If you can’t hold the weight, you can’t use the weight so as obvious as it sounds…We are only as strong as our weakest link.
Often we ignore grip training in favor of lifts that are more fun and that, we feel, give us more bang for our buck.
But there really is no better full-body, functional lift than the farmer’s walk.
You could actually argue this is the MOST functional exercise. I mean just think about how often you need to hold something and walk with it!
And guess what!?!
IT REALLY WORKS YOUR GRIP! Along with your arms, back, shoulders, core and legs…So just about EVERYTHING!
Basic Farmer’s Walk Variations:
1. Two-handed Dumbbell or Barbell Farmer’s Walk:
Basically, you hold heavy weights in each hand and you walk to set points or for a set amount of time, maintaining perfect posture. You want to use weights that CHALLENGE YOU and make you want to drop them just before your round is done.
Do not let your head jut forward or your shoulders round forward.
Do not let the weights rest on your legs. Hold them just a teeny bit away from your body or at least so they aren’t RESTING on your body.
Keep your core tight and walk with your shoulders down and back and your head up.
2. Two-handed Fat Grip (or Kettlebell) Carry:
This is the exact same as the two-handed Farmer’s Walk except you are challenging your grip even more by making the grip itself BIGGER.
Fat grips are a great way to challenge your grip because they make the handle bigger and more awkward to hold. The more awkward an object is to grip, the more it challenges your strength!
When you do carries with dumbbells that have fat grips on them, really focus on not letting the dumbbell slant forward or backward toward the ground. Make sure you carry the dumbbell so that it is level with the ground.
I also use competition kettlebells instead of dumbbells to challenge my grip more because their handles are bigger than the handles of dumbbells. This can be a great option if you don’t have fat grips.
Kettlebells are also great for carries because the bell wants to hug your legs and you have to lift them out a bit more from your body, which challenges your upper body and core even more.
The point though is…THE LARGER, MORE AWKWARD, THE GRIP THE MORE YOUR FOREARM AND HAND STRENGTH WILL BE CHALLENGED!
3. Unilateral Carry (with or without fat grips):
Whenever you load down one side, your core is forced to work harder to stabilize. Plus I just love unilateral exercises because they force each side to work individually and help you correct any imbalances.
When doing a unilateral carry or farmer’s walk, you are going to hold a weight on one side. The more awkward the weight, the harder the move will be.
You are then going to walk forward. Do not allow yourself to either lean away from the side with the weight or toward the side with the weight.
The challenge is to PREVENT ROTATION. This is an anti-rotational move. You want to walk as if you have either no weight or at least equal weight in both hands even though you are only weighted down on the one side.
Keep a nice tall posture and make sure your shoulders stay level and you don’t lean. Keep the weight off of your leg as well. You do not want to rest it on your hip or thigh.
4. Uneven Farmer’s Walk:
I find that I’m often carrying something in both hands; however, those two items are usually different weights.
One of the most functional farmer’s walks, in my opinion, is the uneven carry.
To do this move, carry a lighter weight in one hand and a heavier weight in the other. Make the difference noticeable.
Just like with the unilateral carry, the challenge is to not rotate and to act as if the weights in each hand are even. Keep a nice tall posture and your core tight. The weights should not be resting on your legs and you should not be leaning to one side. Your shoulders should be level and your head should be held high, not looking toward the ground or jutting forward.
5. Overhead Carry (unilateral or two-handed):
While this farmer’s walk (I think it is also known as a waiter’s walk) is not as grip intensive, it is a really REALLY great stabilization exercise and is super core intensive.
This move can be done carrying a weight in both hands or as a unilateral movement.
The goal of both moves is to press the weight straight overhead and keep your core tight and your low back from arching. Try to get your bicep by your ear and your arm(s) locked out straight with the weight overhead. Try to relax your shoulders down and back as you carry and not shrug too much.
REALLY REALLY focus on keeping your core tight.
If you do a unilateral overhead carry, remember to not rotate or compensate for the fact that you have a weight only on one side. You want to walk as if you have an even weight in both hands.
Slosh pipes or awkward weights are great for overhead carries IF you’ve developed the shoulder and core stability. These unstable weights, or uneven weights, can be a great way to progress the overhead carry.
However, if you are a beginner or have had shoulder injuries in the past, you may want to be careful with this move. This move requires good shoulder stability and both lat and chest flexibility.
Start slow with this move if you have limited shoulder mobility or have suffered from shoulder injuries. While this can be a good way to re-develop shoulder strength you do not want to force mobility and stabilization that isn’t there yet!
Stop letting your grip strength limit how much you can lift. Your are only as strong as your weakest link! Start using farmer’s walks today to strength your grip and get a full body, FUNCTIONAL workout!
AND…While Farmer’s Walks and Carries are probably the best ways to develop grip strength because they also develop full body FUNCTIONAL strength, there are other exercises you can do to develop grip strength (especially if it is your weakest link!).
