Farmer's Walks Are the Simple Exercise You Need to Add to Your Strength Training
So basic—yet guaranteed to send your heart rate sky-high.
A farmer's walk, also called a farmer's carry, sounds more like a dance move or a country song title than like an exercise-but don't let it fool you. This move requires total-body strength and will send your heart rate sky-high (yes, it's like sneaky cardio) with just one repetition. "The farmer's carry looks so unassuming and yet packs a punch," says Heidi Jones, founder of Squad WOD and Fortë trainer.
Watch NYC-based trainer Rachel Mariotti demonstrate it above, then commit to adding it to your regular routine. You won't regret it: "It's one of the simplest and best exercises you can do in the gym because it's something we do in real life all the time," says Lisa Niren, head instructor for Studio.
Farmer's Walk Benefits and Variations
"You can never underestimate the value of grip strength and the ability to lift and carry heavy objects over distances," says Jones. "This might be the most 'functional' of all exercises and it doesn't get nearly enough attention."
"It's a great movement for anyone who wants better posture, a stronger posterior chain (aka the back of your body), solid grip, and improved conditioning," says Niren. "However, if done improperly, it can lead to back and shoulder injuries and reinforce bad movement patterns and posture." Take note of the form tips below and, when in doubt, start with lighter weights so you can master the movement before loading it up. (FYI, here's how often you should be lifting heavy weights.)
You can do it with pretty much any equipment-from dumbbells or kettlebells to farmer's bars, sandbags, or even gallon jugs of water. (Hey, you can even consider carrying your grocery bags home as a pseudo-set of farmer's walks.) For an added challenge, try holding a weight on just one side: "This will cause you to engage and brace the core more extensively, packing a punch to your abs," says Jones. (And having a strong core is important for so many reasons-not including having a six-pack.)
How to Do a Farmer's Walk
A. Stand with feet hip-width apart between two kettlebells. Hinge at the hips and knees with a flat back to bend down and grab the handles.
B. Brace core and extend hips and knees to stand, with arms long and weights by sides. Draw shoulders down and back and stand tall to start.
C. Walk forward, taking small steps and moving weights as little as possible.
Continue for 45 to 60 seconds. Try 3 sets.
Farmer's Walk Form Tips
- Pull shoulders down and back to keep your shoulders "packed" and stable.
- Grip the weights firmly to increase the contraction in your core and latissimus dorsi (back muscles).
- Make sure to hold the weights slightly away from your body and slightly externally rotate your shoulders so they don't bump your sides.
- Pull your ribcage down so that you don't arch your back. Engage your core.