The only thing more awesome than picking up heavy stuff is picking up heavy stuff and carrying it around. And that makes Farmer's Walks just about the most awesome exercise you can do to build strength from head to toe.
Farmer's Walks are ridiculously simple. All you need is something to carry, whether it's a pair of dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells, or—if you're lucky—a pair of actual Farmer's Walk handles. These torpedo-like implements are a must-have for any serious strength athlete, and they can take your training to the next level.
This article will tell you what you need to know about using Farmer's Walk handles in your training program to gain strength, build muscle and enhance your athleticism.
Where to Get Farmer's Walk Handles
There are plenty of handle models on the market, and they can be purchased through various exercise equipment websites; but if you want the real deal, look for a pair of handles that are at least 6-feet long and come with specialty collars. Regular spring-loaded collars found in most gyms won't fit these bars, so unless you want your weight plates slipping and sliding, spend the extra cash to get proper collars.
It's also entirely possible to use a barbell, but the lack of an extended handle makes it harder to balance. Shorter bars, such as Olympic training bars, can work in a pinch.
How to Hold Farmer's Walk Handles
You hold the handles differently depending on what kind of workout you're doing. Ultimately, you can choose from two different grips.
Crush Grip: If building your grip strength is a priority, grab the handles firmly just like you would a regular barbell.
Scoop Grip: If you simply want to hold onto the handles longer and don't mind missing out on some grip strength gains, flex your wrist, cup your hand and take your thumb off the handle. This is useful if you're focused on conditioning and walking longer distances.
While carrying the handles, lean forward slightly to help you walk faster and prevent the weight plates from hitting your heels.
When doing one-arm variations, don't lean too far to the opposite side of the handle (like in the picture below). Instead, stay tall and lean back toward the middle so you're standing straight.
Also, use plenty of chalk so the handles don't slip out of your sweaty hands. If your gym doesn't allow chalk, find a new gym.
How Much Weight to Use
How heavy you perform yours Farmer's Walks will be determined by your goals. You'll choose different weights depending on whether you want to improve your grip strength, add size to your forearms or increase your conditioning.
- Grip Strength: Start with 50 percent of your Deadlift 1-rep max. For example, if you can Deadlift 400 pounds, start with 100 pounds per hand for 200 pounds total.
- Forearm Size: You need to hold onto the handles much longer to increase time under tension for the forearms, so start lighter. Go with a weight you could use for a high-rep set of Dumbbell Rows.
- Conditioning: If it's fat loss you're after, start much lighter so you can walk faster and cover longer distances. Use about half your body weight total and increase from there.
If you're just starting out, start with two-hand dumbbell variations and progress to one-hand variations as your stability improves. Once you've mastered the dumbbells, move to Farmer's Walk handles if you have them, or try bottoms-up kettlebell carries for an advanced challenge.
Here are a few sample workouts that incorporate Farmer's Walks to target specific muscles and goals. Give them a try:
Focus: Lower-Body Strength
- A1. Deadlift – 5 sets of 3 reps
- B1. Squat – 4 sets of 6 reps
- C1. Kettlebell Swings – 4 sets of 10 reps
- C2. Ab Rollouts – 4 sets of 10 reps
- D1. Farmer's Walk – 8 sets of 20 yards
Focus: Upper-Body Strength
- A1. Bench Press – 5 sets of 5 reps
- A2. Pull-Ups – 5 sets of 8-10 reps
- B1. Overhead Press – 4 sets of 6 reps
- B2. Bent-Over Rows – 4 sets of 8 reps
- C1. One-Arm Bottoms-Up Kettlebell Carry – 3 sets of 40 yards per side
- C2. Half-Kneeling Cable Chop – 3 sets of 10 reps per side
- A1. Farmer's Walk – 40 yards
- A2. Push-Ups – 10 reps
- A3. One-Arm Farmer's Walk (left side) – 40 yards
- A4. Bodyweight Squats – 10 reps
- A5. One-Arm Farmer's Walk (right side) – 40 yards
- A6. Bodyweight Lunges – 10 per side
- A7. Farmer's Walk – 40 yards
Perform as fast as possible with no rest between exercises. Perform 4-5 rounds, resting 1-2 minutes between rounds.
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock