When you are at the gym working up a sweat during a weight lifting class, the last thing you expect to hear your trainer telling you, is that the next exercise you have to tackle is the farmers carry. From the name alone it sounds like something that would only be done in the countryside, on a large farm with cows, chickens, and such. Despite the slightly odd name, the farmers carry workout is an exercise that has been around for many years. While it was traditionally done only by bodybuilders and other hardcore gym goers, today you can find it included in many routines, especially in HIIT or crossfit workouts. If you are curious to learn and understand more about this particular workout, then you are in the right place. In today’s article, we will properly introduce you to the farmers walk exercise, tell you about its benefits, the muscles engaged when you do it, how to do it and much more.
What Is A Farmers Carry Workout?
Also known as the farmers walk, this is a powerhouse strength and conditioning workout where you hold a (preferably) heavy weight in each hand while walking for an assigned distance or time.
Here is how to do it properly:
- Find some weights that are easy for you to work with – they shouldn’t be too light as you need to feel the weight nor should they be too heavy that you are unable to carry them.
You can use free weights such as dumbbells, kettlebells or weight plates. If you are working out at home and have no gym equipment, improvise using water bottles or two heavy backpacks filled with books or random weighted items.
- Once you’ve selected your weights of choice place them at your feet on either side of your body – right next to each foot.
- Stand up and ensure that you are in the right posture. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart and your arms should be hanging loosely at your sides.
- From here, go down into a basic squat and grab the weight in each hand. Keeping your core engaged by pulling your navel to your spine, stand back up into the posture mentioned in step 3 above.
- Keeping the core engaged, shoulders down (they shouldn’t be around your ears), and eyes looking forward, take one step forward and start walking.
- Walk ten steps in one direction before turning back and walking ten steps back to the starting position.
- Do this for up to 2 minutes or for as many sets or minutes as you want.
Ps. Do not try to rush through this workout. Instead try keeping your steps measured especially in the beginning. Also, remember to breathe and keep a straight spine throughout the exercise.
Farmers Carry Muscles Worked
At a glance, this workout doesn’t look like it does much – which is why you’ll often find many people asking questions such as “What does the farmers carry work on?” or “What is the point of farmers carry?”. While the exercise might look easy – or even a waste of time and effort to some, we are here to assure you that this exercise does more than you think.
Here are the muscles that are targeted and worked by this workout:
First things first, like pushups or mountain climbers, the farmers carry workout is a full body workout that targets multiple muscles in different areas of the body (upper body, core and lower body) at the same time. This makes it a perfect exercise to add on a full body workout routine.
With that being said, some of the muscles that will feel the effect of this exercise more than others include (1)
- Upper body – Biceps, triceps, forearms, shoulders, upper back, and trapezius
- Lower body – Quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves.
- Core muscles specifically your obliques, transverse abdominis, rectus abdominis, as well as the lower back
Farmers Walk Benefits – Why This Exercise Should Be In Your Workout Plan
- It increases grip strength – According to Physiopedia grip strength is described as the measure of muscular strength or the maximum force/tension generated by one’s forearm muscles (2).
To put it simply, it is a measure of how firmly and securely you can hold on to things as well as how well you can grip onto heavy things. The strength of your grip is used as a determinant of how much upper body and overall strength one has. Because you are walking around carrying heavy weights, you are able to work on and improve your grip strength by the day. An important fact to note is that grip strength is not only useful in the gym – it is also useful for day to day activities like carrying groceries, lifting heavy trash bags, carrying your kids, etc.
- It increases muscle strength – As stated above, this exercise is great not only as a full body workout, but also as a workout that targets multiple muscles in your upper body, core and lower body.
As we all know, the more you train a muscle, the stronger and more powerful it gets – especially if you also allow it time to rest and recover. According to a study published in 2019, researchers found that doing strongman exercises – farmers walk included – reveled that these exercises have the potential to increase both muscle strength and power, something that is useful to both hardcore and casual gym goers, as well as injured people while in rehabilitation (3).
- Improves core and lower back strength – As previously mentioned, some of the muscles mainly targeted by this exercise are in the lower back and core. Strong core muscles are important as they lead to less fatigue, lower risk of injury, and more endurance during workouts and day-to-day activities. A strong core and lower back also means more balance and stability, improved posture and less risk of lower back pain or injury (4).
- It can improve your cardio fitness and endurance – The farmers carry workout is demanding as it is. But if you were to do this exercise as part of HIIT or do a farmers carry crossfit class, the demand on your body becomes greater, especially as an aerobic activity.
Over time this will increase your VO₂ max (the amount of oxygen your body can utilize during exercise) which can be useful when doing other basic workouts like running, power walking, swimming, cycling and more.
What Does Racked Farmers Carry Workout?
The racked farmers carry is a variation of this exercise which you may come across in a farmers carry routine. Unlike the basic version when you hold the weights in your arms on either side of your body, in this version one arm in a downward position will be holding the weight on one side of the body while the other arm will be holding the weight up on your chest at the shoulder. Like the original version, the racked farmers carry is a full body workout that mostly targets the muscles in your upper body as well as some in the core, lower body and lower back.
The Bottom Line
The farmers carry workout is a great exercise that can be done both at the gym and at home as part of a full body blast routine. Walking helps improve your cardiovascular strength and endurance, while the weights help with muscle strength and endurance. It is also great for burning calories and weight loss. If you are bored of the same routine, give this exercise a go for some variety. If you plan on using this as a physical rehabilitation exercise, please speak to your doctor first.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- A Biomechanical Analysis of the Farmers Walk, and Comparison with the Deadlift and Unloaded Walk (2014, journals.sagepub.com)
- Grip Strength (n.d., physio-pedia.com)
- The Biomechanics and Applications of Strongman Exercises: a Systematic Review (2019, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The real-world benefits of strengthening your core (2012, health.harvard.edu)