Farmer’s Walk– such an odd name for an exercise right? For those more familiar with non-traditional workouts, this exercise is nothing new. However, for many of us, especially newbies in the work of working out and fitness, the mention of this exercise would make you wonder if your new gym buddies confused the gym for a farm. If you’ve heard this term before and are curious about this workout, then you are in the right place. In today’s article, we are going to help you learn more about farmer’s walk benefits, the muscles worked upon performing this exercise, and why you definitely need to add this workout to your weekly routine– not just for muscle gain, but also for maximum calorie burning as well.
What Is A Farmers Walk?
Also known as a Farmer’s Carry, this is a strength training exercise that involves holding a heavy weight in each arm, and then walking a designated distance while carrying the load. According to Healthline, this exercise was mostly used by competitive bodybuilders (especially strongmen and women), however, in recent years, it has been adopted and modified for athletes as well as the average gym-goer.
Please note that while strength training is often the goal of the farmer’s walk, it can also be used for conditioning. If you are unaware of the difference between these two, here is what sets them apart:
- Strength training is done with the goal of increasing physical strength. Such workouts call for fewer reps and more weight than one would normally train regularly.
- Conditioning exercises, on the other hand, are done to help improve your cardiovascular capacity, which in turn helps improve your overall training or workout. They are also said to boost strength, flexibility, and mental fitness. Conditioning workouts use lighter weights and involve higher reps.
How To Do A Farmer’s Walk Properly?
Before delving into farmer’s walk exercise benefits, we must first figure out what equipment we need as well as learn how to properly do this workout. Remember that doing a workout wrongly does not only increase your risk of injury but will most likely not reap benefits.
The equipment needed for a farmer’s walk routine/set includes:
- A lot of free space. Remember that this exercise requires walking. Find a space that allows you to walk at least ten steps in a straight line. If you can go outside, this is even better as there are no obstacles that you could possibly bump into.
- Free weights. As mentioned above, the workout is also known as a “farmers carry” so your body weight alone does not cut it. You will be required to carry some weights. The most commonly used weights for this workout are either dumbbells or kettlebells. More seasoned gym-goers (or even bodybuilders) also use barbells– one in each hand.
If you do not have access to such free weights, try some DIY weights instead. Fill two backpacks with canned goods or bags of rice/flour and you have some semblance of a kettlebell. If you can find some cement and a lead pipe, you can make some DIY dumbbells. Water or milk bottles also make great handheld weights.
- Hand and ankle weights. Though rarely used for this specific exercise, they are a great way to add some extra weight to your body, which can help burn more calories and build bigger muscles.
Now that you have these things sorted, here is how to do a farmer’s walk with proper form:
- Find your weights of choice and place them on either side of your feet. If you only have one weight, place it on your dominant hand’s side.
- To pick up the weights off the ground, hinge at the hips and knees to bend over.
- Once you have the weights securely in your hands, use your legs and not your back to stand. Think of it as doing a deadlift, extending your knees and hips while keeping your spine as neutral as possible.
- Once in an upright position, keep your shoulders back, your core engaged, and remember to breathe. Your arms should also be straight on either side of you.
- Step forward and begin walking. Once again, make sure that your shoulders are pushed back, your core engaged, your head is up with your eyes looking forward, and you are breathing.
- Walk slowly and steadily for your desired distance or time.
It is necessary to pace yourself– do not speed walk or run through the workout. Also, keep your back straight as this prevents injury to the back, especially the lower back.
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Farmer’s Walk Muscles Worked
We now know how to properly do this workout, but which muscles do we use the most while doing it?
First things first, at the heart of it, this workout is a full-body workout– as seen from its name, this is a walking exercise. Walks are full-body workouts that have incredible benefits. That aside, these are the muscles most likely to feel the most strain during this set:
- Quads and Hamstrings. Respectively located at the front and back of the thighs, these muscles are for your hip and knee flexion and extension. During the farmer’s carry, they aid in deadlifting your weights of choice from the floor. Aside from that, they also help propel you forward and stabilize the hips and knees.
- Biceps and Triceps. Located at the front and back of the arm, these muscles help with grip strength, arm flexion, and elbow stabilization. This is especially important if the weights you are carrying are quite heavy.
- Glutes and Calves. According to Healthline, not only do they help with deadlifting your weights, but they also help keep your hips stable. Calves, located in the back of the lower leg, help with the stabilization of the knee– ensuring that you don’t trip.
