Strength Basics

Getting stronger, fitter, and healthier by sticking to the basics. It's not rocket science, it's doing the simple stuff the right way. Strength-Basics updates every Monday, plus extra posts during the week.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Ways to Vary Your Farmer's Walk

The post I did on Farmer's Walks remains one of the most popular posts I ever wrote. It's odd, in a way - all a Farmer's Walk is, at its core, is picking up heavy stuff and walking around for a while. It's not that technically complicated. Its benefits should be obvious - carrying heavy stuff while you walk will get you stronger at carrying heavy things while you walk.

Its sequels have done pretty well themselves:
Farmer's Walks Redux

and

Farmer's Walks Variations.

What are some ways to modify the farmer's walk, especially if you either need to load it up more, or need to modify the loading a bit due to injury? Here are some ways to expand it from just "carry heavy weights" to "loaded walking."

Tow a Sled, Too - Carry a couple of weights, but also tow a sled behind you attached to either a loading vest or a belt. This puts some drag on your steps, forcing you to push off harder and step with more authority. But it also makes holding the weights harder - sleds don't always drag smoothly, and can jump forward or get briefly stuck and it's hard to stabilize the weights in your hands if the sled gives you a sudden unexpected resistance.

Warning: start with a light sled. This adds up slowly, but steadily.

Wear a Vest - A professional MMA fighter I know does this, carrying dumbbells plus wearing a vest to further load up the legs. While the vest takes some potential load off of the grip and off the arms, it keeps a heavy load on the shoulders, hips, and legs.

You can substitute in any form of "wearable" weights. A backpack with weights in it (make sure it's sturdy), chains draped around the neck and shoulders, even a old-school squatting loop with weights attached. The trick is to load it in such a way that the weight doesn't shift dangerously but also allows you to put some extra weight onto your steps.

Tip: This makes a good substitute for heavy farmer's walks for those who can't grip heavy weights on one side due to injury, or for loading the legs despite a lagging grip strength. It allows you to get a good training effect despite a hand/arm limitation on loading.

Walk Backwards - like it sounds, just do your farmer's walk in reverse. This will slow you down a bit, as well. This is one that sounds like it should make zero difference, but it does.

Be careful where you walk; a fall while holding heavy weights can be ugly if you don't ensure they land far from you.

Walk Uphill - Add some resistance by adding some incline. This is also good if you have a loading issue, either from injury or lack of sufficient weights.

Tip: Find a place where the downhill portion is easy. You can end up taking a lot of punishment on your knees walking downhill with weights. Or do it on a treadmill,

Programming

How to program farmer's walks?

Here are four ways you can set up a farmer's walk workout.

Walk for time - set a time, and keep walking until the timer goes off. Start at 1 minute for heavy weights, 3-5 minutes for lighter weights. This is excellent for building grip and trapezius (neck/shoulders) endurance.

Walk for distance - walk for maximum distance, either in a given time or until you have to set the weights down. Each workout try to walk further. One variation is to walk a given number of steps, and try to lengthen your stride each time and get more distance in those steps. This won't be easy as it sounds.

Walk for speed - walk for a specific distance, and record the time. Try to walk the distance in less time each workout. The goal is to walk faster and faster with the same resistance.

Walk for weight - pick a (short) distance and aim to carry heavier and heavier weights. The goal is to increase the maximum weight you can pick up and walk with.

Give those a try! If you haven't tried farmer's walks before, just grab a couple of weights and go for a walk. You'll be surprised at how effectively this simple exercise can improve your strength and endurance.

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