Farmers Carry – How To, Benefits, And Why Make It Part Of Your Fitness Plans

This simple but challenging full-body exercise can help build grip strength and boost your fitness

faarmer's carry exercise

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Farmers Carry – A simple but effective way to build or boost your strength

What is the farmers carry

The farmers carry, or farmers walk, is a strength training exercise. It involves walking while holding heavy weights, usually one in each hand.

The name comes from the traditional practice of farmers carrying heavy buckets or pails of water or feed on their farms.

The primary target of the farmer’s walk is the upper body muscles. But it is a full-body exercise that engages the core, legs, and hips as they work to stabilize and support the weight.

The farmer’s carry can help improve grip strength, body strength, and endurance. The exercise can also help boost functional capabilities, making it easier to do everyday activities that involve carrying heavy objects.

farmers carry with dumbbells

Farmers Carry muscles worked

The farmer’s walk primarily targets the following muscles.

  • Forearms
    The grip strength required to hold onto the weights during the walk places significant demand on the muscles of the forearms.
  • Trapezius
    The trapezius muscles are heavily engaged to stabilize the shoulders and maintain an upright posture while carrying the weights.
  • Deltoids
    The deltoid muscles of the shoulders activate during the farmer’s carry to stabilize and control the movement of the arms.
  • Rhomboids
    The rhomboid muscles, located between the shoulder blades, help retract and stabilize the scapulae or shoulder blades during the exercise.
  • Erector spinae
    The erector spinae muscles, which run along the length of the spine, are engaged to maintain an upright posture and stabilize the spine during the walk.
  • Abdominals and obliques
    The core muscles work to stabilize the torso and prevent excessive bending or twisting during the exercise.
  • Glutes and hamstrings
    The muscles of the buttocks, that is, the glutes and the back of the thighs, or hamstrings, are activated to provide stability and generate power during each step of the farmers carry.

Farmers Carry – Proper form

Steps to follow for the farmer’s carry

Follow these steps to perform the farmers walk with proper form.

  • Select dumbbells, kettlebells, or other heavy objects that challenge you but still allow you to maintain control.
  • Hold one weight in each hand with an overhand grip, palms facing down.
  • Stand upright with feet at shoulder-width. Maintain good posture with your chest up, shoulders back, and engage your core.
  • Bend at the knees and hips and pick up the weights off the floor.
  • Keep your back straight and maintain a firm grip.
  • Align your head with your spine and avoid excessive leaning forward or backward. Imagine a string pulling you up from the top of your head.
  • Activate your abdominal muscles and keep them tight throughout the farmers carry exercise. That will help stabilize your torso and support your spine.
  • Start walking forward, taking small, controlled steps. Maintain a steady and consistent pace. Do not shuffle or drag your feet.
  • Allow your shoulders to remain in a natural position and avoid excessive tension or shrugging. Ensure you pull them back slightly to maintain proper posture.
  • Maintain a slight bend in your elbows but avoid excessive bending or flexing. Your arms should hang straight down by your sides throughout the walk.
  • Breathe naturally and try to maintain a steady rhythm. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth.
  • Walk for a specific distance or duration based on your fitness level and goals. Start gradually increase as you get stronger.

Farmer’s walk – Common mistakes

The farmer’s carry may be simple for some, but it can also be challenging for many.

Avoid the following common mistakes to help you reap maximum benefits and reduce the risk of injury.

  • Rounded shoulders
    Do not allow your shoulders to round forward, as that can put unnecessary stress on the upper back and compromise stability.
    Keep your shoulders pulled back and down. Maintain good posture throughout the exercise.
  • Poor grip on the weights
    Failing to maintain a proper grip on the weights can reduce the effectiveness of the exercise and increase the risk of dropping the weights.
    Ensure you have a firm grip, with your fingers wrapped around the handles and your palms facing down.
  • Excessive leaning or tilting
    Leaning too far forward or backward during the farmers carry can strain your lower back and compromise your balance.
    Keep your torso upright and avoid excessive leaning in any direction.
  • Shuffling or dragging feet
    Dragging or shuffling your feet can diminish the engagement of your leg muscles and reduce the effectiveness of the exercise.
    Take small, controlled steps and maintain proper foot placement.
  • Not engaging your core muscles
    Neglecting to engage your core muscles can lead to instability and improper posture.
    Draw your navel towards your spine to engage your core muscles and maintain a stable midsection throughout the farmers carry
  • Holding weights too low
    Allowing the weights to hang too low or close to your thighs can cause excessive strain on your shoulders and reduce your control over the exercise.
    Hold the weights with extended arms and alongside your body.
  • Holding your breath
    Forgetting to breathe or holding your breath can lead to increased tension and reduce your overall endurance.
    Remember to breathe naturally throughout the exercise, inhaling and exhaling with a uniform rhythm.
  • Overloading with excessive weight
    Using weights that are too heavy for your strength level can compromise your form and increase the risk of injury.
    Start with a manageable weight and gradually progress as your strength improves.
  • Rushing through the exercise
    Performing the farmer’s walk too quickly can reduce the effectiveness of the exercise.
    Take your time, focus on maintaining proper technique, and walk at a controlled pace.
  • Neglecting safety considerations
    Be mindful of your surroundings and ensure you have enough space to walk freely without obstacles.
    Avoid performing the farmer’s carry on slippery or uneven surfaces to reduce the risk of falls or accidents.

