When it comes to strength training, there are literally hundreds of exercises to choose from, and some are better than others. As a general rule, the best exercises are those that work lots of muscle groups at the same time, are relatively easy to learn, and are also very safe.
Using that criteria, farmer’s walks deserve to be part of your workouts. Farmer’s walks are quite an unusual exercise, and it’s one you may not have seen before, but that doesn’t make it any less productive. In fact, whatever you are training for, this exercise can help you achieve your goals.
There are several different ways to do farmer’s walks, and each one of them can have a profound effect on your strength and fitness. Farmer’s walks aren’t a traditional bodybuilding exercise and won’t do much for things like biceps or lower body muscle size, but they’re still worth doing.
In this article, we’re going to reveal the benefits of the farmer’s walk and explain how to do them correctly. Armed with this information, you’ll be able to enjoy everything this exercise has to offer while minimizing your risk of injury.
What is a Farmers Walk?
The farmer’s walk is a weighted carry. There are several other weighted carry exercises, all of which involve picking up and walking with a heavyweight. Traditionally, the farmer’s walk is done with dumbbells, but any heavy object you can lift and then carry by your sides will suffice. As well as being a strength training exercise, farmer’s walks are also a common discipline in strongman competitions.
Athletes in these events often carry 250 pounds or more in each hand, either to see how far they can walk or how fast they can complete a predetermined distance.
What Muscles Do the Farmer’s Walk Work?
Farmer’s walks are a full-body exercise. They don’t work every muscle in your body, but they come very close. With over 600 muscles in the human body, it’s impossible to list all of the movers and shakers involved in this exercise. However, the main muscles are:
Trapezius – the large kite-shaped muscle on your upper back. The trapezius supports your shoulders and also pulls them back. With heavyweights in your hands, the traps stop your arms from popping out of their sockets.
Biceps brachii – known as the biceps for short, during farmer’s walks, the biceps keep your elbow joints together and prevent them from bending the wrong way.
Forearms – gripping and holding heavy weights puts a lot of stress on the hands and forearms. There are lots of forearm muscles, and they’ll all be working hard to keep your fingers wrapped tightly around the weights you are carrying.
Core – the collective name for the muscles of your midsection, your core is made up of your rectus abdominus, obliques, transverse abdominus, pelvic floor, multifidus, and diaphragm.
These muscles contract inward to increase intra-abdominal pressure, which supports your spine from within. Core activation increases if you carry one weight instead of two, as these muscles will need to work even harder to keep your torso upright.
Lower body – walking with heavyweights in your hands works all of your lower body muscles, including your calves, quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. In addition, as you transfer the weight from one leg to the other, your abductors and adductors have to work extra hard to stabilize your hips and knees.
How to Do the Farmer’s Walk
There are two ways to do most exercises; the right way and the wrong way. The right way is safe and delivers the benefits you want. The wrong way is less effective and more likely to lead to injury. Follow this step-by-step guide and do farmer’s walks the right way.
- Place two dumbbells on the floor about shoulder-distance apart. The handles should be parallel. Stand between the weights.
- Squat down and grab the handles, so your hands are facing your legs. Straighten your arms, drop your hips, lift your chest, and brace your core. Pull your shoulders down and back. Do NOT round your lower back.
- Drive your feet into the floor and stand up straight.
- Keeping your arms straight and your shoulders and core tight, take a walk around your training area. Keep the weights out and away from your legs.
- Continue until you feel your grip is starting to fail.
- Place the weights back on the floor before you drop them.
- Rest a moment and repeat.
Farmer’s Walk Variations
The basic farmer’s walk is an awesome exercise, but that doesn’t mean that you should only do that version. If you do the same type of farmer’s walk, you’ll soon start to get bored of it, and it will lose some of its potency. Use these variations to keep your workouts productive and interesting.
Barbell farmer’s walk – challenge your balance and grip strength even more by using two barbells instead of dumbbells. Because they’re much more unwieldy, you’ll have to work harder to control these longer weights, even if they aren’t much heavier. Make sure you hold the bars in the middle, otherwise they’ll tip and touch the floor.
Hex dumbbell farmer’s walk – instead of carrying your weights by the handle, stand them on their end and lift them by the plates instead. This only really works with hexagonal-shaped dumbbells. This is an intense hand and forearm exercise.
Trap bar farmer’s walk – a trap bar is a hexagonal frame/bar typically used for deadlifts. However, it’s also a good piece of apparatus for farmer’s walks. The shape of the frame keeps the weights away from your legs, leaving you free to focus on walking as far as you can.
Kettlebell farmer’s walks – kettlebells usually have thicker handles than dumbbells, making them harder to grip and carry. Use kettlebells to make this exercise more grip-centric.
Zercher farmer’s walk – hold a barbell or sandbag in the crooks of your bent elbows. This variation does not work your grip like standard farmer’s walks but increases upper back and biceps recruitment.
Goblet farmer’s walk – grip and hold a kettlebell or dumbbell in front of your chest. Like Zercher farmer’s walk, this variation increases biceps and upper back activation.