Check out these 10 grip strength exercises by Fight Camp Conditioning for more ways to strengthen your grip. And the best part about these 10 exercises is that some of them can be used to create even more farmer’s walk variations (like a farmer’s walk with the pinch or claw grip or even a bottoms up carry!).
The fitness industry is constantly evolving since our society is constantly changing. Since our society has become more and more sedentary, people need to be taught to proper movement patterns. Because of this focus on proper movement patterns workouts have become more and more focused on functional strength.
While classes like Zumba are becoming more popular as people are seeking out “fun” ways to workout (that seem less like working out) so is functional training equipment (YAY!).
Here are some cool pieces of equipment that I hope to start seeing in more and more gyms!
- Kettlebells are probably one of the oldest forms of lifting equipment. They were developed in Russia in the 1700 and finally reached the US around the 1960s. They were once a common staple of the gym, but have since virtually disappeared. Recently though there has been a resurgence and now many kettlebell training certifications are available. One of the best ways to work your entire body and gain lean muscle mass!
- Sleds – A great way to improve your leg power! Pushing (or pulling!) a sled is a great full body workout. While I love deadlifts and squats, pushing a sled can help you get pretty much the exact same benefits as both in one exercise!
- Heavy Ropes – These are not something I’ve worked with, but I can’t wait to! You can literally get a full body workout using these ropes. There are specific exercises with the heavy ropes that can target your upper body, core and legs. They also provide you with a very cardio workout!
- Sandbags – If you think lifting a dumbbell, plate weight or barbell overhead is hard, try lifting a sandbag of the same weight! Because the weight in sandbags can shift, you really have to use your core. This is a much better way to engage some of those core stabilizer muscles than a stupid bosu! Plus you are lifting something heavy, which you know I love!
- Sandbells and Waterbells – A variation of both the medicine ball and the sandbag, I thought these were just too cool not to include. what a great way to incorporate the sandbag into more exercises. These sandbells can also help you work on grip while you are getting all the benefits of lifting a sandbag and heavy weights!
- TRX bands – A Pilates-based movement system, the TRX is a great way to get in a full-body, bodyweight workout. The thing I love about the TRX too is that it can be used to teach beginners proper movement patterns, but also be used to challenge even the fittest of athletes!
- TRX Rip Trainer – This new piece of equipment actually started this whole post. I love the fact that this is a small, easily portable piece. Like the TRX, it looks like something that everyone can use. I can’t wait to try it!
- Foam rollers – I love foam rollers. While not exactly a piece of exercise equipment (although it can be used for exercises), it is essential to any functional workout. It is key to developing proper length-tension relationships and correcting imbalances!
- Tires – I love deadlifts and squats. BUT flipping tires can be a great substitute. There is something about the idea of flipping a tire that just seems so Primal to me. I feel like this exercise came from cavemen and women who flipped rocks to prove who was strongest. Am I crazy? Probably.
- Rings – Can we say DIFFICULT!?! Working out on the rings, whether you are doing muscle ups or not, is probably one of the hardest things EVER. I always love watching the gymnasts do them because you can see every muscle in their bodies working!
Runners up: Medicine balls, Resistance bands, Ergs, Versa Climbers, Monkey bars (I LOVE MONKEY BARS!)
All of these pieces of equipment can be used to give you both a cardio and strength training workout! Plus they work your entire body!
What functional training equipment do you love?
So I think the bosu is a good piece of equipment for a handful of exercises, but I don’t think it should be used near as much as I see trainers all over using it. I don’t think every trainer under the sun should be using it with all of the clients especially their beginning exercisers.
The theory behind using the bosu is that it creates an unstable environment so that all of a person’s stabilizer muscles must activate while doing the exercise. It is supposed to engage and work your core more.
The bosu bothers me even more than seeing someone doing 1,000 crunches on the floor to get great abs…ok so maybe both bother me equally….
But still! There are so many better things you can do to work your core and stabilizer muscles than doing a bicep curl on a bosu!
Need an example? How about pull ups or chin ups…assisted or unassisted.
Pull ups and chin ups work your biceps and they work your core. PLUS they work your lats!
AND they are WAY MORE FUNCTIONAL than a dang bicep curl on a bosu.
Can I also just ask…how is a bicep curl on a bosu supposed to be more functional and better for a beginning exerciser than an assisted pull up?
Maybe it’s just me but doing most exercises on a bosu just seems more dangerous.
I mean why do a bodyweight squat on a bosu when you can work your legs harder and engage all your core stabilizer muscles by doing a front squat?
Why not do a one leg straight leg deadlift if you really want to work your balance?
Why use the bosu to create more instability?
How is that really better for a beginner exerciser? How is that really more functional?
Why do we always try to make diet and exercise more complicated than they have to be? Why can’t we just go back to basics?
Why can’t we just jump and squat and climb and lift heavy things? Why can’t we sprint and push things and play?
Stop over-complicating things! You want to gain functional strength and work your core, do movements that mimic stuff you do in everyday life.
Don’t waste your time balancing on a bosu!