This is something I have started doing over the past few months and I can't believe it has taken me this long to actually do it.
Well, I do know why it has taken me a while to figure it out because what I do is so simple yet so hard.
.... the Farmer's Walk.
Traditionally, the Farmer's Walk is an event you would see in a strongman contest.
I am certainly not the first person to praise the farmers walk. It is just so simple and sinister.
What is a "farmer's walk"?
Take a heavy weight in each hand and go for a walk.
For me, I do this at home with the two heaviest weights I have which are a 32kg and 24kg Kettlebell.
I take one in each hand and walk BUT I have a secret method.
I live on the top floor in my building, it's 80 steps down.
I take the Kettlebells, walk down the stairs, out the door and do one lap around the block which is ~300m, then back up the stairs. Once I start there is no wimping out, no elevator to take and no short cuts.
The whole thing takes me around 9-10 minutes to complete. Every time I need to put the weights down I switch around the Kettlebells.
Why do the Farmer's Walk?
- Easy to do it right; it requires a fairly low movement IQ. Can you walk? If yes, then you can farmers walk.
- Grip strength; if your forearms are not burning by the end then pick a heavier weight or go for a longer walk.
- Upper Back; it gets fried.
- Trunk Strength (see research article below)
I like doing these first thing in the morning. I am usually not a morning exercise person. My body is just to stiff for any serious movement but not stiff enough for the farmers walk.
It is a great way to start the day and if I just do this I get a little blast to my metabolism with still enough reserves left to continue training either right after the walk or later in the day.
To be honest the first time I did this I was totally fried the whole day!
The farmers walk is also a very shoulder friendly exercise, so it is great for Water Polo players, swimmers and other over head throwing athletes like Baseball or Handball.
You can also do this by holding the weight in different positions.
For example: overhead; carry only one weight; 1 overhead + 1 suitcase style; front squat/rack position; Zercher/bear hug the load; and so on.
It gets better! Here is some research.
McGill, SM, McDermott, A, and Fenwick, CMJ. Comparison of different strongman events: trunk muscle activation and lumbar spine motion, load, and stiffness. J Strength Cond Res 23(4): 1148–1161, 2009
Strongman events are attracting more interest as training exercises because of their unique demands. Further, strongman competitors sustain specific injuries, particularly to the back. Muscle electromyographic data from various torso and hip muscles, together with kinematic measures, were input to an anatomically detailed model of the torso to estimate back load, low-back stiffness, and hip torque. Events included the farmer’s walk, super yoke, Atlas stone lift, suitcase carry, keg walk, tire flip, and log lift. The results document the unique demands of these whole-body events and, in particular, the demands on the back and torso. For example, the very large moments required at the hip for abduction when performing a yoke walk exceed the strength capability of the hip. Here, muscles such as quadratus lumborum made up for the strength deficit by generating frontal plane torque to support the torso/ pelvis. In this way, the stiffened torso acts as a source of strength to allow joints with insufficient strength to be buttressed, resulting in successful performance. Timing of muscle activation patterns in events such as the Atlas stone lift demonstrated the need to integrate the hip extensors before the back extensors. Even so, because of the awkward shape of the stone, the protective neutral spine posture was impossible to achieve, resulting in substantial loading on the back that is placed in a weakened posture. Unexpectedly, the super yoke carry resulted in the highest loads on the spine. This was attributed to the weight of the yoke coupled with the massive torso muscle co-contraction, which produced torso stiffness to ensure spine stability together with buttressing the abduction strength insufficiency of the hips. Strongman events clearly challenge the strength of the body linkage, together with the stabilizing system, in a different way than traditional approaches. The carrying events challenged different abilities than the lifting events, suggesting that loaded carrying would enhance traditional lifting-based strength programs. This analysis also documented the technique components of successful, joint sparing, strongman event strategies.
Basically, the research shows that with the Farmer's Walk, as well as other traditional strongman events, the trunk musculature is highly challenged. It also demonstrates that a stiffer trunk can enhance the strength output of the hips. I think this would also be the case for the shoulder joint complex and all the way down the upper and lower appendages.
I also look at this as more reason to do full body lifting exercises. For example, with the Farmer's Walk, the load is in the hands but the legs are the prime movers, everything in between the hands and the feet are being worked. If they weren't, your would not be able to maintain an upright posture.
I also learned a new term from reading this research article.
Do you know the meaning of "buttressed"?
I didn't till I looked it up, this research article was actually the first time I have seen this word. I found out it is usually used in the context of buildings and other similar structures.
n.1. A structure, usually brick or stone, built against a wall for support or reinforcement.2. Something resembling a buttress, as:a. The flared base of certain tree trunks.b. A horny growth on the heel of a horse's hoof.
1. To support or reinforce with a buttress.2. To sustain, prop, or bolster: "The author buttresses her analysis with lengthy dissections of several of Moore's poems" (Warren Woessner).
Enjoy and Be Well,
Michael Reid, B.HE. CSCS, RKC