In most usual bodybuilding and powerlifting routines the exercises can sometimes become a bit too mundane. Four sets of bench press, four sets of incline press, three sets of dumbbell press, four sets of… (etc., then multiply by each muscle group). Or if you’re a powerlifter it might be even worse: six sets of deadlift, six sets of bench press, six sets of squats, and some accessory work, four days a week or more.
While gains can definitely be made following these basic programs, they don’t usually challenge you like new stimuli will (not to mention the eventual plateaus that routine, unaltered training plans over time will hit). This is where other types of strength athletes can teach us a thing or two for mixing up our training style a bit while still helping our goals for strength and size.
One such exercise that is very useful to grow both your traps and forearms in both size and strength is the farmer walk (sometimes called the farmer’s carry), which is just as simple to do as it sounds. In this article we will be talking about how to do this exercise, why to do it, and variations you should do as well.
How To Do Farmer’s Walks
When I said performing this exercise is easy I meant it. Farmers walks are intended to test your grip strength for time instead of reps, which means the sets will last for a duration of distance or time itself.
To perform farmers walks you need to grab a pair of dumbbells or hex bar with a challenging weight, and walk with the weight again for distance or a certain amount of time. For some beginners you might only be able to go as heavy as maybe 40 or 50 pounds for about a minute or 50 feet, but more advanced lifters can sometimes go up to almost 100 pounds in each hand for this distance, with some elite strongmen carrying over 300 pounds per hand!
Why You Should Do Farmer’s Walks
In a fitness routine that mainly comprises of wrist curls and shoulder shrugs or deadlifts for trap and forearm development, a weighted walking carry exercise is a unique and valuable addition to stimulate new growth.
Getting on your feet and walking for a minute or longer while holding a challenging weight will be keeping your traps and forearms under constant tension, and will equal more hypertrophy when progressive overload (adding weight or distance/time as often as possible) techniques are used over time as well as equal strength gains which will translate to so many other movements.
For bodybuilders a stronger grip will mean you can complete more reps on your pulling exercises (back and biceps) without your forearms giving out first, eliminating the need for ever using straps. For powerlifters, it should be obvious how a very strong grip and trap muscles will almost definitely help you up your deadlift numbers.
Lastly, for probably everyone reading, farmer’s walks are a good form of conditioning and will burn way more calories than static exercises will. Which means if you’re bulking or trying to gain strength and size, maybe focus on upping your strength with farmer’s walks for a certain distance, and when cutting maybe focus on increasing the distance you can walk with a certain heavyweight, as to maximize calorie burning.
Farmer’s Walks Variations
Even being the super simple exercise that it is, there are a surprising amount of variations to keep your training interesting once you have mastered the standard version. The most popular variation would be the single arm farmer walk, which is as usual, exactly what it sounds like. Instead of grabbing two dumbbells you will only carry one with the same parameters in mind (distance or time).
The additional benefit to this variation would be more functional strength, as well as activating your oblique on the opposing side to the weight to keep you upright and balanced. More than likely you will have to drop the weight when doing this exercise, and don’t forget to switch arms every or every other set to keep it even.
The next variation is similar, as it is called the “uneven farmers walk”. In this exercise you will grab two dumbbells with a difference of about 20-30% in weight to carry and walk with. The uneven farmers walk offers the same benefits as the single arm farmers walk.
The last variation is not quite the same as it requires you to keep the dumbbells resting on your shoulders or locked out overhead as you walk. While not activating your forearms or traps as much, these variations will emphasize your lats, core and shoulders to a higher degree. Don’t be afraid to include one or two or all of these variations into your training to maximize the gains in size and strength they can provide you.
Take Home Message
Easy to understand, perform, and include anywhere in your training routine, farmers walks truly are a valuable addition to any strength or size based training routine. Whether your goal is to increase your deadlift, yolk your traps, or up your grip strength for any reason at all, this exercise will create new growth in almost any individual no matter your training level.
Try adding this exercise and a few of its variations to the tail end of your training sessions to burn out your grip and maybe even wind yourself enough to skip your cardio session!