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October 16, 2022 9 min read

If it is full-body development you seek, The Farmer’s Walk is the exercise for you. Its range of motion is one of the most unique of all exercises. It pretty much activates every muscle in your body, yet, it does not involve a complicated routine.

All you have to do is pick up two weights by your sides and carry them as you walk a distance. Whether it is a trap bar, barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, or dedicated Farmer’s Walk handles, the choice of how much and what type of weight to carry is yours.

If you have followed the sport where monstrously sized athletes compete in races while they carry massive loads on each arm to earn the title of the Ultimate Strongman, the toughest of them all, you’ll obviously be familiar with this type of exercise.

The Farmer’s Walk is typically one of the items on the program of Strongman Competitions.

In recent years, the health and fitness industry has made great strides. Exercises traditionally limited to hardcore strength builders have evolved and adapted their way into the fitness and workout routines of typical gym-goers seeking fitness and health instead of shredded muscles.

The Farmer’s Walk has become an excellent all-around exercise for pros and beginners. 

It hits almost every muscle including hamstrings, quads, shoulders, and forearms.

It has a range of health benefits, including improved posture and ramped-up core strength that benefits lower- and upper-body power.

How Much Weight Do You Need for the Farmers Walk?

The weight you carry in the Farmer’s Walk depends on multiple factors, including your experience, body weight, and fitness level. If you’re new to fitness workouts, start with lighter weights, 5 to 10-pound kettlebells, or dumbbells. More advanced sportsmen can try 20 to 50-pound weights.

If bells are no longer challenging, exchange them for a loaded bar or Farmer’s Walk handles for the training.

Short bars or trap bars are generally chosen for a convenient performance. To avoid injuries, beginner athletes are advised to use free weights and add load gradually as they progress. Prolonging the distance can ramp up the Farmer’s Walk until they are ready for heavier loads.

How to Do Farmer’s Walk

As mentioned, the  Farmer’s Walk  is not complicated. However, improper posture increases injury risks.

Farmer’s walk – Image from Shutterstock

 

  • Step in between the two implements you have selected
  • for the walk. Regardless of whether you select a trap bar, barbell, dumbbells, kettlebells, or dedicated Farmer’s Walk handles, ensure the weight is appropriate for you.
  • Inhale, lean forward, and grip the handles.
  • Hold your breath, brace your core slightly, and keep your spine neutral as you extend your hips and knees and lift the weights.
  •  Keep your core engaged  throughout to help you remain balanced and prevent lower back injuries.
  • Hold the weights firmly and stand upright with your torso, shoulders and back kept tight.
  • Look ahead, and start moving forward in small steps. Increase your stride length as you increase the speed.
  • It is crucial to keep your body in a straight line. Try not to lean forward as you walk.
  • When you’ve completed the planned distance, take care to lower the implements in a controlled manner.
  • If you walk both ways, lower the weights, turn around and repeat the range of motions, taking the same amount of care to maintain the proper form.

What Muscles Do the Farmer’s Walk Exercise Work?

The Farmer’s Walk is a whole-body strength and endurance-building exercise. However, the range of movements targets some muscle groups more than others.

Quadriceps

The quadriceps is a muscle group comprising the rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, and vastus intermedius.

 

Quadriseps - Image from Shutterstock

 

  • The quads play a significant role in stabilizing and flexing the hip while also playing a central role in knee extensions.
  • They aid in the lifting of the dumbbells from the floor.
  • Help initiate the forward movement
  • Stabilize the knee joint throughout the walk.

It is evident that the quadriceps work double-time during the Farmer’s Carry to help stabilize the hips while also extending the knee during the carrying stage.

Adductors

The adductors are located in the inner thigh where they help serve as important pelvis stabilizers.

 

Adductor Muscles – Image from Shutterstock
  • They help maintain the balance of the pelvis during the range of motion, known as gait or locomotion.
  • The adductors are heavily engaged during the walking phase of the Farmer’s Walk, which is essentially the entire movement.

Hamstrings

Although your hips do no dynamic flexing and extending during the Farmer’s Walk, the hamstrings still work hard every step of the way. The hamstrings are attached to the pelvis and run posteriorly down the leg.