- Latissimus dorsi and the Erector spinae. Latissimus dorsi, also commonly known as lats, is a large slab of flat muscle that covers the middle of the back all the way down to the lower back. On the other hand, the erector spinae consists of long muscles that surround the spine from the top of the neck, right under your head, all the way down to the pelvic area.
As mentioned above, keeping a straight back is essential in this exercise. The lats and erector spinae ensure that the back and spine remain safe.
- The Core. We are often required to engage the core during exercise for good reason. A tight engaged core helps support your spine and pelvis in static positions and during dynamic movements, such as walking.
- Upper Back and Traps. They help in pulling the shoulders back and helping you maintain a proper standing “tall posture” throughout the exercise.
- Muscles in the Forearms and Hands. They help keep the weight in your hand as you grip it.
- Feet Muscles. The farmer’s carry is essentially a weighted walk, although it can transform into a run depending on how heavy the weight is. Feet muscles are essential for walking and running, and the longer you do this the stronger they become (1).
As you can see, while you may think farmer’s walk benefits on the muscles are only limited to your arms and legs, this workout is truly a full-body effort that combines and engages a multitude of muscles– even those that we rarely think about like the hands and feet.
Read More: Power Walking Technique For Beginners
What Are Some Farmer’s Walk Benefits?
Here are some reasons why this exercise should be part of your weekly workout routine:
It’s a functional exercise. According to WebMD, functional training refers to exercises that involve movements that you make in your daily life. The farmer’s walk involves functional movements that most of us do almost daily, such as walking and carrying things.
The best part of having such an exercise in your routine is that:
- It works multiple muscles all at once (refer to the ‘muscles worked section above).
- It follows movements we use in everyday life. These workouts are especially important for older people since they help keep their joints limber and flexible.
- They help with balance and coordination. This ties in with point number one. Multiple muscles working at once help move different parts of the body smoothly and simultaneously.
It boosts cardiovascular and heart health. The benefits of walking on cardiovascular health are well documented. One study published in 2019 showed that all kinds of walking help reduce the risk of cardiovascular illnesses by more than 50%. An older study published in 2011 revealed that the long term benefits of walking included improving blood pressure and lipid profiles as well as reducing the risk of coronary heart disease, coronary events, and mortality (17, 16, 9).
Increased muscle growth. For many bodybuilders, farmer’s walk hypertrophy may be one of the biggest motivating factors of this workout. Hypertrophy refers to the increase in muscle size usually achieved through exercise.
As seen above, this is a full-body workout that works multiple muscles at the same time. The more you work out a particular muscle, the more it breaks down. Once you rest, the muscle repairs itself and grows larger than its initial size. The heavier the weight you use during your workout, the more you tear and break down your muscles. The stronger you get during this workout, the heavier your weights will get, which then leads to further muscle tearing and eventual growth (10, 11).
It’s a great way to add cardio to your routine. For many dedicated bodybuilders, adding cardio to their routine can be hard. The farmer’s walk is a great way to add cardio to your routine while still doing your beloved strength training– basically killing two birds with one stone.
It boosts grip strength. Many people don’t realize it, but grip strength is an important part of everyday life. Not only does it help you during other gym workouts, but it also comes into play in normal activities, such as opening jars. A study posted in 2019 showed that strongman workouts, such as the farmer’s carry, are essential in boosting this (12).
The ability to open jars and lift weights is not all what grip strength is for. A study published in 2019 in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research also showed that grip strength can be a simple yet efficient predictor of muscular endurance and overall strength (7).
Weight loss. If you were to ask any expert on the best ways to lose weight, they would immediately advise you to not only eat on a calorie deficit but also workout more– with the best workout routine involving both cardio and endurance training.
This workout covers these two points as walking is automatically cardio and carrying something heavy covers the strength training a bit. Farmer’s walk is also a compound workout. Compound exercises are exercises that work for multiple muscle groups at the same time. In doing this, they not only burn more calories but also improve muscle mass and strength (1), boost metabolism, and improve cardio endurance factors that are essential for fat and weight loss.
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Do Farmers Walk Burn Fat?
Yes, they do, because of the following factors:
It’s a high-intensity workout. High-intensity workouts are great as they require more energy, which means you burn more calories as you do them– and continue to do so even after your session is done (5). To increase the intensity of this workout, try using a heavier weight, but remember not to go too heavy to avoid injury.
