If you're not doing loaded carries or walks, and more specifically, the farmer's walk, as part of your overall fitness routine, then you're missing out on the cardiovascular and muscle-strengthening benefits that come with these functional moves. Loaded carries are a simple, yet highly effective exercise that involves carrying weights, typically kettlebells or dumbbells, in one or both hands while you walk a certain distance.
The farmer's walk targets the muscles in your upper body, including your shoulders, upper back, biceps, triceps and forearm muscles. It also strengthens your lower body, including the glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings and calf muscles.
Farmer’s Walk: Upper Body Muscles
The farmer's walk or farmer's carry is an effective exercise for targeting the muscles in your upper body.
Upper back and shoulder muscles. The muscles in your shoulders and upper back, including the deltoids and trapezius muscles, work together to keep your shoulders back and down and your shoulder blades together, which provides stability while you carry the kettlebells.
Biceps and triceps muscles. You will quickly realize how useful the farmer's walk is for building arm and grip strength. The biceps and triceps kick into overdrive to stabilize the elbow and shoulder joint while carrying the load.
Forearm muscles. The strength in your forearm muscles seems to be challenged the most when performing a farmer's carry. That's because a farmer's carry requires the muscles in your lower arms (forearms) and hands to contract throughout the movement, so you don't drop the load, which makes the farmer's carry a good exercise for improving grip strength.
Targeting Core and Lower Body
Targeting your lower body and core muscles without doing abdominal-specific- or lower-body-specific exercises is a great way to increase the functionality of these muscles.
Lower body muscles. Any loaded carry or loaded walk exercise is going to target all of the muscles in the lower body. When performing the farmer's walk, your glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, adductors, abductors and calf muscles all work together to stabilize and propel your lower body forward. Adding the farmer's walk to leg day as a warm-up or using it as a cardio blast between exercises will both challenge and strengthen your lower body muscles.
Core muscles. Try gripping a weight in each hand without engaging your core muscles, and you'll see how difficult it is to maintain your posture. That's why your core muscles, including the abdominals, obliques, hips and lower back, get such a great workout with the farmer's carry exercise. Keeping these muscles tight from the minute you grab the weights until you put them down helps to keep your spine tall and protects your lower back from injury.
Read more: The Best Exercises for Every Major Muscle
How to Do Farmer’s Walk
- Grab a set of kettlebells, one in each hand. Choose a weight that is heavy enough to challenge yet light enough that you can keep your posture upright when walking. Think tall spine.
- Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart with arms at your sides, kettlebell in each hand.
- Begin the movement by engaging the core muscles, pulling your shoulder blades down and back and making sure your posture is upright.
- Take a step forward and begin walking. For maximum cardiovascular benefits, walk as fast as you can while still keeping your spine tall, shoulders back and head up.
- Continue this movement for a specified time or number of steps. Increase the number of steps or time based on your fitness level.