Thursday, November 5, 2015

If You;re Not Doing the Farmer's Walk You're Missing One of the Best Exercises for Strength, Muscle Growth and Weight Loss


There are multiple variations of weighted carries but we'll keep it simple with the farmer's walk. The farmer's walk is the simplest exercise you can do. You pick up a heavy weight, walk with it for time or distance, Put it down, Repeat.The word "functional" is way overused in the fitness industry but you can't get much more functional than that.

"When you have to get all the groceries in only one trip"

There is a reason the farmer's walk is an event in strong man competitions.

The farmer's walk burns pounds of fat while building pounds of muscle. They increase strength and performance and involve almost no risk. They work almost every muscle group in the body. Building both strength and stamina. 

Almost no coaching is required for the farmer's walk but there are a few cues that make it more effective.

  • Head up! Eyes up or straight ahead at all times. Never let the head tilt forward.
  • Shoulders back and down. Never let your shoulders hunch forward
  • Tighten you entire core and keep it tight during the entire movement. Think if it as an upright, moving "Plank"
  • Don't shuffle your feet. Take regular (but not exaggerated) strides. If you find yourself shuffling your feet or taking rapid "baby steps" reduce the weight. If you shuffle or take "baby steps" you are taking the glutes out of the equation (one of the largest muscles in the body)

I prefer Kettle Bells with their smoother grip and lower center of gravity but dumbbells work just as well.
There are bars made for the purpose and they help balance the weight forward to back but few commercial gyms will have them and they are usually reserved for out door work. Trap bars are also a good choice but, again, require a lot of space and are usually reserved for outdoor work.
Sand bags, plates (with no bar) or your two St. Banards by the scruff of the neck will also work.

Time or Distance

My personal favorite is distance. No timing or counting required and your full concentration can be on maintaining correct form. Simply step off the appropriate distance in feet or yards and mark (or make note of ) beginning and ending points.

Start with a weight and a time or distance that lets you maintain good form and start walking! Try to add weight, time or distance each session.

Where the Farmer's Walk fits in your program

Many prefer to do farmer's walks as their warm-up. You get heavy activation of almost every muscle group and your central nervous system (CNS). Your  heart rate soars and you can break a sweat in minutes.I like this idea but as a warm up do shorter distance (or shorter times) and about 50% of the weight you would use if the walk were a stand alone exercise. You are trying to warm up not burn out.

Other's do the farmer's walk as their final exercise of a session as a full stand alone exercise to kick their metabolism into high gear as a finisher. (My preference)

Farmer's walks are very effective in both circumstances so why not do both?

Use of Lifting Straps

The whole world is divided on the use of straps. I hear it's on the agenda for the next United Nations Session.With them you can lift more weight thus getting the benefit of better activation of the rest of the muscles you're working but your grip strength suffers.
Without them your grip strength increases but you can't pull as much weight.

Here's my rule for the use of lifting straps:
Your grip is going to be your weakest link in any heavy lifting or pulling movement. But if you want stronger grip and better forearm strength, both of which help eliminate a multitude of elbow and wrist ailments, don't use lifting straps until you reach a weight where your grip actually fails. Then, and only then, use straps.

Other Weighted Carries

The Farmer's Walk is only one (and the simplest) of weighted carries.

Others include:

  • Suitcase Carry-Carry weight in only one hand (great for the obliques)
  • Overhead Carries-Barbell or dumbbells above you head
  • Yoke carries-Barbell across your shoulders or a weighted yoke on you shoulders made for that purpose
  • Bear Hug-atlas stones, sandbags or even beer kegs
  • Fireman's Carries-carry a person over your shoulder
  • Zelcher Carry-Carry a barbell in the crook of your elbows
  • Uneven Carry-Weights in each hand of differing amounts
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