Exercise You Should Know: Farmer Carry

When should you use it?

The better question should be, when shouldn’t you use it? Farmer carries and its many variations can arguably be useful for just about anyone and is good for just about any goal. Well-known strength coach, Dan John, considers loaded carries as the most important movement in his list of 5 basic human movements (carries, squat, hinge, push, and pull). I have athletes doing them. I have 80 year old grandmothers doing them (I also call farmer carries the grocery shopping exercise in this age group). They are good for people with shoulder injuries and they are also good for people with hip issues.

The farmer carry helps to build strength in the shoulders, back, core, forearms, grip, and legs. It teaches people what good posture looks and feels like and how to maintain it while moving. It can also be used as a conditioning tool to build work capacity and endurance when going for longer distances or for time.

Using Carries for Rehab

Farmer carries are a great way to work on building upper body strength if your clients are limited by a shoulder injury. The main functions of the rotator cuff muscles are to keep the head of the humerus (upper arm) connected to the scapula and to stabilize the entire shoulder joint. Adding heavy weight in your hand forces the rotator cuff to turn on to keep your arm in place. Once the rotator cuff gets stronger, you can slowly begin to reintroduce upper body exercises that may have previously caused pain.

Dr. Stuart Mcgill, a spine specialist, is an advocate of using the farmer carry as a way to train core stability to help with low back pain. Using a single-handed carry (also called a suitcase carry) is a great way to work on lateral core stability as well as hip stability.

How to coach it

Pick up heavy weights.

Stand tall with abs tight.

Walk as normally as you can at an even pace.


What to watch out for

Tall posture the whole way through, leading with the chest. No forward lean.

Relatively normal gait. There should be no shuffling or waddling from side to side.

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