Benefits of Farmers Carry and why to use them
What are they?
Farmers walk, farmers carry, farmers hold doesn’t matter what you call them but they are a great exercise for everyone to incorporate into their training or their rehabilitation. But that doesn’t explain what they are, essentially grab a item a kettlebell, dumbbell, a load (weight) in each hand or one hand depending on the carry you are performing and either stand in that static position (farmers hold) for a period of time or walk a distance (hence becoming a farmers walk).
Why Do them?
- Strengthen grip – You must hold the load for a period, engaging your wrist and forearm muscles.
- Static movements can reduce injury risk – Compared to say cleans, jerks, snatches, there are fewer moving parts in the exercise therefore the risk of injury can be mitigated especially for those new to training or coming back from an injury.
- Core stability – You have to maintain your trunk stability, therefore providing stability to those muscles
- Enhance power and strength – Engaging your muscles in the right way leads to increased power and strength output. This is probably a topic for another blog because I could go all day.
- Improves athleticism – You might go???? But think about it, walking is functional, but it also requires mental focus, endurance, coordination, and balance. So, there’s my reasoning.
- Improve endurance – Both mental and physical, but easy to apply you want to focus on endurance, drop the weight and increase the distance and/or time you hold it.
What muscles do they work?
This is probably the most common question I get asked. What muscles does this exercise work? And it’s a great question! The answer to a farmer’s carry is……. Pretty much every muscle.
Muscles in focus – Traps, Deltoids, obliques, Abs, Glutes, hamstrings, quads, calves, forearms, wrists, and arms – look essentially everything. They are a great all-round exercises shown to increase strength and even some evidence pointing to an increase in testosterone like most strong man activities. I like to call them brute force primal strength, think of all the things our active peasant-based forefathers did; Push, pull, carry, lift, and drag! They certainly didn’t do bicep curls in front of a mirror.
When can they be applied in a rehabilitation setting?
There are so many applications for rehab, they can be used for wrist, elbow, shoulder, and upper back injuries of the upper limb. They are also an incredibly effective lower back and trunk stability exercise which can be used on proper assessment of the patient/ client. And they can also be used for ACL rehab, ankle injuries, knee injuries and much more. Really there is no limit to the application of uses for this exercise when assessed by a trained clinician. I personally used farmers carry all the time, I would likely avoid its use in an acute episode of a lower back injury but it would certainly be a staple of my long term rehab plan as part of a core/ trunk stability program.
Now having said that there are lots of cases when I wouldn’t use a farmers carry.
- Post orthopaedic surgery until lifting limits allow a carry
- Post hernia repair
- Acute lower back episode
But having said that like all exercises the correct application involves thorough assessment and clinician skill
What’s my number one tip performing the exercise?
Grip on tight and go, go, go! TO begin with take short, fast steps then once you get your balance and you momentum increase the stride (step) length. And of course the number one tip is add them to your programs no matter what, aiming for at least 5-8sets per week!
Andrew Ilieff - BeFit Training Physio Double Bay
Andrew Ilieff is a physiotherapist based in Double Bay, Sydney. Andrew has successfully treated musculoskeletal problems and sports injuries on the basis of a thorough assessment and diagnosis coupled with evidence-based rehabilitation programs tailored to the needs and goals of each individual. Andrew specialises in lower back rehab, sports injuries and is a leading authority on Strength and Conditioning for Physiotherapists as the co-author of the University Of Technology Sydney Strength and Conditioning for Physiotherapists and casual academic lecturer. To book a consultation, click the link below.