If you’ve ever carried a heavy bag of groceries in each hand, you’ve already done the farmer’s walk exercise! Only get Instacart grocery deliveries? Don’t worry. This versatile exercise will grow on you.
Thanks to how useful it can be in real life, this move tops the functional movement workout list. It also comes with some serious health benefits.
The farmer’s walk got its name because it mimics how a farmer walks (if the farmer is carrying two heavy feed buckets, that is). But unless you have some hay on hand, you’ll prob carry weights instead.
There are variations to this exercise, but the most basic and accessible way to get started is by using dumbbells.
How to do a farmer’s walk with dumbbells
- Stand with feet hip-width apart and two dumbbells on the floor — one outside each foot.
- Squat down, keeping your back as straight as possible and eyes forward.
- Grab the dumbbells with your wrists facing each other and knuckles facing down.
- Rise back up to a standing position (with back straight and eyes forward) until you’re fully upright again.
- Holding the weights at your sides, walk forward. Try to take at least 10 steps.
- Squat back down like you did in step 2 to return the weights to the floor.
- Rest for a moment, then repeat.
Pro tip: When you’re standing upright with the weights at your sides, keep your head up and hold your shoulders back. As you walk, tighten your core.
Think this exercise is too basic to offer many benefits? Don’t sweat it. The farmer’s walk is a whole-body exercise that can help you improve your all-around fitness.
Builds muscle and promotes strength
Doing the farmer’s walk activates muscle groups all over your bod. That makes this exercise an excellent option for gaining muscle strength. Bonus: As you increase the weight of the load, you’ll build an increasing amount of muscle mass.
It’s no surprise that the farmer’s walk has long been a feature in traditional strength competitions. But, according to research from 2014, strength and conditioning coaches are now using exercises like the farmer’s walk in training programs for lots of athletes.
Why? Benefits like metabolic conditioning and muscle endurance are up for grabs with the farmer’s walk.
Promotes healthy cardiovascular activity and increases endurance
The farmer’s walk becomes more physically draining and intense when you add more weight to the exercise. Adding weight also ramps up the physical demands of the movement, so your breathing becomes heavier. (Working your body to the point where you’re out of breath means you’re doing cardiovascular exercise.)
Cardiovascular exercise enhances your body’s aerobic capacity. That can lead to better heart health and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. A 2019 review of high intensity interval training explains that it’s actually a prevention strategy health professionals use for peeps with heart issues.
Optimizes functional movements, proper posture, and grip strength
Walking while carrying the weight of any object (whether it’s groceries, furniture, or existential dread) will get easier once you’ve added the farmer’s walk to your workout routine.
Aside from the functional benefits, the farmer’s walk emphasizes proper posture and core work. It also builds grip strength because you have to hold on tight to whatever you’re carrying.
If you’re looking to activate nearly every muscle group in your body, you’re in the right place. The farmer’s walk works all these muscles:
While the farmer’s walk offers a ton of health benefits, variations can help you maximize your results. You’ll do most of the exercises listed here in the same way as a traditional farmer’s walk but with different types of weights.
1. Farmer’s walk with kettlebells
In the kettlebell carry variation, you’ll use — *drumroll* — kettlebells instead of dumbbells!
Using kettlebells promotes forearm strength. That’s because it takes more work to stabilize these weights. Substituting kettlebells for dumbbells also prepares you for more advanced variations like the farmer’s walk handles.
Bottoms-up kettlebell carries increase shoulder strength and stability.
To do a bottoms-up kettlebell carry, hold the kettlebells upside down and support them at about shoulder height.
2. Farmer’s walk handles
Farmer’s walk handles are the original equipment used in a farmer’s walk. (These are the ones you’d see in strength competitions.) You can usually find them in most gyms.
Farmer’s walk handles are larger than dumbbells and shaped like torpedoes. You can load or unload them to increase or decrease the weight you’re carrying.
Because of the shape and size of farmer’s walk handles, the exercise requires you to tighten and stabilize the muscle groups you’re using. The goal is to keep the handles as static as you can, so engage those core, back, arm, and leg muscles.
3. Trap bar walk
A trap bar is a special trapezoid-shaped barbell you can load (or not load) with weights. While it’s typically used to perform deadlifts, you can also use it to increase intensity and difficulty in a farmer’s walk.
Plus, if you’re looking for something to push your arm and leg muscles further, the trap bar’s got you, thanks to its unique shape.
4. Rickshaw carry
A rickshaw is a specialized piece of equipment used for a farmer’s walk. It’s a walk-in frame that keeps the weight close to your body.
A rickshaw may be slightly more stable than other types of equipment as you lift the weight but will be more unstable as you walk with it.
The farmer’s walk involves lifting weights from the floor and carrying them as you walk. Yes, it seems simple, but it stimulates all the major muscle groups and provides impressive health benefits.
It’s a full-body workout that increases strength and boosts heart health. If you’re up for a challenge, some variations can increase the difficulty and target specific muscles.