Farmer’s carry benefits

farmers carry with dumbbells

Incorporating the farmers carry into your training regimen can offer you many benefits.

Improved Grip Strength

Farmer’s carry requires you to hold and maintain a firm grip on heavy weights for an extended period.

The exercise is highly effective in strengthening the forearm and hand muscles, helping to improve your grip strength.

Improving your grip strength can help you to do several daily activities and enhance your performance in various sports and weightlifting exercises.

Full-Body Strength and Muscle Development

The farmers carry is a compound exercise that engages multiple muscles simultaneously.

It targets the upper body muscles and activates the core, glutes, and legs as they work together to stabilize and support the weight during the walk.

The full-body engagement promotes strength development and muscle growth.

Enhanced Core Stability

This exercise activates the deep core muscles. That can lead to improved core strength and stability.

Improved Posture and Spinal Health

Farmer’s carry promotes proper posture by engaging the muscles responsible for spinal alignment and stability.

Walking with an upright posture can help strengthen the upper back muscles and reduce the risk of developing rounded shoulders or a hunched posture.

That can help alleviate back pain and improve spinal health.

Functional Strength and Everyday Carry Activities

Farmer’s carry simulates real-life activities that involves carrying heavy objects, such as groceries, luggage, or moving furniture.

Training with farmer’s carry allows you to develop functional strength and the ability to handle everyday tasks more efficiently and with reduced risk of injury.

Increased Cardiovascular Endurance

Farmer’s carry can provide a cardiovascular challenge, especially when performed for longer distances or durations.

The exercise elevates your heart rate and promotes cardiovascular endurance. That can contribute to improved fitness and stamina.

Better Balance and Coordination

Maintaining stability and balance while walking with heavy weights challenges your proprioception and coordination.

Regularly incorporating farmer’s carry into your training regimen can improve your balance, coordination, and body awareness.

Versatility and Accessibility

You can perform farmers carry with a variety of equipment, such as dumbbells, kettlebells, sandbags, or even household objects.

You can do the farmers carry in various environments, including the gym, outdoors, or at home.

The versatility makes the exercise accessible to individuals of different fitness levels.

Farmers carry variations

farmers carry variation - man holding kettlebell

There are several variations of the farmers carry that you can incorporate into your strength training routine to add variety and target your muscles in different ways.

Below are some variations to consider.

Single-arm farmer’s walk

Instead of holding a weight in each hand, perform the walk while carrying a single weight in one hand.

The variation increases the demand on the core and stability muscles on one side of the body.

It is an effective way to build a symmetrical physique.

Overhead farmer’s walk

Hold the weights or a single weight overhead while performing the walk. The variation targets the shoulders, upper back, and core muscles to a greater extent.

Suitcase carry

Hold a weight on one side of the body, similar to carrying a suitcase.

The variation emphasizes the obliques, lateral core muscles, and grip strength on one side.

It can help you to emphasize your weaker side for a more symmetrical body.

Rack Carry

farmers carry variation - woman carrying dumbbells on the shoulders

Rest the weights on your shoulders, holding them with an underhand grip.

The variation is an excellent way to emphasize the upper back, shoulders, and core muscles.

Waiter’s walk

Hold a weight overhead with a straight arm, mimicking carrying a tray like a waiter.

The variation primarily targets the shoulders, upper back, and core.

Bottoms-up carry

Hold kettlebells with the bottoms facing up.

The variation requires additional control and coordination. It challenges your grip strength and shoulder stability.

