The Farmer’s Walk…or the Farmer’s Carry, if you will.
You’ve probably done it yourself thousands of times (especially if you’re actually…ya know…a farmer) carrying stuff around your house. Every time you carry a set of dumbbells from the rack to your bench…you’re Farmer’s Walk(in’)!
Today, we’re going to look deeper at this casual strolling with dumbbells (or some other options, which we’ll look at later on). Ultimately, it is a functional and “easy”-to-perform exercise; there are a wide range of benefits of Farmers Walking. It not only works your grip but also hits a bunch of muscles throughout your body.
Let’s dig deeper; by the time we’re done, you’ll want to Farmer’s Walk during every training session (but don’t feel like you have to!)
Table of Contents
How to Perform the Farmer’s Walk
For those of you who might actually be unfamiliar with this exercise, you’re in luck. It is one of the most straightforward and uncomplicated (albeit, not “easy”) dumbbell movements out there.
Grab a pair of dumbbells (preferably, two of the same or similar weights) and start walking with them.
Like I said…straightforward.
But you probably want more tips and movement cues, don’t you? Fair enough:
- Stand upright and grab a dumbbell in each hand.
- Keep the chest up and engage your core.
- Avoid excessive leaning (forward or to either side)
- Rack (or drop) the weights once you’ve walked the prescribed distance
To that last point, I generally “plan” my walks to coincide with the point where I need to set the dumbbells back down. Like, if I am supposed to walk 100 feet, you better believe that my last 10 feet are the 10 feet directly in front of the dumbbell rack!
It is important to try to maintain a neutral spine throughout the duration of the movement and to ensure that the weight remains as evenly distributed throughout each walk as possible.
Weights to Use for Farmer’s Walks
Obviously, everyone’s strength level is different so there is not a “hard and fast” rule regarding weights to use when performing Farmer’s Walks. Acclaimed “longevity expert” Peter Attia, uses the Farmers Walk in his client Strength Metric Assessments (SMA). Men are prescribed a weight of 1 ⁄ 2 of their own, total body weights in each hand, while women use 37.5 percent of their own body weights in each hand.
Personally, I think these weights are manageable, but on the heavier side for most people, especially when first starting out. I would suggest that men and women use weights closer to half of these weights (¼ of bodyweight for men, ~15-20 percent of bodyweight for women) when first starting and working up from there. Like anything else, choose weights that allow you to maintain good form and complete the prescribed distance without compromising your form.
How Far to Walk During Farmer’s Walks
This is another one of those “your mileage may vary” types of inquiries that will be determined by what your programming dictates and your personal capabilities. Interestingly enough, your grip strength, as opposed to arm, shoulder, or core strength, is likely to be the biggest deciding factor here. Your grip is more likely to weaken before the larger muscles and if it “goes”, your walk is over.
For most people, a few sets of 50-100-foot Farmers Walks is sufficient for activating the desired stimulus, although more experienced athletes should be able to handle longer walks.
Sometimes, the programming says you have to go 200 meters (a little more than two football fields)…10 times.
Who ever thought that the “walk” portion of a workout would be the “hard” part!
The Nickman WOD shows that doing long Farmer’s Walks (probably) won’t kill you so don’t hesitate to go a little further in your sets (although you don’t have go quite 2,000 meters to get all of the benefits of Farmers Walks!)
Benefits of Farmers Walks
Farmer’s Walks are excellent for improving your strength and stability. There are numerous other benefits of Farmers Walks to include:
- Better grip strength: The act of holding heavy objects for an extended period of time (…like you do with Farmers Walks) strengthens the grip. This not only helps you grasp a barbell (don’t miss a deadlift due to a weak grip again!), but even everyday items around the house
- Better functional strength: Farmer’s Walks, as the name kinda implies, replicate the act of some tough, hardcore farmer hauling around large pieces of equipment around the homestead. Truth be told, these farmers probably get stronger from doing actual Farmers Walks, but dumbbell versions can still really help your functional strength development.