It’s a muscle-building exercise. As seen above, this exercise is used as a strength training workout. Such workouts increase your physical strength by increasing your muscle mass. In this exercise, the heavier the weight you use, the more muscle fibers you break down– which makes the muscle itself grow bigger and stronger.
Having more muscle in your body goes a long way in helping you burn fat/calories. One study done by researchers at the University of New Mexico theorizes that muscle tissue contributes approximately 20% of your total daily calories burned. Body fat, on the other hand, contributes to just 5% of total daily calories burned. So in light of this, muscle building works are a must for anyone looking for long term weight and fat loss goals (3).
It can be easily modified to be a HIIT workout. As seen above, a farmer’s walk is already a highly intense workout, but what happens if you added interval training to it? Carry the heaviest weight that you can (safely of course), then proceed to take shorter and faster steps and shorter breaks between each rep or set?
This automatically turns the workout from a simple weighted aerobic exercise to a HIIT exercise. Several studies done over the years have shown that high-intensity intermittent/interval workouts are great for weight and fat loss– especially abdominal fat loss (8, 2).
P.S. Turning a regular farmer’s walk into a HIIT workout has even more benefits than mere weight loss. Studies have shown that HIIT exercises help improve maximal oxygen uptake, diastolic blood pressure, and fasting glucose. These factors are especially important as they help prevent cardiac illness like coronary artery disease, chronic heart failure, and much more– especially in overweight/obese persons (5, 9).
How Long Should You Do Farmer’s Walk?
According to expert advice over on MasterClass, beginners should aim to do 2 to 3 sets per session, each set lasting anywhere between 30 to 60 seconds. They further state that the duration of this workout should mostly be determined by your ability to maintain proper form during the session. As stated before, proper form is essential not only for the dumbbell or kettlebell farmer’s walk benefits, but it also helps prevent injury– especially to the lower back and spine in general (6).
How Heavy Should You Do The Farmer’s Walk?
According to an older article by Globe and Mail, beginners should start with a 25 pounds weight (about 11 kilograms) per arm, aiming to increase the weight as they get stronger. They also state that advanced lifters should be able to lift their body weight for up to 30 seconds.
While this is good advice, we are believers that there is no blueprint for how much weight one should be able to lift– especially as a beginner. If 25 pounds is too heavy for you, try a lighter weight and work your way up to 25 pounds and eventually heavier weights (13).
Farmer’s Walk Benefits: The Bottom Line
Yes, it is. This previously little known workout has continuously gained popularity, not only for how simple it is but also for its many advantages. As seen from all the farmer’s walk benefits above, this exercise is certainly a good workout– one that you should incorporate into your routine as soon as possible. From improved heart and cardiovascular health, muscle hypertrophy, fat and weight loss, incredible boosted strength, and much more– this workout definitely has something for everyone.
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 Study of Effect of the Compound Physical Activity Therapy on Muscular Strength in Obese Women (2013, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Comparable Effects of High-Intensity Interval Training and Prolonged Continuous Exercise Training on Abdominal Visceral Fat Reduction in Obese Young Women (2017, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Controversies in Metabolism Paige Kinucan and Len Kravitz, Ph.D. (n.d., unm.edu)
- Core Stabilization Exercise Prescription, Part I: Current Concepts in Assessment and Intervention (2013, journals.sagepub.com)
- Effects of high-intensity interval training on cardiometabolic health: a systematic review and meta-analysis of intervention studies (2017, bjsm.bmj.com)
- Farmer’s Walk Guide: How to Master the Farmer’s Walk Exercise (2022, masterclass.com)
- Hand-Grip Strength as a Predictor of Muscular Strength and Endurance (2011, journals.lww.com)
- High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise and Fat Loss (2010, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- High-intensity interval training for health benefits and care of cardiac diseases – The key to an efficient exercise protocol (2019, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Maximizing Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review of Advanced Resistance Training Techniques and Methods (2019, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Resistance Training Volume Enhances Muscle Hypertrophy but Not Strength in Trained Men (2019, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The Biomechanics and Applications of Strongman Exercises: a Systematic Review (2019, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The Farmer’s Walk: A humble exercise that everyone should do (2016, theglobeandmail.com)
- The functional importance of human foot muscles for bipedal locomotion (2019, pnas.org)
- The real-world benefits of strengthening your core (2012, health.harvard.edu)
- Walking – the first steps in cardiovascular disease prevention (2011, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Walking as an Opportunity for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention (2019, cdc.gov)