Blog · Fitness

Back to the basics: Mastering the farmer’s carry

Until my early 20’s or so, I camped with my family on a beautiful lake in the Adirondack Mountains every year. As a child, it was one of my favorite weeks of the year. All my relatives from my mom’s side of our family were there and it was the best kind of fun. We’d ride our bikes around the campground, swim in the lake, burry each other in the sand, play catch on the beach, climb boulders, hike a mountain or two, spend a day at Water Safari in Old Forge, and go boating. In the evening we’d get together for a camp fire and roast marshmallows and make dessert pies. Seriously, what child wouldn’t love doing that for a WHOLE week?

Since there was no running water or electricity at our campsite, we’d have to go to a water spout and get whatever water was required for cooking and washing dishes each day. Sometimes we’d camp right next to one, which made the chore easy. Sometimes, we’d have to haul those buckets of water a long, long way back to our campsite. Or at least that’s the way it felt at the time.

I vividly remember struggling with some of the larger buckets. The little handle would dig into my hand, my grip would give out, and I’d have to take a break to rest every so often. But I wold never give up or ask for help. Being able to haul that bucket of water was a sort of right of passage, in my mind. I didn’t realize at the time that this chore would become part of my workout routine as an adult. It was my introduction to the farmer’s carry.

Now, I live next to farmers and I can testify that they work from sun up to sun down each day. There is always something that needs tending to, always a chore that needs to be done. I see all of them – parents and kids – carrying buckets full of eggs and produce. This exercise was named well. Farmers are constantly hauling stuff around their property. Have you ever noticed how strong a farmer’s hands and arms are? Well, I’m sure this has a lot to do with it.


The basic technique

To put it in simple terms, the farmer’s carry is simply a weighted carry. You hold an equal amount of weight in each hand and walk with it. Here are a few tips on technique:

  1. Bend down and grip the weight. Keep your spine in a neutral position (do not round or arch your back) and really pay attention to your grip, making sure the weight is centered in each hand.
  2. As you lift the weight, tighten your core, squeeze your glutes, hold your chest up, and push through your heels.
  3. Keeping your back straight and your head up, take small but fast steps to prevent the weight from moving too much.
  4. With control, lower the weight back to the ground (don’t just drop them!) once you reach the targeted distance or time. As you lower the weight, keep your spine in a neutral position.

You can use almost any type of weight for this exercise: dumbbells, kettlebells, short bars. If you don’t have any of those, go find two 5 to 10-gallon buckets in your garage and fill them up with water.


To increase the intensity of this exercise, either increase the amount of weight you carry or increase the distance / time that you carry the weight.

To challenge your grip, forearms, and the stabilizing muscles in the core, try one of these:

  • Overhead carry – Extend your arms over your head as you carry the weight
  • Uneven carry – Carry a heavier load on one side than the other
  • Single-arm carry – Only carry weight with one arm

Only lift as much weight as you can manage with good posture. If can hold yourself upright, then use smaller weights. Your shoulders, back, grip, and forearms will be screaming at you by the end. When this happens and you start inventing new ways to walk just to carry the weight, it’s time to stop.

Hop to it

Believe it or not, this is a great move to tighten and tone the abs. And I consider the ability to carry heavy objects a great life skill. From carrying kids and groceries to doing yard work and rearranging furniture, you’ll be glad for the strength. Why wouldn’t you do it?

If you’re planning to join me in mastering this exercise, leave a comment here or on the Facebook page. I’ll keep you updated on how I do as well.

Good luck!


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