Build Total-Body Strength with These Loaded Carry Variations

STACK Expert John Papp explains the benefits of carrying heavy things and prescribes 8 loaded Carry exercises that will have you doing exactly that.

When you think of ways to train your core, what exercises come to mind? Hip flexion-based exercises like the Hanging Knee Raise, Sit-Up variations, or something similar?

Maybe you think of a static hold like a Plank, L-Sit or Palloff Press?


When you think of ways to train your core, what exercises come to mind? Hip flexion-based exercises like the Hanging Knee Raise, Sit-Up variations, or something similar?

Maybe you think of a static hold like a Plank, L-Sit or Palloff Press?

But what about Carries? Loaded Carries are often overlooked in core training, but they offer a huge bang for your buck. They challenge your entire body, target specific areas and engage your core musculature. For example, you can target your shoulders by performing an Overhead Carry variation while simultaneously training your core.

If you're going for more of a lower-body training effect, try supersetting heavy Farmer's Walks with Sled Sprints. I can guarantee your whole body will be screaming.

Loaded Carries offer a great boost to every athlete, regardless of sport. In fact, I would go so far as to say they can offer a great boost to every person. Period.

Plus, who doesn't love to carry heavy stuff—very heavy stuff?

First, some basic rules for Loaded Carries, so I don't repeat myself for every exercise.

  • Keep an upright posture. Avoid slouching and rounding the shoulders forward. Keep your chest up, shoulders pulled back and chin tightly tucked.
  • Don't sprint. The key to Carries is time under tension. Unless you are a competitive strongman, you will get more from walking at a slow controlled pace than by sprinting as quickly as possible with the weight.
Kettlebell Carry

1. Farmer's Walk

  • Grab kettlebells, dumbbells, or farmers walk handles in each hand.
  • Walk.
  • Load up extra heavy to challenge your grip, posterior chain and core.

2. Suitcase Carry

  • Grab a weight in only one hand.
  • Walk forward, trying your best to avoid leaning to the side with the weight.
  • This will challenge the opposite side big time!

3. Waiter Carry

  • Grab two weights, one heavy and one light.
  • Press the lighter weight overhead, lock out the elbow and keep the arm in line with your neck. Your shoulder should be locked in place.
  • Pick up the heavier weight in the opposite hand and hold it by your side, just like the Suitcase Carry.
  • Walk forward with the weight overhead and the heavier weight at your side.
  • This is a great way to train stability in your shoulder joint while your core musculature works in unison to stabilize your torso.

4. Two-Kettlebell Front Rack Carry

  • You need two kettlebells.
  • Clean the bells up to where they rest on the back of your forearms.
  • Lift your elbows up and place your knuckles together under your chin.
  • Your arms should form a "table" for the kettlebells to sit on, with the biggest part of the bells resting in the triangle made by the upper arm, chest and forearm.
  • Keeping your elbows up the entire time, walk forward.
  • In my opinion this is one of the most challenging loaded carry variations; no other one hits the anterior (front) of the torso better than this.

5. One-Kettlebell Front Rack Carry

  • Same as the Two-Kettlebell Front Rack Carry, but you only need one bell.
  • Make sure to stay upright and avoid leaning toward the loaded side.

6. One-Arm Overhead Carry

  • Clean one kettlebell up to a front rack position (same as above).
  • Press the bell overhead.
  • Make sure to lock your arm out completely and focus on locking your shoulder joint in place.
  • Walk with the load overhead.
  • Be careful not to overload yourself on this variation.

7. Two-Arm Overhead Carry

  • Clean two kettlebells up to front rack position, press them both overhead and lock your shoulders down.
  • Walk forward, again being careful not to overload yourself.
  • This variation require lots of shoulder mobility and stability, so be careful and work your way up slowly, especially if you have shoulder issues or deficiencies.

8. Med Ball Cradle Carry

  • Grab a heavy med ball and squat down so it's between your feet.
  • Clean the ball to chest level. Pull the ball up, drop underneath it, and stand up. Cradle the ball in your arms.
  • Walk while cradling the ball against your chest.
  • This works best with a heavy med ball, 50, 75, even a 100-pounder—if you are strong enough.

Check out the video above to see visual demonstrations of all Carries.

Get to the gym and try these! Chase it!


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