Have you ever met a farmer? Did you shake his hand? If so, did you notice a few things like massive forearms that would make Popeye jealous? Or a death grip that could bend a crowbar?
If so, it should come as no surprise that the world’s best grip and forearm exercise is called the Farmer’s Walk. Simply grabbing a heavy object in each hand and walking for distance is one of the best ways to build insane grip strength and forearm size, along with a rock solid core and a pair of traps that’ll touch your ears.
Farmer’s Walks belong to a family of exercises called loaded carries, which involve holding a weighted object and walking with it. Any time you carry an object, whether it’s one side at a time or both sides together, with one hand or two hands, by your sides or overhead, your body tries to compensate by shifting its center of gravity. It takes tremendous core strength and coordination to resist this compensation, which is why loaded carries build full-body strength unlike any other exercise.
If you don’t have any farm animals or bales of hay handy, try one of these seven variations to crush your grip, forearms, core and upper back.
1. Farmer’s Walk Handles
If you’ve ever watched the World’s Strongest Man competitions on TV, you’ve seen humungous men racing while carrying torpedo-shaped weights. These handles are specially designed for loaded carries, and several companies sell models that can be loaded with regular weight plates.
They’re especially useful, because you can load them as light or as heavy as you want. Plus, you have to stabilize the long handles to keep them from tipping forward or backward.
Technique Tip: Grab the handles slightly forward of the middle of the grip. This lets you walk with a slight forward lean, which increases speed and prevents the rear weight plates from hitting your heels.
If you don’t have Farmer’s Walk handles, dumbbells work just as well. They have shorter handles and are easier to stabilize, making them a better choice for beginners or if you want to concentrate on grip strength.
Technique Tip: For safety’s sake, grab the dumbbells out of the rack or off of a bench instead of picking them up off the floor. It’s too easy to let your back round when grabbing a pair of dumbbells off the floor at the same time. If you must pick them up off the ground, grab one dumbbell at a time to spare your lower back.
3. Bottoms-Up Kettlebell Carries
Who knew loaded carries were good for your rotator cuff too? Just flip a kettlebell upside down (or in this case, bottoms up) and you’ll have a deceptively challenging shoulder stability exercise. Keep your wrists in a straight line (don’t flex them forward or extend them back) so the kettlebells don’t wobble. Keep your elbow parallel to the ground or slightly below to keep the tension on your rotator cuff and not your shoulders or lats.
Technique Tip: Squeeze the kettlebell as if you were trying to melt the handle, but be careful not to flex your biceps. Imagine holding the weight with your shoulder blade.
4. Trap Bar
If you want to move some seriously heavy weight, go for a stroll with the trap bar. You’ll get more stability by standing inside the plates, so you can load up the weight for a grueling grip workout. Simply deadlift the weight to a standing position, stay tall and take short steps so your knees don’t hit the front of the bar.
Technique Tip: You can’t lean forward as much with the trap bar, so keep your abs extra tight to prevent your lower back from hyperextending.