In praise of Farmer Walks

Never underestimate the value of Farmer Walks. Only in the last few years have they been appreciated for their relative safety and effectiveness in developing hip and core strength, leg, forearm, and shoulder stamina, and pure grit. Yes your back can handle it!  See below, but in most cases a properly controlled farmer walk is less risky than running or jumping. In farmer terms, carry buckets of water and feed is definitely less risky to the spine than prolonged sitting while tractor plowing. Chalk that up as another hit to industrialized farming.

Get off your butt and work the core!

In case you haven't heard, Farmer Walks can broadly be defined as the act of carrying something heavy until your legs throb and your forearms are about to explode. The legs are the prime movers while a fairly large load is held through the upper extremities, effectively working all the "core" stabilizers in between. For reference, a decent Farmer Walk is carrying your body weight for 3 or 4 "reps" of approximately 100 feet.

...If there were only a way to work all these muscles without

 placing shear and torsional forces on the spine.

Paleolithic cave painting depicting Farmers Walks
Who invented Farmer Walks? God. Or earth nature. Or maybe God through earth nature. One way or another we were made to be capable of dealing with gravity by lifting and carrying things. Really - it is well known that the spinal facet joints and discs deal very well with compressive load, and it's the shear and torsional forces that primarily cause degenerative changes.

Surely humans have been Farmer Walking since well before there was such a thing as farmers. In fact, Farmer Walks are THE origin of the concept of progressive overload. The story goes that Milo of Croto trained by carrying a calf daily from its birth until it became a full-sized ox. At around 600 BC, he won 6 Olympic victories, dominated multiple wrestling meets and other events, and led the Crotoniate army to victory over Greeks from Sybaris.

How's THAT for some positive outcomes?? 

Does that story make you want to pick up non conventional objects and carry them around? [What, is it only me?] It also makes me a bit bitter how Arthur Jones convinced everyone that his sit-on, muscle isolation Nautilus machines are superior to free weights. I get the concept and cool physics principles involved. But I think Arthur would be rolling over in his grave if he saw all the soccer dads and moms and businessmen and women who sit on these things but absolutely cannot control quality functional movement with their own body weight. Nah, never mind. He'd be happy to cash in.

Variable resistance cam + isolation of muscles = huge and strong = NOT
Practically speaking
Do you know what happens when we structure such simple, old school methods with periods of work and recovery? We feel and look good, and become physically fit to handle what life has in store.
The Pope loves Farmers Walks
I would suggest with carrying 25% of body weight in each hand for 50 feet. Take deliberate strides but do not lunge and do not take little pp steps.

Nothing beats Farmer Walks as a workout "finisher." Just imagine what it would be like to skip the 10 minutes of ab machine, the various crunches and leg raises, and the 20 minutes of elliptical? Conditioning, strengthening, and cardio can all be had with less than half of that time invested in Farmers Walks. You (literally) won't be up for many activities that involve being upright after a series of intense Farmer Walks.


If you have sensitive feet (history of plantar fascitis etc) and load up with Farmer Walks on cement, you may have some issues, especially if your shoes are subpar. So do these in good supportive shoes and build up slowly.

Farmer Walks do not lend themselves well to commercial gyms, or anywhere there tends to be a high density of protruding metal and oblivous-to-their-surroundings-people wearing ear buds and staring at themselves in the mirror.

A friend and I once tried Farmer Walking in a Golds Gym, just for fun. There were odd stares, inadvertent near hits to the privates, and multiple awkward stop/starts near the water fountain. Should I ever again find myself in a commercial gym, I promise to lay on the floor or sit down on a machine and exercise in one place like a good little gym rat.

But I dare you to try a quiet, well controlled Farmer Stroll in a Planet Fitness. Let me know how it goes for a free, uh, T-shirt. Or something. Seriously, I will give you an original Bonny Lane Club shirt from my anti gym.

1 comment:

  1. Heheheheh. I actually literally just came back from a Planet Fitness where I *did* do Farmer Walks (and Zercher variations)

    To be fair, I asked for permission first but yeah, it totally worked and my arms are still trembling as I type this :D