Offset farmer’s walk

Carry weights of different sizes or weights in each hand, creating an imbalance.

This variation of the farmers carry activates the core muscles even more as they work to stabilize the uneven load.

Uphill or downhill farmer’s walk

It involves performing the farmers carry on an incline or an upward or downward slope.

The incline or decline walk increases the challenge and engages different leg muscles.

Farmers carry with turns

You can incorporate turns or change in directions into the walk instead of walking in a straight line. That can help challenge your stability and coordination.

Farmers carry with other exercises

You can combine the farmers carry with exercises like lunges, squats, or overhead presses to create a more comprehensive full-body workout.

Who should do the farmers carry?

man holding kettlebells

The farmers carry exercise can benefit several individuals, from beginners to advanced fitness enthusiasts.

The following exercisers and athletes can all benefit from incorporating farmer’s carry into their training.

Strength Training Enthusiasts

The farmers carry is a compound exercise that engages multiple muscle groups simultaneously, making it an excellent addition to any strength training regimen.

It can help build body strength, improve grip strength, and enhance muscle development.


Many athletes can benefit from farmers carry as they require grip strength, core stability, and full-body strength.

It can benefit sports that involve carrying or holding objects, such as football, rugby, wrestling, and strongman events.

Functional Fitness and Everyday Activities

Farmer’s carry simulates real-life activities that involve carrying heavy objects.

The exercise can benefit anyone who wants to improve their ability to handle everyday tasks like lifting and carrying groceries, moving furniture, or carrying luggage.

Individuals Seeking Core Stability

The farmers carry requires strong core engagement to maintain an upright posture and stabilize the torso.

Incorporate the exercise into your training regimen to enhance your core stability and improve posture.

Rehabilitation and Injury Prevention:

Farmer’s carry can be part of rehabilitation programs to improve grip strength, upper back stability, and core strength.

It can aid in the recovery process for various upper body, lower body, or spinal injuries.

General Fitness and Health

Farmer’s carry can offer cardiovascular benefits, as they can elevate your heart rate and challenge your endurance when performed for longer distances or durations.

They also promote functional strength, coordination, and balance. That can help improve general fitness levels and well-being.

Farmers carry limitations

farmers carry - man holding dumbbells-1

While the farmers carry exercise offers numerous benefits, it also has some limitations.

Limited Lower Body Focus

The farmer’s carry engages the lower body muscles, but it is not as targeted or intense as exercises specifically designed for lower body strength, such as squats or lunges.

You may need to incorporate additional exercises into your training regimen if your primary goal is to develop your lower body.

Limited Cardiovascular Conditioning

The farmer’s carry can elevate your heart rate and provide some cardiovascular benefits. But it may not be as effective as continuous, dynamic exercises like running, cycling, or rowing for cardiovascular conditioning.

You may need to include more aerobic activities in your training if cardiovascular fitness is a primary goal.

Grip Limitations

The farmer’s walk is a demanding exercise for grip strength.

You may struggle to carry heavy weights for extended distances or durations if your grip strength is a limiting factor.

Always start with a weight that challenges you but allows you to maintain proper form and gradually increase the load as your grip strength improves.

Uneven Load Distribution

The farmers carry distributes the weight evenly between both sides of the body.

While this promotes balance and symmetry, it may not be ideal for individuals with existing muscle imbalances or injuries.

In such cases, modifications or alternative exercises that allow more targeted loading may be more suitable.

Space and Equipment Requirements

Farmer’s carry requires a clear and open space to perform safely.

Also, access to appropriate weights or equipment like dumbbells, kettlebells, or sandbags may be necessary.

It may be challenging to incorporate farmers carry into your routine if you have limited space or equipment.

Final words from LiveLIfe

The farmers carry can be an effective addition to any strength training regimen.

The exercise is not complicated to master, but incorporating it into your fitness plans can help strengthen several muscles and add variety to your exercises.

The farmer’s carry is a valuable exercise for overall strength, grip strength, core stability, and functional fitness.

Like any exercise, the farmers carry requires proper technique and form to maximize benefits and minimize the risk of injury.

It’s essential to learn and master the correct form and seek guidance from a fitness professional if you are not sure about proper execution.

  1. Winwood PW, Cronin JB, Brown SR, Keogh JW. A biomechanical analysis of the farmers Walk, and comparison with the deadlift and unloaded walk. Int J Sports Sci Coach. 2014;9(5):1127-1143. doi:10.1260/1747-9541.9.5.1127

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