The health and fitness industry has made great strides over the past decade.

In recent years, movements that were traditionally only performed by hardcore strength athletes are making their way into the fitness routines of typical gym-goers seeking to improve their health.

One such exercise is the farmer’s walk, an exercise in which equipment held in each hand is carried for a distance.

This article reviews the farmer’s walk, how to perform it, the muscles it works, and several variations you may be able to include in your workout routine.

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The farmer’s walk, also called the farmer’s carry, is a strength and conditioning exercise in which you hold a heavy load in each hand while walking for a designated distance.

This whole body exercise hits most of the major muscle groups while providing an excellent cardiovascular stimulus.

While popularized by competitive strongmen and strongwomen, the farmer’s walk has become a widely utilized exercise by athletes and recreational gym–goers alike.

This movement can be incorporated into a strength training program or performed on its own as conditioning work.

In addition, the farmer’s walk is a functional exercise, meaning it directly applies to activities of daily life, such a carrying groceries in from the car.

Summary

The farmer’s walk is a popular strength and conditioning exercise in which a heavy implement is held in each hand while walking in a straight line for a specific distance.

The farmer’s walk is quite simple to perform and an appropriate exercise for most people.

It’s best to start with lighter weights when first trying the movement, then slowly advancing until you’ve reached a more challenging load.

Though there are several variations of the farmer’s walk, most beginners choose to use dumbbells due to their availability and ease of use.

As you advance, you can experiment with other variations to add difficulty.

You’ll need:

  • dumbbells of varying weights
  • an open space to walk at least 10 steps in a straight line
  1. Start by selecting appropriately weighted dumbbells and placing them on the floor on either side of your body.
  2. Reach down, bending at the hips and knees, and grasp the dumbbells in each hand. Deadlift them up by extending your hips and knees, keeping a neutral spine throughout.
  3. Hold the dumbbells at your side with a firm grip. Stand tall, keeping your shoulders, back, and core tight.
  4. Initiate the movement by walking forward at an even pace with your eyes focused straight ahead of you.
  5. Complete the desired amount of steps, come to a stop, and place the dumbbells down while keeping a tight core and neutral spine.
  6. Rest for 1–3 minutes and repeat until you reach your desired amount of sets.

While initially the goal isn’t to complete the steps as fast as possible, as the weight becomes heavier, your steps will naturally become quicker and shorter.

The most important safety aspect of the farmer’s walk is to keep a neutral, or straight, spine throughout the movement to avoid injury.

Summary

The farmer’s walk is performed by selecting an appropriate load, deadlifting the load from the floor, then while standing tall with a tight grip on the implements, progressing forward with even-paced steps for a given distance.

The farmer’s walk is a whole body exercise that builds muscle endurance and strength.

That said, some muscle groups are targeted more heavily than others, due to the nature of the movement pattern.

Here are the major muscles worked during the farmer’s walk:

  • Quads. The quadriceps, or quads, are responsible for knee extension. They aid in lifting the dumbbells from the floor, help initiate forward movement, and stabilize the knee joint throughout.
  • Hamstrings. The hamstrings are responsible for knee flexion and hip extension. They play a significant role in deadlifting the dumbbells from the floor, lifting the legs with each step, and stabilizing the hip and knee joints.
  • Glutes. The gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus, or glutes, are mainly responsible for the extension of the hip joint. They’re crucial in deadlifting the dumbbells from the floor and stabilize the hip joint throughout the movement.
  • Calves. These lower leg muscles help stabilize the ankle joint while performing the farmer’s walk.
  • Lats. The latissimus dorsi, or lats, are the largest of the back muscles and responsible for maintaining a neutral spine and tall posture throughout the movement.
  • Erectors. The erectors — also known as paraspinal muscles or erector spinae — are the muscles that surround the spine, aiding in spinal extension and core stabilization while performing the exercise.
  • Upper back and traps. The muscles of the upper back including the trapezius muscle, or traps, serve to keep a tall posture throughout the exercise by retracting the shoulders up and back.
  • Abdominals. The abdominal muscles help keep the core tight throughout the movement, protecting the spine.
  • Biceps. The biceps are responsible for arm flexion and contribute to grip strength. In the case of the farmer’s walk, the biceps help grip the dumbbell throughout the movement and stabilize the elbow joint.
  • Triceps. The tricep muscles provide arm extension at the elbow joint. During the farmer’s walk, they keep the arm extended and work with the biceps to stabilize your arms.
  • Forearms and hand muscles. The intricate muscles of the forearms and hands play a crucial role in grip strength during the farmer’s walk. They allow you to tightly grasp the dumbbells throughout the movement.
Summary

The farmer’s walk is a whole body exercise that stimulates a number of muscle groups, including the quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves, erectors, upper back, traps, lats, abs, biceps, triceps, forearms, and hand muscles.