- Better posture and overall stability: If you don’t tighten your core or walk in a tall, upright manner, you’re going to tumble over (if you’re even able to finish the set). By engaging your core and keeping your shoulders back, you can’t help but improve your posture and stability
Farmer’s Walk Variations
For as uncomplicated of a lift as the Farmer’s Walk exercise is, it has quite a few variations. Let’s look at a few of them here:
- Suitcase Carry: Remember when people used to actually carry their luggage around the airport? Probably not, I assume. Well, believe it or not, there was a time when people would carry their bag in one hand as they made their way to Gate 12. The Suitcase Carry replicates this movement; it is essentially a Farmer’s Walk…but using only one hand and one dumbbell.
- Uneven Farmers Walk: In this variation of the exercise, the dumbbells you use are of different weights. This requires your core to work harder to counterbalance the weight (just make sure to equal reps with each arm!) This can also be performed with dissimilar objects of similar weight (ex. A kettlebell in one hand and a dumbbell in the other) as there is a slightly different stimulus created by grasping the two different objects.
- Waiter Walk: This is similar to the Suitcase Carry mentioned above, although instead of the dumbbell being held slightly below your waist, it is held with an extended arm overhead. In addition to the core, the shoulders and related stabilizing muscles work hard to support the weight.
(word to the wise with Waiter Walks (don’t you love the unintentional assonance!): save this one for the garage or basement gym. I’ve come close to blows with people intentionally blocking my path while walking around with a 85-pound dumbbell over my head!)
CrossFit WODs with Farmer’s Walks
There aren’t a ton of CrossFit WODs with Farmer’s Walks, but those that include the movement are pretty memorable:
The irony with this one is that the Farmer’s Carry is way longer than the walking lunge is. Don’t get me wrong, those walking lunges will make your legs burn. But you’ll be well on your way to Farmer’s Walkin’ close to 1/2 a mile over the course of this one (in addition to rowing close to 2 miles).
All I can say is…get a grip!
Now, I don’t expect too many people playing at home to casually complete this one over the weekend. After all, it was the workout that provided this iconic photo:
To put things in perspective, those Jerry Cans weigh twice as much as those dumbbells from Catch Fire. Then you have to carry that yuge bag…after you’ve run farther than a 5K and “flipped a pig” a bunch of times…
Legendary Farmer’s Walk WOD….confirmed!
Frequently Asked Questions
We’ve gone over a lot of content related to Farmers Walking today to include the benefits of Farmers Walks.
Naturally, you want even more!
Let’s take a look at some of the most common inquiries about Farmers Walks that we haven’t already covered:
While beginners shouldn’t use the heaviest weights, they can certainly do Farmer's Walks. The exercise itself is uncomplicated and doesn’t require any special technique. As such, it is actually a suggested exercise for beginners.
Some Farmer's Walk aficionados advocate for doing a few sets 3-4 times per week. Those participating in Strong Man do these a lot as they are a staple in competitions. However, everyone can benefit from incorporating Farmer’s Walks into 1 or 2 training sessions each week.
We’ve covered how Farmer's Walks can be done with kettlebells, but that’s just the start. Think about all of the things actual farmers lug around…you can do the same to get your Farmer's Walkin’ reps in. Below are three excellent implements that can be used to better facilitate your Farmers Walk training!
There are few exercises that work so many major muscle groups while also working the grip that are as technically “easy” to perform as Farmer’s Walks. In addition, it is one of the few “minimalist” exercises that you can actually perform with some added resistance (I can get a halfway decent Farmers Walk where I live just lugging around a couple of 6-liter water jugs!)
I know I talk a lot about how you “don’t have an excuse not to do (insert exercise or workout here)”, but with Farmer’s Walks…this really is the case.
In addition, the benefits of Farmers Walks are just soooo numerous.
Get walkin’ and watch your shoulders and traps grow, your core tighten, your posture improve, and your grip get vice-like.
Then reward yourself by buying yourself a tractor or something.
We talked about how Farmer’s Walks can help your grip today. Find out more about how the right grip can give your deadlift a big boost!