Hamstrings – Image from Shutterstock

  • The hamstrings play a significant role in deadlifting the dumbbells from the floor,
  • These muscles are essential contributors to the gait cycle.
  • The hamstrings play a prominent role in hip extension, knee flexion, and extension which happens every time you lift your leg and every step you take.
  • The stronger the hamstrings the more stable the knee and hip joints during the Farmer’s Walk.

Glutes

The gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus, or glutes, are mainly responsible for the extension of the hip joint. They form the rounding of your butt but play more significant roles when you do the Farmer’s Walk

Glutes – Image from Shutterstock

  • The glutes act as key players in hip stability and strength during walking, jumping, sprinting, and strength training.
  • They’re crucial in deadlifting the dumbbells from the floor
  • The glutes stabilize the hip joints throughout the movement.

The Farmer’s Carry helps strengthen the gluteus medius — a muscle that helps stabilize the torso and pelvis alongside the gluteus maximus.

Calves

The calf muscles — most notably the gastrocnemius and soleus facilitate plantarflex of the foot and ankle. That is the movement of pointing the toes down.

 Calf Muscle – Image from Shutterstock

  • In the Farmer’s Walk, these lower leg muscles help stabilize the ankle joint.
  • Functionally, the calf muscle assists in knee flexion and plays an important role in the stabilization of the knee during loaded carries, like the Farmer’s Carry.

Trapezius

The trapezius, mostly known as traps, is large muscles with three divisions, spanning most of your mid- and upper back, all hard at work during the Farmer’s Carry.

Traps – Image from Shutterstock

  • This large muscle plays a vital role in stabilizing the scapula (shoulder blades)
  • The trapezius is the main muscle producing upper back tension while you’re holding the weight in your hands.
  • The traps retract the shoulders back and up, thereby helping you keep a tall posture throughout the exercise.

Latissimus dorsi

The latissimus dorsi — commonly known as the lats — is the largest of the back muscles.

Lats – Image from Shutterstock

  • The lats are most commonly known for their role in moving the arms toward and around the back of the body.
  • They are responsible for maintaining a neutral spine and tall posture throughout the Farmer’s Walk.
  • During the Farmer’s Carry, the lats play an additional, and slightly different, role. They stabilize the pelvis and interact with the abdominal muscles on multiple levels, from protecting the spine and maintaining shoulder positioning to respiration.

Core muscles and lower body

The farmer’s carry fits the criteria of being a more advanced core-based functional exercise — it requires dynamic stabilization, along with acceleration and deceleration.

Core Muscles – Image from Shutterstock

The core comprises most notably abdominal muscles — Quadratus lumborum and erector spinae.

  • The Quadratus lumborum,  the deepest abdominal muscle is an extensor of the lumbar spine. It is a stabilizer of the lumbar area, capable of pelvic tilting laterally and capable of acting as an inspiratory accessory muscle.
  • The QL helps stabilize the pelvis and spine during loaded movements, such as the Farmer’s Carry.
  • The Erector spinae  — also known as paraspinal muscles — are the muscles surrounding the spine.
  • The erectors aid in core stabilization and spinal extension while performing the Farmer’s Walk.
  • The Abdominal muscles  help keep the core tight to protect the spine throughout the movement during the Farmer’s Carry.

Arms and Shoulders

You may not be aware of the lesser-known function of the biceps and triceps in shoulder stability. Both their long heads attach to the scapula where they aid in humeral displacement.

 Biceps and Triceps – Image from Shutterstock

The biceps are multifunctional  in the Farmer’s Walk.

Their contributions include grip strength and arm flexion, smooth movement, and stabilization of the elbow joint.

The triceps  provide arm extension at the elbow joint.

They are particularly valuable in the farmer’s walk because they work in collaboration with the biceps in stabilizing the arm, while also keeping the arm extended.

Forearms and hand muscles

The arms and shoulders work very hard in the Farmer’s Walk, but so do the hand and forearm muscles.’

Hand and Forearm Muscles – Image from Shutterstock

The intricate muscles of the hands and forearms play a vital role in grip strength during the Farmer’s Carry.

