Farmers’ walks may well be the ‘original’ form of weight training and many fitness experts now say that they should never have fallen out of favour. This is a way of training strength, power and endurance that is today often overlooked, but that might just be the Daddy of all exercises when it comes to getting rapid results.
Want to know what this powerful and ancient training technique is? Read on…
What Are Farmers’ Walks?
One of the great things about farmers’ walks is just how simple they are. Chances are in fact, that you have already used the farmers’ walk countless times yourself and not even known it.
All you have to do, is to pick up a heavy weight of any kind then walk with it a set distance or until your grip gives out and the weight drops on the ground (or you do). That’s it.
Make sure you keep your back straight and shoulders level, and if the weight isn’t even on each side, then swap over half way. Other than that, it’s up to you how you go about shifting the weight from point A to point B.
It’s the simplest and most straightforward exercise you’re likely to come across, so what is it that makes this such a great way to train?
Functional Strength 101
‘Functional strength’ is a term used to describe the kind of strength that actually has real-world application.
At this point you might be wondering what type of strength doesn’t have real-world application. Well that would be the kind of isolated strength that only focusses on a few ‘show’ muscles, like the biceps and the abs. If you build great biceps without building a stable core and strong legs, then you won’t be able to lift up and hold the weight even if you could have curled it. There are countless muscles in the body, and most of the things we use them for require them to operate together in unison rather than insolation.
And really the farmers’ walk is as functional as an exercise can be. This is a movement that isn’t ‘designed’ to build muscle, it’s just something that we need to do. You use the farmers’ walk every day whether it’s to carry shopping to the car, or whether it’s to move a heavy box of old items when you’re in the process of moving home.
When using farmers’ walks you have to use your legs to walk with the weight, your shoulders, traps and forearms to hold onto the weight, and your ‘posterior chain’ (the muscles across the rear portion of your body) in order to stay upright and to keep the weight up with you as well.
Very few of the exercises that are popular in the gym focus on the posterior chain, and this is what limits strength in the big ‘Olympic lifts’ as well as leaving us susceptible to back injury. The farmers’ walk is a safe way to train this chain of muscles and to make you truly strong.
Another advantage of farmers’ walks is that they train your endurance. The muscles in the posterior chain are designed to be trained with high volume like this, because they need to support your back all day long. This also makes the farmers’ walk a great way to burn calories and to stimulate a hormone response that triggers body recomposition.
Variations and Weights
The most common way to practice farmers’ walks is to lift a heavy barbell in either hand and walk with them. Alternatively you can use a trap bar, which is a barbell designed to allow you to step inside and lift from the middle. Other common options are to lift a dumbbell in either hand, or to use kettlebells in either hand.
There are some fun variations you can also try though. A ‘single’ involves holding just one weight on one side and swapping halfway through, this is a good exercise for involving the obliques which prevent you from bending sideways. You can also do overhead farmers’ walks where you take the dumbbells/barbells and press them overhead before you walk with them.
Uneven farmers’ walks on the other hand involve holding weights of different sizes in each hand, then you simply swap the items over halfway through your walk. If you perform farmers’ walks with something that isn’t conventional training equipment (like a big rock, or a person) then the move is called ‘dinosaur’. Which is awesome.
Add farmers’ walks to your workouts and try increasing the distance travelled and the load over time. As a result you’ll increase your power tenfold, prevent injuries and never again whine when you have to carry the shopping.