Walking while holding heavy objects seems simple, but it’s an entirely underrated fitness exercise.
Farmers walks are a great example.
Literally every muscle in your body must work together when you do farmers walks, making them a perfect exercise for CrossFitters and other functional fitness enthusiasts.
If you don’t know about farmers carries or just want information on how to add them to your WODs, you’re in the right place.
Here’s everything you need to know for adding this effective loaded-carry exercise to your CrossFit training.
What is a Farmers Walk?
Farmers walks are a loaded-carry functional strength exercise used in fitness, Strongman, and CrossFit settings.
The exercise involve carry two heavy objects, like dumbbells, kettlebells, or Strongman handles, from one point to another as quickly or efficiently as possible.
Besides being used in Strongman, Dan John, a popular strength coach and author, popularized the farmers walks in the early 2000s.
Using loaded carries as a way to feel like he was working out while recovering from an injury, he noticed farmers walks increased performance in the gym. They became a regular part of his programming.
What To Use For Farmers Walk
The three most popular pieces of equipment for farmers walks are dumbbells, kettlebells, and farmer walk handles.
Dumbbells are the most common piece of equipment used for farmers walks.
When walking with dumbbells to your side, you may find that you need to grip slightly to the front side of the bells.
The forward momentum you create by walking might make this more comfortable than having the bells swing back and forth in your hand.
Farmer Walk Handles
Farmers walk handles are specifically designed for the exercise and weigh roughly the same as a barbell (between the two handles).
If you want to practice the exercise like it’s performed in a Strongman contest—or compete in Strongman—it’s probably best to train with these instead of dumbbells or kettlebells.
Farmers Walk Technique
The key to doing farmers walks well is to use short, efficient steps that minimize upper body movement.
Once you pick the implements off the floor, the muscles from your head to your toes should be firing, fighting for constant stability.
If you start swaying back and forth or leaning too far forward, the weight is too heavy.
Instead, stand tall with the weights by your sides. Your shoulders should be tight, grip should be firm, and back should be straight.
Practice or warm-up with lighter weights and shorter distances until you find the ideal weight/distance ratio.
In a gym with short space, it’s better to do the farmers walk for five to ten yards, put the equipment down, turn around, and go back instead of trying to turn around with the equipment in your hands.
Your steps should be rhythmic so you don’t rock back and forth, which will cause the heavy implements to sway.
Farmers Walk Benefits
Farmers walks are a true total body exercise and great for improving all areas of fitness. Add them to a metcon, use them as accessory work, or make them the standalone strength training exercise on a heavy day.
They’re also great for competitions, partner WODs, and outside workouts. All you need is space and two heavy objects to do them.
What Muscles Are Worked Doing Farmers Walk?
Every muscle group is worked when you do heavy farmers walks.
Your grip strength and core strength improves, and you’ll also improve conditioning and endurance in your back, legs, and shoulders.
Incorporating Farmers Walk In Your Training
Like any strength training exercise, farmers walks are best added to your training slowly.
Start with kettlebells you can do kettlebell swings with or dumbbells you use in WODs, and practice medium to long distance walks, keeping your upper body tight and your steps efficient.
As always, improvement comes from progressing the exercise.
After a few weeks, add weight or distance to your farmers walks. You can also use farmers walks as part of a couplet, EMOM, or AMRAP workout, as long as you feel safe walking with the weight while breathing heavy.
Sloppy farmers walks, where you aren’t tight and the weight causes you to move from side to side, can lead to injuries.
Farmers Walk Workout
Here are three workouts you can try with farmers walks.
1. Tabata Farmers Walk
Using 55lb kettlebells or dumbbells, set a target of ten, twenty, or thirty yards (the longer the better, depending on space). Follow the standard Tabata workout of 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off. Record how many “touches” you get on the workout, then repeat in a few weeks.
2. Farmers Walk EMOM
Every minute on the minute for 20 minutes, do:
Min 1: Assault Bike, 15 calories
Min 2: Farmers Walk for 40 seconds
Min 3: 15 Pull-ups
Min 4: Plank for 40 second
3. Kettlebell Hell
3 Rounds For Time:
30 Kettlebell Swings
100 yard kettlebell farmers walk
20 Goblet Squats (with kettlebell)
RX weight, 53/35lb kettlebell (scale as needed)
How Much Weight Should I Use For Farmers Walk?
Start slow and work your way up. A good starting weight for men is 53lbs in each hand, 35lbs in each hand for women.
How Many Sets Of Farmers Walk Should I Do In Training?
That depends on your goals. If you really want to work your grip and core, doing 5-7 sets once or twice a week will be good. For just some accessory work or conditioning, once a week with 3 sets will be good enough.
Farmers Walks—Wrapping Up
Farmers walks are versatile and easy to program into any CrossFit or functional fitness training. They’ll make you stronger all across your body, so you can’t go wrong no matter how you program them.
Practice them with light weights until you get the hang of them for obvious safety reasons.
Check out more CrossFit WOD tips, equipment reviews, and workout motivation on our training section.