Waiter’s walk – where most forms of farmer’s walk involve carrying weights by your sides, the waiter’s walk involves holding your weights overhead. This reduces the grip building effect of this exercise but increases core activation and balance.
Single-arm farmer’s walks – increase core activation by carrying one dumbbell, barbell, or kettlebell at a time. Alternate hands set by set to work both sides of your core equally.
Obstacles – make your chosen farmer’s walk exercise harder by walking around and over obstacles or going up and down stairs or slopes. The more the weight shifts in your hands, the harder this exercise becomes.
The Benefits of Farmer’s Walk
Farmer’s walks are one of the most beneficial exercises around. These are the main benefits you’ll experience if you start doing this exercise regularly.
1. Better posture
Posture is the alignment of your bones and joints, and it can be good or bad. Good posture puts minimal stress on your muscles and saves your joints from unnecessary wear and tear. Poor posture can cause muscle and joint pain and makes you look older than you really are. Farmer’s walks teach you to stand and walk in good posture, which should carry over to everyday life.
2. Stronger hands and a better grip
Most people don’t think about their hand and grip strength until it fails. A firm grip is important in sports, such as football, wrestling, and climbing, but is also useful during everyday activities like carrying groceries and opening jars. The farmer’s walk is a very functional way to develop stronger hands and an unbreakable grip.
3. Fat loss
Farmer’s walks are a useful fat burning exercise. For starters, they involve a lot of different muscles, and fueling all these body parts requires a lot of energy or calories. Assuming you are eating less, at least some of these calories will come from stored body fat. Also, doing heavy farmer’s walks will increase muscle mass, which will have an impact on your metabolic rate.
Your metabolic rate is the number of calories you burn per day. More calories mean faster fat loss.
4. Increased core strength
During farmer’s walks, your core must act like a weightlifting belt to stabilize your lumbar spine. A strong core can help reduce and prevent back pain by reducing the pressure on your intervertebral disks. Plus, a strong core can help take you a step closer to developing six-pack abs.
5. Build bigger traps and shoulders
Although the only muscles moving during the farmer’s walk are your legs, your traps and shoulders have to work hard to support and stabilize the load. This means that farmer’s walks are useful for building muscle strength and size. If you want a bigger upper body, heavy farmer’s walks could help, especially when you use them as part of a well-rounded upper body strength training program.
6. Increased functional strength and performance
Lifting and carrying something heavy is the epitome of functional training. Whether you are doing your grocery shopping, carrying your kids, taking out the trash, or carrying a suitcase, farmer’s walks will make these otherwise strenuous activities a lot easier.
7. Fewer shoulder aches, pains, and injuries
The shoulders are the most complex, mobile, and injury-prone joint in the human body. Your shoulders are capable of 360-degree movement, and that is what makes them easy to injure. Farmer’s walk train and teach you how to stabilize your shoulders, and the more stable your shoulders are, the less wear, tear, and injuries they’ll experience.
8. Improved fitness and endurance
Farmer’s walks are as good for cardio as they are for strength. Walking with heavy weights will quickly elevate your heart and breathing rate.
In fact, in many ways, a workout with farmer’s walks is a lot like high-intensity interval training. If you want to improve your fitness but prefer short, intense workouts, farmer’s walks can help.
9. An efficient workout
No time for a lengthy workout but still want to train your entire body? Farmer’s walks are the ideal solution. Farmer’s walks work almost every muscle in your body, so you can enjoy a comprehensive workout in double-quick time. Throw in a few sets of push-ups, and you really can train your whole body in minutes instead of hours.
10. They’re fun!
If you’re bored of the same old exercises, adding farmer’s walks to your workouts could be just what you need to breathe new life into your workouts. As well as being an unusual, fun exercise, there are also plenty of farmer’s walk variations to try. If you suffer from workout ADD, farmer’s walks are the perfect exercise for you.
Farmer’s walks are a very useful exercise that will help you reach almost any training goal. It doesn’t matter if you want to build muscle, burn fat, get fit, or increase your functional strength, this is the exercise for you. It’s also a very versatile exercise, and there are lots of ways to do it.
The traditional way is with dumbbells, but you can also do it with kettlebells, barbells, or even medicine balls in bags. You can also hold the weights above your head, a variation called the waiter’s walk.
Farmer’s walks work virtually every muscle in your body, which means they are very time-efficient. If you are in a rush but still want a great workout, a few sets of heavy farmer’s walks will tide you over until you’ve got time for a longer workout.
Despite being a simple and easy to learn exercise, farmer’s walks are very beneficial and rewarding. The benefits of this fantastic exercise include fat burning, a stronger grip, increased core strength, improved cardiovascular fitness, and bigger, more muscular, more stable shoulders. This really is a do-it-all exercise.
To enjoy all the benefits of the farmer’s walk, you must do it properly. But this isn’t a complicated exercise, and most people should be able to master it in a few minutes. The same cannot be said for things like power cleans, deadlifts, kettlebell swings, and get-ups. This is an all-but instant exercise.
If you aren’t doing farmer’s walks, it’s time to start, and if you are already doing them, keep at it!