Farmer's Walks Are the Simple Exercise You Need to Add to Your Strength Training

It's so basic, but this move will send your heart rate sky-high. Here are the benefits of adding the farmer's walk to your workouts, plus proper farmer's walk form.

A farmer's walk, also called a farmer's carry, sounds more like a square dance move or a country song title than like an exercise, but don't let the name fool you. This move requires total-body strength and will accelerate your heart rate — yes, it's like sneaky cardio — with just one repetition (just make sure you've got your farmer's walk form down pat). "The farmer's carry looks so unassuming and yet packs a punch," says Heidi Jones, TRX-certified Fortë trainer and founder of Sweat to Change TV.

You won't regret learning the move: "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, ACE-certified head instructor at FITURE. But before you add it to your regular routine, get the low-down on the proper farmer's walk form, demonstrated above by NYC-based trainer Rachel Mariotti.

Farmer's Walk Benefits and Variations

The biggest benefit of the farmer's walk? It's a highly functional movement. "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," she adds.

"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," she notes. Take note of the farmer's walk 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 the farmer's walk 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.)

How to Do a Farmer's Walk

A. Stand with feet hips-width apart between two kettlebells. Hinge at hips and knees with flat back to bend down and grab the kettlebells' 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 for 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.
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