Tag Archives: whole body integration

What’s so good about farmers walk?

photo from eliteFTS.com

Relying solely on squats, deadlifts, bench presses and other exercises that happen in a linear plane with no foot movement while great for strength development may not automatically translate into athletism.

Athletism requires strength but also body awareness, coordination and agility (moving well in a 3D environment for example).

We may be strong in the weight room, but the actual usefulness and application of that strength happens in our day to day tasks or while playing sports.

It’s no good being gym strong if you can’t move well and use that strength (or are only able to perform well over one energy system for that matter).

Rarely are we stuck in one spot, lifting things up and down with the perfect set up and biomechanics, in the plane of motion where we are strongest.

That is unless you compete in the iron sports: Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting or Girevoy sport. Competition is basically another training session with an attempt at a new PR. It may sounds harsh and simplistic but it is true. Those athletes compete in the lifts they dedicate most of their training to. One can only improve a skill by practicing it over and over, and a lot of the time other important aspects of fitness are left out.

Most other athletes use strength training as a mean to improve their performance on the playing field, where they have to perform in a chaotic 3 dimensional environment full of impredictible factors.

The demands are totally different, yet most athletes still mostly rely on traditional strength training methods to answer those demands.

(Fitness enthusiast do what they read in magazines, trying this and that, most of it relatively unproductive yet entertaining. At least they are having fun but I digress…)

Not every body want s to be an competitive athlete, yet the trend in the fitness industry is to train like a bad ass. Well start implementing the Farmers walk, a classic strongman discipline.

Movement under load (aka loaded carries) is a whole different thing than traditional strength training and is an under rated way to develop useful, applicable full body strength and improving conditioning levels.

First you lift the load, and then you carry and move across the gravity field under load.

Different coordination patterns and lots of core strength are required, provided the load is challenging enough. A strong core allows for better energy transfers from the lower body to the upper body limbs.

People who haven’t tried walking with a reasonable load (half bodyweight in each hand) for a distance of 100 to 200 meters cannot understand it, as the exercise doesn’t look as glam as some of the other strength exercises. It’s just walking, how hard could it be?

Farmers walk (and other loaded carries) are great for overall full body strength, local muscular endurance and conditioning.

More specifically, farmers walk hit the traps, hips and legs, grip and ankles. They also add some bone density to your spine and you’ll stress the cardiovascular and respiratory systems at the same time. See below for 2 easy workouts to implements.

Because of the eccentric component that happens while moving forward with a unstable heavy load, Farmers walk train unilateral deceleration skills as well, a very important factor in injury prevention for athletes. Frankly, you can’t go wrong with this exercise!

Read about the history behind the farmers walk in Strongman events


Pick a weight that allows you to do between 60-100 steps and build up from there.

It shouldn’t take too long for you to be able to use around half bodyweight in each hand. It might sound like a lot to some, but it is a realistic goal for most people.

Eventually you want to work up to bodyweight in each hand for 25-50 meters. This will probably require special equipment such as farmers bars, but if you’re serious about strength that will be a good investment.

Alternate between some sessions of light to medium weight going for distance and speed, and some heavy weight for shorter distances.

Include both straight walks and zig zags and turns. These turns require practice to become good at and place tremendous demand on core and stabilizers.

It is possible to use uneven loading or unilateral loading (known also as a suitcase walk). In this case, Charles Poliquin, in his book “Applied strongman training for sport”  recommends:

“If using double uneven loading, keep to bodyweight. For example, an 80kg person FW with 50+30kg.For suitcase walks (farmers walk done with only 1 implement instead of 2, 1 side at a time), use 50% BW as maximum.”

Technique tips

  • Chalk up, also the back of the fingers. Sweaty fingers are not welcome.
  • Grab the bars slightly off center towards the back, so that the weights tip slightly forward and are supported by your strongest fingers.
  • Lock the thumbs over the handles, and now squeeze as hard as possible with all fingers to involve all of your forearm muscles. Do not just support the weight, crush it!
  • Deadlift the implements of the ground (with lighter weights it is OK to use a staggered stance to get into the stride as fast as possible).
  • Stay tight in the midsection.
  • Take small fast steps.
  • Take short breaths through your teeth.
  • Look ahead.
  • Practice turns and zig zags!

Here are 3 workouts designed for people who do not have access to really heavy weights. If you only have kettlebells or dumbbells, pick up the heaviest ones you have.If you can go 200 meters without stopping, it probably doesn’t qualify as heavy strength training, but you will still get some good training out of it.

#1: kettlebells and sandbag

  • Pick a distance of 50 meters or set up 2 cones 25 meters apart and walk back and forth to cover the 50 meters. Rolling hills and staircases are also great.
  • Perform the following exercises as a circuit, resting as little as required between exercises:
  • Shoulder the sandbag and walk, repeat on the other side
  • Farmers walk
  • Suitcase walk, repeat on the other side
  • Overhead  walk, repeat on the other side
  • Bear hug the sandbag and walk
  • Hand to hand swings x20
  • Rest 3 minutes and repeat 1-2 more times

#2: kettlebells only

  • Walk until you have to set the kettlebells down
  • Bear walk x20-30 steps
  • Hindu push ups x10
  • Repeat for 15-20 minutes, resting as little as needed.
#3: kettlebells and bodyweight
  • Pick a distance of 50 meters or set up 2 cones 25 meters apart and walk back and forth to cover the 50 meters. Rolling hills and staircases are also great.
  • Farmers walk 50 m
  • 10-16 burpees
  • Farmers walk 50 m
  • 10-16 leg threads
  • Farmers walk 50 m
  • 10-16 renegade rows
  • Farmers walk 50 m
  • 5-8 clean and press on each side
  • Rest 3 minutes and repeat 1-2 more times
Make your own set of farmers

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