If you’re not familiar with the farmer’s carry, it’s the strength training move you need to know about, whether you’re a beginner, or more experienced in the gym. The farmer’s carry involves holding a heavy weight in each hand, down by your side, as you walk a specific distance. If you’ve ever rushed for the bus carrying two shopping bags or rushed to catch a flight holding two suitcases, you’ve already done the farmer’s carry.
Here on the Tom's Guide fitness desk, we're all about making 2024 your healthiest, and happiest year yet! To kick things off with a bang, we'll be bringing you a month of motivational content to help you Get Fit with Tom's Guide.
Great at helping to improve your overall strength and conditioning, the farmer’s carry works every muscle in the body, while also giving the heart and lungs a good workout. Although the benefits of this move are pretty vast, the only time you’ll ever really see me doing the farmer’s carry is when I am training for or competing in a Hyrox event, as it is one of the eight workouts that make up this fitness competition.
That said, I know that it’s an exercise I should be doing more within my gym routine, so I decided to take on the farmer’s carry challenge. Every day for a week, I would do a two-minute farmer’s carry using the maximum kettlebell weight I could handle. I expected good things from this challenge, but read on to find out exactly what went down.
The benefits of the farmer’s carry
The beauty of the farmer’s carry is that it works multiple muscles in the body. It’s not just a workout for the arms as your shoulders, lats, biceps, triceps, and forearms work to hold the weights as you walk, but it also targets the lower body muscles including the quads, hamstrings, and glutes. You’ll also need to engage the muscles in the core as you walk to keep your body stable and upright.
Another big benefit of the farmer’s carry is that it helps to improve grip strength. A strong grip can help with so many other exercises such as deadlifts and pull-ups, as well as during everyday activities such as carrying the shopping.
How to do the farmer’s carry
This is a relatively simple move, yet please don’t mistake the word ‘simple’ for ‘easy’! Here’s how to do the farmer’s carry with perfect form:
- Stand upright with a weight in each hand, arms down by your side. I tend to use kettlebells.
- Make sure your core is engaged and your gaze is forward.
- Then, walk your desired distance, keeping the weights down by your side, standing upright.
I used two 20kg kettlebells for this challenge which is a weight that although felt easy for the first 15 seconds or so, quickly became a struggle. You can also do the farmer's carry with a trap bar or a set of the best adjustable dumbbells, however, I find that doing it with kettlebells is the most comfortable way to move. Still working out from home? We’ve also found the best kettlebells on the market here.
I did two minutes of the farmer's carry — here’s what happened
I couldn’t grip the kettlebells for two minutes
I thought my general grip strength could handle two minutes, however on day one of this challenge, I realized I was mistaken. After 45 seconds I had to drop the weights and re-set to shake my hands out. I had to do this again after about another 40 seconds. My top tip? I wouldn’t recommend trying this challenge without chalk unless you have insane grip strength!
After a week my calluses were not good
A week of the farmer's carry, mixed with other exercises such as chin-ups left the palms of my hands in a bit of a state. The calluses on my hands were prominent and very sore. This meant more chalk, and on the days I remembered, I wore lifting gloves, purely to save my hands from the wrath of the weight.
I felt my entire upper body work
I know the farmer's carry does target several muscles throughout the entire body, but it was my shoulders and lats that felt this move the most. The weight of the kettlebells set the muscles in my upper body alight. Along with this, I could feel my forearms pulsing and I noticed my veins becoming more prominent as blood rushed down.
That said, I didn't feel overly sore the next day — this was just one of those there-and-then burns, but as soon as the weight dropped and I had a moment to shake out, the pain went.
My upper body endurance was tested
I’m used to doing a set number of reps of an exercise — 12 bicep curls for example — yet two minutes of the farmer’s carry was an excellent way to keep my muscles under tension for longer, helping to improve their strength and endurance. I was quite impressed at my upper body endurance during this challenge, but, there is always room for improvement, and I’d like to think that over time, my grip strength and upper body strength will improve so I can do two minutes non-stop of the farmer’s carry.
This forced me into a good posture
Standing tall is a must when doing the farmer's carry. It’s a great move for helping me pin my shoulders back and lift my neck. Excellent posture is so important to help prevent back injuries, so make sure you keep your chest open and your shoulders back during this exercise. If in any doubt, or you’re new to the farmer’s carry, it’s always a good idea to ask a personal trainer to check your form before adding weight to the move.
I did a 2-minute farmer’s carry for a week — here’s my verdict
This was a great challenge to add to my January routine. I definitely felt it helped improve my upper body strength, while also working my grip strength, which I need to help me progress in other movements such as deadlifts.
What’s more, I really enjoyed the upper body burn of this move, as well as the fact that it didn’t leave me sore for days. Naturally, my hands have suffered a fair bit from the farmer’s carry, but hopefully practicing this exercise more often will toughen my hands up and make them a little more resilient.
If you’re going to give this a go yourself, I’d recommend starting with a lighter weight and making sure you have chalk to hand. If you’re a Hyrox lover like me, then practicing this exercise will not only benefit your strength for competition but help you knock down that all-important time.
More from Tom's Guide
Get the BEST of Tom’s Guide daily right in your inbox: Sign up now!
Upgrade your life with the Tom’s Guide newsletter. Subscribe now for a daily dose of the biggest tech news, lifestyle hacks and hottest deals. Elevate your everyday with our curated analysis and be the first to know about cutting-edge gadgets.
Lucy is a freelance health and fitness journalist as well as a pre and post-natal personal trainer. Although a sweaty gym session (skipping rope is a must) is her favorite way to ‘relax’, she’s also a fan of bingeing on The Office, snacking on chocolate-coated raisins, and fizz-filled brunches with friends.