Streamlining the farmer’s walk 2X per week spawns gangsta-like power
April 10, 2023
Q: What is a healthy hurricane for the body, yet simple for the brain?
A: The perfect recipe called the Farmer’s Walk.
As a functional training specialist, I’m all over this like hot lava whether you’re a gym rookie or an addict.
Here’s the how and why of this tower of power move when you’re short on time and patience.
The Farmer’s Walk (aka Farmer’s Carry) is a full-body engagement mecca. Proper technique is the whole enchilada in this brilliant move that can be practiced anywhere—your hallway, your gym, or your driveway. Best of all, anyone can do it.
(Demo image below.)
You’ll find it’s a game changer for your body’s function, capacity, and endurance.
Now, don’t panic! All you do is walk.
Well, almost all…
What muscles does the farmer’s walk work?
The farmer’s walk is a masterful sweep in body functionality. This exercise strengthens and conditions the upper and mid-back (trapezius*), the core, glutes, hips, arms ( biceps and triceps), and legs. (If your carry load is heavy, your calves can cry like a baby.) And forearm and grip strength are pretty perks too. All these power muscles partake — simultaneously.
*Proper trapezius conditioning contributes to good posture.
Touching on posture, the extra dessert is stronger and more stable shoulders. That includes the forever sinister rotator cuffs.
The stability of the shoulders is a major player—for life. Here is more detail from Spectrum Physical Therapy:
…farmer’s carry works the whole rotator cuff musculature in two different ways. The weight in your hand provides a traction force that pulls the arm down in the shoulder joint, and the rotator cuff muscles have to work hard to oppose this force. Also, as you walk, you have to use those cuff muscles to prevent unwanted forward/backward and side-to-side movement of your arms…
What has the farmer’s walk done for me lately?
As a personal trainer, I aim to perform (and teach) all moves in rock solid form. My own posture is pretty efficient. But, streamlining with this move 2X per week (for 15 minutes) spawned gangsta-like power and diversity. I feel taller and straighter in my spine. You will too.
Is the farmer’s walk/farmer’s carry a good core strengthener?
With the overgrowth of fitness training information on the web, exercisers are still performing crunches for core strength. Not just the cubs. But, almost everyone I meet. Not every suggestion on the internet is correct. Garner accurate information from a qualified science-driven fitness trainer. (Then double-check it.)
Crunches alone do not hold us up, and never will
This is key. You should read that again.
TIP #1: Our core needs to be trained and maintained in standing, sitting, and walking positions too. Training our core by doing crunches does very little to bring about a strong, tall frame. Crunches will never hold us up. They’re not bad. But, they’re not the big picture, and they are not body functional because they do not support our frame. On that note, if you want a strong core, consider the eternal hero, the plank.
Let’s get busy.
How to perform the farmer’s walk
Generally speaking, you’ll carry (hold) a load while walking effectively. But, not so fast here. Notice I said “carry” not lift. So, don’t get scared.
What equipment do you need to perform a successful farmer’s walk?
Two heavy dumbbells or kettlebells. What is heavy?
For beginners, 15–20% maximum of your body weight in each hand is a safe start. For instance, if you weigh 130 pounds, your starting weight would be about 20–25 lbs per hand. HOWEVER, until you find confidence in a consistent gait and stability, it’s advised to begin with less.
If your form is compromised, reduce the weight.
The steps to perform the farmer’s walk
Start with dumbbells or kettlebells directly outside each foot (not in front) on the floor. (See images below to match these steps.)
- Squat down, back flat, and brace your body intelligently
- Secure a firm grip and stand up slowly with weights at your sides
- Grip handles semi-tightly — you’ll feel your forearms engage
- Stay with a firm grip; arms remain straight down at your sides (not in front of the body)
- Stand tall, walk and breathe
Details: The traps should be engaged i.e., shoulder blades down and pinched together. Core engaged. Activate the glutes and walk at a slightly-quick pace and normal foot range. First-timers, take short steps and gauge your form.
Here’s the visual:
Walk this way first
Set a goal to walk a straight path 30 feet (to start). Turn around and return. Repeat until you need to rest. Once you progress you can increase the weight and walk further. If it’s too much for you, reduce the weight or walking distance.
Stay focused like crazy
It’s easy to drop into a chest slump or comfy belly sag. Don’t do that. Hold your proper form: shoulders pulled back, chest open, scapula pinched together, and glutes engaged. With the glutes engaged, you’ll develop balance stability. As you progress, up your carry load slightly. Do not up the weight unless you are confident in your gait and balance.
TIP #2: Cardiovascular and endurance benefits are mighty. Yahoo!
How often should you do the farmer’s walk?
A good target is 2–3 times/week to start. If you exercise consistently, once a week is a savvy shake-up for your fitness routine.
How to incorporate the farmer’s walk into an effective workout routine
Ideally, the farmer’s walk should be a finishing move for your workout. It taxes the endurance somewhat. Overdoing it pre-workout might diminish your energy. However, if you keep the load on the light side, it’s a great warmup.
Tight on time? Use the FW as your catch-up workout for the day. Bang it out in 15 minutes. Begin light, then progress to a challenging load after a few walks or a few minutes.
We, trainers, myself included, sack personal workouts, on occasion, weaving around schedule changes. The FW is a move I broke up with somehow over the past few years—my crime. But, we’re reunited and I’m in week-5 with my FW buddy. Now I feel the superpower in my entire body. And when I have only 15 or 20 minutes, this is my victory patch.
The farmers walk is very precise. It’s also freakin’ awesome. (If indeed you want to feel awesome.)
An excellent fitness cross-trainer
You could also consider it cross-training for a day. This would be a faster pace with a heavier load, and short distances.
However you use it, the farmer’s walk is the show you always want a ticket for.
So… we have
The posture and core strength are outrageous among the killer prizes of the farmer’s walk. So is the endurance aspect. And, remember your planks, the forever move.
Keen benefits are spine alignment, good posture, strong core, multi-functional in efficacy involving the glutes, arms, and traps. Grip strength is powered up which we lose as we age.
Do you want that puffy chest pride? Do you want to shine like the human building you are meant to be?
There’s nothing druggier than this power sashay. Well, maybe chocolate!
Launch your thunder. You might turn a corner.
Shoot me your questions.
Gwenn Jones, CPT — Content writer in Wellness-Lifestyle-Fitness, Gwenn is a 25-year ACE-certified personal fitness trainer, yoga studio owner, instructor and fitness consultant. Grateful to be a native Californian where happily home-based.
“4 Exercises for Rotator Cuff Strength.” Spectrum Physical Therapy, https://spectrumphysicaltherapyct.com/4-exercises-for-rotator-cuff-strength/
Justin Smith, “6 Functional Strength and Conditioning Exercises.” Acefitness.org, August 24, 2015, https://www.acefitness.org/resources/pros/expert-articles/5616/6-functional-strength-and-conditioning-exercises-you-re-not-using-with-your-clients/
Jeff Cavaliere, “Do This Everyday for Gains (Skinny Guys).” August 22, 2019, Athleanx.com.