distance builds strength that makes daily tasks, such as carrying groceries into the house and carrying small children around at events much easier. Moving the body with additional weight requires you to recruit the muscles in your arms, lats, abs, glutes, quads, hamstrings and calves in order to support the weight while maintaining an upright position. You can change up which muscle groups are utilized more by changing how the weight is loaded on the body, and there are many great variations to choose from. Check out these three variations below to incorporate into your workouts!
Standard Farmer’s Walk
To target your lats, abs, and glutes, try the standard farmer’s walk variation. Simply grab two heavy dumbbells, kettlebells, or barbells (which will require more stabilization and work your muscles even harder) and carry them down at your sides. While holding the weights, you should be standing upright with your abs and glutes engaged and your lat muscles locked in.
Once you have the weights in place, pick either a time interval to work with (1-minute farmer’s walk, 30 seconds of rest, for example) or a distance to travel (30 yards, repeated 3 times).
Overhead Farmer’s Carry
To engage your lats and abs more, try the overhead farmer’s walk. Grab a pair of dumbbells or kettlebells and bring them to the overhead position. The weights should be stacked directly over your shoulders, and you should lock your lat muscles down and brace your abdominal muscles.
Pick a point straight ahead to focus on to help maintain balance, and slowly walk toward that point. This variation can be worked for a specific distance or length of time.
If this is a new exercise for you, have a fitness professional spot you the first few times you attempt the overhead farmer’s carry to ensure safety and proper technique. When carrying weights above your head, it’s important to move slowly, keep your focus on one point ahead of you, and engage your core muscles to help keep your balance. If you ever feel as though the weight is unstable, bring the weight down and decrease the amount of weight you use until the movement feels more natural to you.
Single Arm Side-Loaded Farmer’s Carry
To engage your obliques more prominently, try working the single arm side-loaded farmer’s carry. This variation is similar to the standard farmer’s walk, but instead of holding a weight in each hand, you’ll hold a weight in only one hand.
By loading only one side of the body, your oblique on the opposite side has to work harder to keep the body upright despite the uneven distribution of weight. Try working this variation on a time interval (1 minute per side with 30 seconds of rest in between) or for a specific distance for each side.
There are several ways you can load the body in a farmer’s carry, and each variation of load placement will engage different muscle groups in different ways. Regardless of the variations you work, you’ll get a great workout that will increase your functional strength and will make several daily tasks feel much easier.
Lauren Weiss is a personal trainer and group fitness instructor based out of Long Beach, CA. She specializes in kettlebell training and unconventional workouts and has been working with both types of fitness for over a year. Lauren has her BOLT Kettlebell Sport Certification through the USA Kettlebell League and has expertise working with kettlebells, barbells, dumbbells and several unconventional fitness tools. Lauren received her BA in Journalism and uses her writing expertise to craft thought-provoking articles about trending fitness, health & wellness topics. Follow Lauren on her website, Facebook, and Instagram.
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