The farmer’s walk is a whole body movement that comes with several potential benefits.

Improves cardiovascular health and endurance

The farmer’s walk is a demanding exercise that is sure to tax your cardiovascular system and will have you breathing heavily.

High intensity exercises such as the farmer’s walk have been shown to increase aerobic capacity, in turn reducing the risk of various cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke (1).

In addition, aerobic capacity, or VO₂ max, is an indicator of performance in various endurance sports, such as running, cycling, swimming, and cross country skiing (2).

This means that those with a higher aerobic capacity will be able to sustain higher performance levels for a longer period of time.

Promotes muscle strength and power

The farmer’s walk requires full body muscle recruitment. As such, it has the potential to increase muscle strength and power (3, 4).

The muscles most significantly affected by the farmer’s walk include the upper back, lats, traps, forearms, quads, hamstrings, and glutes.

This exercise is especially effective at improving grip strength, as you must tightly grip the weights throughout the movement to avoid dropping them (4).

What’s more, this improvement in muscle strength and power is transferable to other sports like football, basketball, baseball, and tennis, among others.

Therefore, including the farmer’s walk as a part of your training program may help increase performance in your given sport.

Summary

The farmer’s walk is a full body exercise that can improve muscle strength and power, as well as cardiovascular health and endurance.

Once you’ve mastered the dumbbell farmer’s walk, you may want to try some other, more challenging variations.

Below are the most popular farmer’s walk variations.

Kettlebell carry

The kettlebell carry is similar to the dumbbell carry, although kettlebells are used instead.

The slightly larger handle diameter of the kettlebell makes this movement a bit harder than the dumbbell variation.

This is an excellent progression toward more difficult farmer’s walk variations.

Farmer’s walk handles

This is the original method of performing the farmer’s carry, most often used by competitive strongmen and strongwomen.

Farmer’s walk handles are quite a bit larger than dumbbells and plate loaded, allowing for significantly more weight to be added.

This variation requires a bit more technique than the dumbbell farmer’s walk considering that as you move, the handles tend to tilt back and forth, requiring more dynamic strength.

Trap bar carry

The trap bar, referred to as such due to its trapezoid shape, is a specialty barbell commonly used to perform deadlifts.

That said, it can be loaded with weight and used to perform the farmer’s walk as well.

This variation is slightly easier than using farmer’s carry handles, as the center of gravity tends to be more balanced, preventing the shifting that’s experienced with handles.

Rickshaw carry

The rickshaw is a unique piece of equipment commonly used for strongmen and strongwomen training.

It’s most similar to a trap bar, though instead of the weight plates touching the ground, the rickshaw has a metal frame that contacts the ground.

This variation provides a bit more stability than the trap bar during the initial lifting portion of the movement, though it’s slightly more unstable during the walking portion.

Suitcase carry

The suitcase carry is a one-handed farmer’s walk that can be performed with several different implements.

In this variation, only one weight is picked up from the floor and carried for distance.

This requires significantly more core stabilization to remain upright, as the load tends to pull you to one side.

The suitcase carry is an excellent accompaniment to other farmer’s walk variations.

Summary

Variations of the farmer’s walk include the kettlebell carry, farmer’s walk handles, trap bar carry, rickshaw carry, and suitcase carry. These increase the intensity slightly as you become more advanced.

The farmer’s walk is a movement in which a weighted implement is deadlifted from the floor and carried for a distance.

It provides a full body workout, targeting the quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves, erectors, upper back, traps, lats, abs, biceps, triceps, forearms, and hand muscles.

Some specific benefits include improved cardiovascular health and endurance, as well as increased muscle strength and power.

The farmer’s walk can be an excellent addition to a strength training program or performed on its own as cardio.

If you have a preexisting injury, it’s best to consult a healthcare professional before adding the farmer’s walk to your training program.