Many training programs promise increases in strength, power and conditioning. Yet many lack the Loaded Carry, which is a foundational move in any full-body conditioning workout.
Dan John, strength coach and Highland Games competitor, calls loaded carries “game changers” for athleticism, contending they are even better than Squats for building well-rounded competitors. Learning to create “irradiated tension” is incredibly important for anyone who wants to increase pitching speed, sacking ability or power output during a punch. Irradiated tension is the ability to create muscular stiffness around joints in order to produce maximal force.
Loaded carries require minimal equipment and can be added to any program or training model.
You can superset the loaded carries below with a Squat or Push exercise to increase conditioning at the end of a workout. In addition to being great strength builders, they are metabolically demanding and burn a ton of fat.
WATCH: Why Every Athlete Should Perform Loaded Carries
Single-Arm Dumbbell Carry
Grab a heavy dumbbell and hold it at your side while you walk. The longer the distance, the less weight you use.
When you grab the dumbbell, squeeze the handle tight enough so it feels like you’re putting finger indentations in it. Pull your shoulder blades back and tighten your midsection. The goal is to walk the entire distance without looking like you’re being pulled off balance.
This can also be done with two dumbbells, but a Single-Arm Dumbbell Walk is preferable, because it trains the body to resist the urge to collapse at the midsection. It also builds extreme grip strength, which is important for every athlete.
Do three sets of 30- to 60-second carries on each side after a lower-body workout or conditioning day. Use the same weight you would use for a Heavy Dumbbell Row.
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Bottom-Up Kettlebell Carry
This is a humbling move, so start very light. Grab two kettlebells, and while creating tension through your entire body, bring them up to shoulder height, with the bottoms pointing at the ceiling.
Make sure your abdominals are tight by “pulling your ribs down.” Maintain a tight grip, since the bells can get wobbly as you get tired.
Start with two to three sets of 60 to 100 feet after an upper-body pushing or conditioning workout. Make sure your grip hasn’t been too taxed by Deadlifts or pulling exercises. After getting a feel for the exercise, add more sets and gradually increase the weight.
Overhead Barbell Carry
Like the title implies, load a barbell, get it over your head (the easiest technique is the Clean and Jerk) and start walking.
With this move, be careful to protect your low back. Do not arch it. Ensure that your ribs are pulled down in front and your upper back is engaged and squeezed together to support the weight.
Start light on this exercise. It’s easy to increase weight, but it can hurt your long-term progress to start with a bar that is too heavy to allow you to maintain perfect form.
Do two to three sets of 60 to 100 feet. Make the first set lighter than what you know you can handle and gradually increase weight. This is best done as a finisher after a leg, pulling, or conditioning day.
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