Aug 24, 2017Walking Strong
As a seemingly simple movement, the Farmer’s Walk might look like a waste of time to some coaches. In reality, this exercise is perfect for accomplishing a large amount of work in a single task, as it simultaneously enhances athletes’ strength and endurance.
In an article for Stack.com, Josh Williams, CSCS, NSCA-CPT, points out that one of the most obvious benefits of this exercise is an increase in grip strength, which translates to better performance on the field and on other lifts. Athletes rely heavily on their grip throughout the movement to keep the weights stable. This also strengthens shoulder stability.
“Gripping the dumbbells tightly and keeping your shoulders centered (meaning not allowing them to get pulled forward, down, back or up), strengthens the shoulder stabilizers (posterior deltoid, infraspinatus and trapezius),” writes Williams. “This can help prevent injuries both on the field and in the weight room.”
Beyond grip and shoulder strength, Williams explains that on each step, your foot, knee, and hips work to stabilize the combination of your body weight and the added weight. This increases strength and reduces risk of injury by continuously building lower-body stability. At the same time, athletes must concentrate on keeping proper posture.
“Think about it: You are carrying two heavy weights, and each one wants to pull you to a side or pull your shoulders to the ground,” writes Williams. “You have to resist side-to-side swaying and forward-and-back rocking on each and every step. It requires phenomenal core stability to resist those forces and maintain good posture throughout the movement.”
At the end of the exercise, athletes will most likely be out of breath. Because they are walking with weights, the body’s anaerobic energy system will also increase, strengthening the athletes’ endurance and conditioning.
As with any exercise, performing the Farmer’s Walk correctly is imperative to preventing injuries and gaining the best results. In another article for Stack.com, ACE-Certified personal trainer Steve Green lays out the proper steps to engaging in this movement:
- Stand between two sets of weights — dumbbells, kettlebells, or custom barbells.
- Place your hands in the middle of the weights to avoid tipping them.
- Brace your core and glutes and drive through the floor to lift the weights.
- Straighten your posture, get tall, and look straight ahead.
- Take small, quick steps for the allotted distance or time.
- Put the weights down in a controlled manner. For the safety of all involved, do not simply drop the weights on the ground.
When deciding how much weight to carry, it is always best to start light and move heavier as your strength increases. Williams suggests starting with a weight that is equal to a quarter of your bodyweight in each hand. When this becomes too easy, he recommends moving to half of your body weight, and then to full body weight after extensive training.
When implementing the Farmer’s Walk, you can have your athletes perform it for either time or distance. As Green explains, when going for time, the athlete simply performs the exercise for a certain period, like 30 seconds. However, using distance adds some more structure to the workout. Green suggests using lighter weights for longer distances and heavier weights for shorter distances.
While the Farmer’s Walk can be performed at any time during a workout, Green points out that due to the challenging nature of this exercise, performing them at the start of a workout could put the athletes at a disadvantage for the remainder of practice. He also recommends performing two or three sets per session in order to not overdo it.
To see the Farmer’s Walk in action, check out this video from Josh Williams Fitness.