If there is one movement out there that belongs in each and every program (shredding fat, stacking on muscle, developing grip strength or overall health), it's the Farmer's Walk. Most of us don't have access to a freshly bailed field of hay, so we need to improvise.
First things first, how do you do a Farmer's Walk?
This may be one of the easiest movements to teach; for a standard Farmer's Walk, you basically just pick up the weights and walk. But you know there's always more to it, right?
Step 1: Lock in the shoulders
Be sure to "screw in" your shoulders before picking up the weight. This keeps tension through the shoulders and the t-spine locked in place and allows for good posture and less bouncing around as you walk. Here is what I mean by "screwing in"
Step 2: Breathing and Bracing
Maintaining a tight core throughout the entire set is very important, not only for reducing any chance of injury, but also for better effectiveness overall. For the breathing part, put your hand on your stomach and take a big breath in. Do you feel the belly fill up air? Good, you're breathing correctly. Now, blow all the air out quickly, almost like someone just punched you in the stomach. Do you feel how tight and tense the core gets? That's bracing.
Step 3: Lock, Brace, Pick up the weights, and WALK.
Walking is an extremely underrated and underutilized fat loss activity. It's useful because you don't sacrifice the nervous system, even with frequency and variance of intensity. It's not a very effective form of fat loss on it's own, so how about adding weight? Start carrying light dumbbells, sandbags, trap bars or your house cat. It doesn't matter what! Farmer's Walks are easy to change up, keeping boredom at bay, but they're also easy-going on the body.
Sample Workout Week:
Day 1: light dumbbells, walk for one lap around your block or for 5-8 min. Rest 2-3 min, Repeat 2-5x. Progress each week by trying to go for longer distance or using slightly heavier dumbbells.
Day 2: (a couple days later) Sandbag bear hug carries across your front yard (15-30 feet) and back. Rest 1 min, Repeat 8-10 times.
Day 3: Fat Grip (or wrap a towel around the dumbbell handle) Dumbbell Farmers Walks, aim for about 20-30 feet with 30-40 sec break between sets, Repeat 3-5x.
Here is a tough variation using towels and kettle bells.
No. These are not easy. They may sound easy, but they're not. Here's another way to create variance is with the traditional Ruck-Walk. Simply load up a back-pack with 20-40lbs and go for a walk or hike for 30min to 2 hours (depending on weight and terrain). This is a great thing to add in at the end of the week so as not to directly tax anything nervously but still get some major cardiovascular benefit.
Strength and Muscle Building
For targeting strength and muscle building, treat your Farmer's Walks like you would other movements: with tension times and tempos.
For example, if you are working towards more strength or overall grip strength on your dead lift, then you're going to walk with heavier weight for shorter distances. If you're working on your upper-back and traps? Then stick with a weight that you can handle in the 30-50sec range. These movements will not only tax your arms, upper back, traps, core, butt and legs, but they are most importantly "functional" and will carry over to sports and daily activities alike.
Strength and Size Farmers Template
Day 1: Heavy Pressing Day + Short, Heavy Farmer's Walks (trap bar is a good option) 4x
Day 2: Off
Day 3: Heavy Leg Day + 40 sec "Rack Walks" 3-4x (Video below)
Day 4: off
Day 5: Upper Hypertrophy + OH Snatch Walks (video below) and/or traditional DB Farmer's Walks
Day 6: Lower Body Speed and Hypertrophy + 30 min Ruck Walk (use backpack or weighted vest)
Day 7: off
For improving overall health in the "off-season", combine different methods and tools into every workout; make it fun! Try for long distances, heavier shorter distances, challenges, medleys or whatever. Just pick up some weight and move it a few times each week.
There it is folks, the Farmer's Walk and how to apply it. Start a little lighter at first, and slowly increase the weight, time, and distance as you progress. This is a year-round movement, so take your time!