They allow the tight grasp you need to securely hold the dumbbells throughout the walk.

Additionally, when you lift and hold significant loads, the shoulder joints take a large amount of strain.

Muscles like the deltoids in the shoulder help maintain stability around the ball-and-socket joint of the shoulders.

THE MUSCLES IN A NUTSHELL

As mentioned, the Farmer’s Walk is a whole-body exercise that stimulates just about all muscle groups. It strengthens the biceps, triceps, forearms, shoulders, upper back, trapezius, quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, lower back, obliques, transverse abdominis, and rectus abdominis.

Variations of the Farmer’s Walk

Most beginners carry dumbbells for the Farmer’s Walk, and once they’ve mastered those, there are several other options, some more challenging than others.

Below are some available options for your next Farmer’s Walk, including those performed by bodybuilders

Kettlebell Carry

The kettlebell carry is similar to the dumbbell carry.

The kettlebell’s handle diameter is slightly larger than dumbbells, making them a bit harder to manage during the Farmer’s Carry than the dumbbell variation.

If you’re ready for more of a challenge, the kettlebell option is an excellent one.

Farmer’s walk handles

A significantly more challenging option, typically reserved for experienced  strongmen with more dynamic strength.

 Farmers Walk handles – Image from DesignJunction

This version is the one traditionally used in Strongman and Strongwoman competitions.

Farmer’s Walk handles are plate loaded and significantly larger than dumbbells, allowing for significantly heavier weights to be added.

This variation requires more technique than carrying the dumbbell in the Farmer’s Walk. This is because the handles tend to tilt back and forth along with the motion of the walk, requiring a lot more dynamic strength.

Trap bar carry

The trap bar is trapezoid-shaped, and a specialty barbell, commonly used for performing deadlifts.

Trap Bar Carry – Image from Shutterstock

However, it can be loaded with weight to be used for the farmer’s walk as well.

The center of gravity of the trap bar is more balanced than that of the farmer’s handles. Therefore, balance shifting is not as big a problem as when walking with the farm handles.

Rickshaw carry

The rickshaw, in turn, is slightly easier to handle than the trap bar. It is a unique piece of equipment typically used by strongmen and strongwomen for the purpose of training.

 Rickshaw Carry – Image from DesignJunction

Unlike the trap bar’s weight plates touching the ground, the rickshaw’s metal frame makes contact with the ground.

That feature provides more stability than the trap bar, particularly during the initial lifting portion of the Farmer’s Walk. However, it is less stable than the trap bar during the walking phase.

Suitcase carry 

The suitcase carry is one of the most challenging Farmer’s Walks because it is a one-handed version.

Only one weight is picked up from the floor and carried for the determined distance.

With all the weight on one side, significantly more core stabilization is necessary to keep the proper straight-up form.

Important tips

Here are a few tips that might help you master the Farmer’s Walk without injuries.

  • Don’t allow your shoulders to fall forward.  That will place undue stress on your spine and hamper your pace. The heavier the weight the harder it is to keep your shoulder up and back.
  • Don’t be over-anxious to prove your strength by loading heavy weights. The weight you use should never cause excessive strain. Once you have mastered one load. maintaining proper form and without injuries, add only 5 pounds per side at a time.
  • If you feel your grip giving, you can speed up to cover more distance, but only if you can maintain the proper form.

The bottom line

There are very few exercises that will give you a better entire body workout than the Farmer’s Walk. In fact, it is one of the best full-body exercises you can do for overall strength, balance, stability, and overall development.

Along with building muscle mass and power, additional benefits of the Farmer’s Walk exercise include improved cardiovascular health and endurance.

The Farmer’s Walk works for all. It’s not limited to strength training; it can be an excellent addition to any cardio routine.

However, your success in reaching your goal will be delayed if you don’t combine your exercise regime with proper nutrition. It has been shown that  following a high-protein diet can really increase your metabolism and give you more energy to put into your workout routine.

The farmer’s Walk is a  high-intensity exercise. If you have a preexisting injury, consult a healthcare professional before adding the Farmer’s Walk to your training program.