The Modern-Day Loaded Carry

Picking up heavy stuff and moving it from here to there is one of the most powerful exercises you’re not using.

In the last couple of years, the loaded carry (aka the farmer’s carry) has exploded onto the functional fitness scene. Well, as much as such a bland exercise can “explode.” Picking something up and carrying it from point A to point B, then putting it down again, isn’t even remotely earth-shattering in terms of movement originality, yet these days everyone from bodybuilders to CrossFitters to elite athletes are hauling heavy stuff back and forth across the gym floor as part of their regular protocol — traps bursting, necks bulging and hearts racing.

True, our bodies were made to lift and carry heavy things, and feats of strength such as farmer’s carries were staples of the strongmen of yore. Even legendary strength and conditioning coach Dan John touts the loaded carry as one of the most functional and fundamental movement patterns around. “It does more to expand athletic qualities than any other single thing I’ve attempted in my career as a coach and an athlete,” says John, All-American discus thrower and Olympic lifter. “And I do not say that lightly.”

Get a Farmer’s Physique

The modern-day loaded carry involves picking up a weight and walking with it for a set time and/or distance. The object itself might change — a pair of dumbbells or kettlebells, a sandbag, a stone, even cinder blocks — but the challenge remains the same: moving something heavy and unwieldy as efficiently and quickly as possible.

Although it sounds simple, adding a carry to your protocol can fill a lot of gaps in your training, notably grip strength, shoulder and core stability, posture, work capacity and muscular tension — physical qualities that have waned as of late, perhaps since the world is less manual and more sedentary. And because they create high levels of muscular tension in multiple muscle groups at once, loaded carries stimulate a larger hormonal response, flooding your body with muscle-building testosterone and growth hormone. And conditioning — forget about it — the prolonged time under tension improves physical performance and mental fortitude like nothing else.

Carries at Work

The loaded carry is the star in these workouts and is garnished with complementary exercises for a well-rounded, full-body program with a focus on strength and size. Follow this workout for six weeks to reconnect to that brute strength within.