When you go into the gym to do your workout, odds are you stick the exercises that you see performed most often or that you’ve seen in magazines or other articles. Or maybe you just go through the machines because you’re not quite comfortable using free weights. At any rate, very often we stick the exercises we know best while possibly passing on exercises that may move us closer to our goal more effectively.
Loaded carries are one of those exercise groups that seem to be ignored. Part of the reason why is because they are not thought of as a general-population accepted exercise. They are generally thought of as strong-man exercises. And it is exactly this reason (because strongmen use them often) why everyone should do loaded carries. Let’s dig a little deeper
I’ve talked before about the benefits of the suitcase carry. This is one of the handful of quality carry exercises we utilize at TF. The suitcase is a wonderful uni-lateral exercise (meaning using one side of your body at a time). It’s great for core development, especially the obliques, as well as hip and shoulder stabilizer development.
And just like the suitcase carry, all of the other loaded carries have the same sort of benefits, just to different degrees. For instance, if you were looking to develop your obliques (the outer part of your midsection), I would tell you to do suitcase carries. Because of the position of the load, this exercise will directly target the opposite oblique of the hand you’re carrying with. On the other hand, if you were wanting to develop your shoulders a little more, I would tell you to utilize the waiter carry (we haven’t gone over this one yet). The waiter carry requires you to stabilize weight over your head using one arm at a time. This is a great exercise for overall shoulder development, especially for the shoulder stabilizers.
Now, I’m sure you’re thinking “Fine, Jerry. Those are all great for your core and your shoulders, but I just want to get strong. What carry can I use to help me build superhero strength?” And if you weren’t thinking that directly, I imagine you have a pretty strong visual in your head now of a superhero carrying insanely heavy weight. The answer to this question is simple, and it’s likely you perform this move every day to some extent.
Like I said, every exercise in the loaded carry family builds strength to some degree. So all of them can be used to get you stronger and move you closer to looking like Superman. However, the farmer’s carry is the mother of loaded carries when it comes to building superhero strength.
The reason that the farmer’s carry is superior to the carries in building strength is simple. It allows you to hold more weight while performing the exercise. Since you are carrying a weight in each hand, as opposed to a single weight in one hand, you have the ability to push your body further and further towards its strength limit (Okay, limit is not the right word to use here. I don’t believe in limits. Having limits only builds scarcity in your mind. And having scarcity in your mind holds you back from achieving the things you may be able to achieve. So maybe a better phrase to use in this instance is moving you higher within your strength set…Step down from soapbox.).
Where a lot of people go wrong in the farmer’s carry is not pushing themselves. Maybe you already use this exercise and haven’t seen much results. I’ll challenge you to double the amount of weight you’re carrying and double the distance or time in which you’re walking. If you are using this exercise and not getting results, there’s a wonderfully high chance that you are not even close to your weight or distance capacity.
The goal in the farmer’s carry is to carry heavy weights. And understand the heavy weights are relative. So don’t go picking up 100lbs in each hand if you have trouble carrying a couple bags of groceries. Find your starting point and move up from there. You can walk for distance or time, whichever is more convenient for you. A standard to shoot for is carrying your total body weight (so if you weigh 120lbs, that’s 60lbs in each hand) for 30 seconds or about 40yds. Most of you will start at about half this capacity, but you’ll move up quick. Remember, don’t be afraid to push yourself!