The farmer’s walk isn’t a simple walk in the field; it’s a demanding full-body exercise. It will challenge your endurance and push your body to new limits. Strength, coordination, and stability are crucial components - these are the same building blocks of any top-tier mountain athlete, which is why you need to be doing them.
By adding farmer’s walks into your workout routine, backcountry athletes gain five major benefits:
Better posture for carrying gear and meat.
Dynamic core strength and stability.
Total body strength and conditioning, including grip strength.
Building both mental and physical toughness.
The concept is simple: you hold a weight in each hand and walk. It’s that easy. Heavier weights and longer distances will give more bang for your buck. There are also countless variations to keep your fitness improving and interesting. And as always, proper form is a non-negotiable.
Athletes of all kinds love the farmer’s walk for its strength and cardiovascular benefits. And if you’re a mountain athlete who doesn’t do them, your mind is about to be changed.
In this article, we'll cover everything you need to know including the benefits, how to master proper form, common mistakes to avoid, and a video guide to bring it all together.
Top 5 Benefits of Farmer’s Walks
At MTNTOUGH, our compass points towards functional fitness and scaling your own peaks. Our mission? Craft evidence-based exercises and routines that sharpen your performance in the backcountry.
Whether you call it the farmer's walk or the farmer's carry, this exercise has all the trappings of a MTNTOUGH movement. It's function and difficulty directly translate to heightened performance for western hunting.
Let's dissect each of the five benefits so you can see for yourself why this functional exercise is deserving of the MTNTOUGH stamp of approval:
Benefit 1: Improved Posture
Every seasoned hunter knows the difference between packing out meat and going home empty-handed hinges on the smallest details. Your posture is one of those details.
If you're headed into the wilderness, posture isn't just about standing tall; it's at the core of performance and safety. A hunter with good posture can tread silently, aim accurately, and endure longer hikes without fatigue.
The farmer’s walk is a powerful tool for strengthening the muscles and reinforcing the alignment of the spine, guaranteeing you remain upright and balanced. An engaged core, neutral back, and pulled-back shoulders all help to achieve this.
Adding weight to the exercise adds an extra challenge and improves your stability. Now you have a functional, posture-focused movement.
And that's exactly what you need when handling heavy gear, stalking big game, and covering obstacles with every step.
Here are some posture cues to remember your posture during the farmer’s carry:
Keep a neutral spine - straight and aligned.
Engage your core and glutes for stability.
Keep your chin up, aligning your head with your spine.
The farmer's carry also promotes correct shoulder positioning, critical for movements like drawing a bow or shouldering a rifle.
To lift and carry the weights effectively, your upper body needs to - quite literally - do the heavy lifting.
Here's how you can maximize this benefit:
Pull your shoulder muscles down and back.
Push your chest forward and open up your entire chest area.
Hold the weights slightly away from your body, preventing your arms from touching your sides.
With practice and prioritizing the farmer's walk exercise, you'll notice each hike becoming more efficient and less strenuous.
Benefit 2: Dynamic Core Strength and Stability
The farmer’s carry will completely transform your core. This isn’t about glamorous beach abs either; it’s about building a stable, strong, and functional torso to power you through the canyons.
Think about carrying an elk quarter back to your transport - it's a descent where remarkable weight encounters deadfall, steep drop-offs, and unstable footing.
That's where a rock-solid core comes into play. Neglect these foundational muscles and you'll feel the pinch in performance.
The magic of the farmer's carry is its ability to challenge your balance from all angles. That is, laterally and rotationally.
With weights pulling you side-to-side and forward and backward, every step tests your stability.
If you want to move efficiently and stay upright, your body will need to engage your core muscles, such as the obliques, rectus abdominis, and transverse abdominis.
And the key? That crucial mind-to-muscle connection. Lock it in, and watch your core strength and stability take off.
Benefit 3: Injury Resilience
The only guarantee in the backcountry is that it's filled with unpredictability. From rough terrains and harsh weather, to the twists that come with pushing your limits, time spent in the backcountry is a journey into the unknown.
These conditions are prime for injury. But often, it's overtraining or a lapse in form that leaves an opening for injuries.
This simply underscores the importance of practicing functional exercises that will develop strength and shield against injuries.
The farmer’s walk isn't just about lifting weights; it's about safeguarding your spine and upper body. Since you have to maintain proper alignment of your neck, shoulders, and lower back muscles, this means they’re less likely to become strained.
Since this is a full-throttle, full-body workout, the farmer's walk rallies the core, legs, and upper body. This keeps every muscle primed and ready.
As it relates to injuries, strong muscles mean fluid joints, reducing the risk of overuse injuries.
This is especially helpful for hikers, runners, and athletes who rely on throwing.
Benefit 4: Total Body Strength and Conditioning
There's no path in the wilderness. You carve your way through and try to find the best way to navigate the obstacles between you and your target.
The only way to physically prepare for this is to increase your strength and conditioning before the hunt. The bigger the tank, the longer it takes to empty, so to speak. The farmer's carry can help you with this.
If you're blazing trails with a heavy pack, you need the body's major muscle groups firing in unison.
Reaching the finish line without exhaustion doesn't come from isolated strength; it comes from how your body targets multiple muscle groups and unites them in every moment.
The farmer's carry activates your entire body, including grip strength. Beyond indicating the power of your hands and forearm muscles, grip strength is a measurement of overall health, from bone integrity to heart health.
In the backcountry, having a vice-like grip can mean the difference between maneuvering through rough terrain and faltering. Whether you're trying to pull yourself up or steady yourself on the descent, your grip one of the most important tools you own.
Benefit 5: Mental and Physical Toughness.
The wilderness doesn't just challenge the body; it tests the spirit. More than a workout, the farmer’s carry is a crucible that forges physical might and unbeatable will.
When you're MTNTOUGH you live by a simple creed: you reap what you sow. The sweat, the grind, the sheer determination – it all translates when you're out there, facing nature's raw power.
The farmer’s carry might be brutal, but conquering it, pushing past your limits, that's where MTNTOUGHers are made. It's the kind of resilience that carries mountain athletes through the most grueling setbacks.
Even the British Army recognizes the value of the farmer's walk, incorporating a variation, the "Jerry Can Carry," into their Physical Employment Standards. A testament to its real-world and global functionality.
But here's the thing: you don't need to wear a uniform or till the land to harness its power. Whether you're an elite athlete or someone shaking off a decade of gym neglect, the farmer’s carry is a game-changer, waiting for you to take the challenge.
Can Beginners Do Farmer’s Carry?
Yes, beginners can add the farmer’s carry into their workouts. It’s a great option for athletes of all fitness levels, including the inexperienced. Start with a light weight in each hand and walk for 20-30 feet. If you don’t have dumbbells or kettlebells, objects like water jugs work well.
It’s extremely important to focus on proper form when you learn this exercise. Here is a video to teach you the correct technique of the farmer’s carry.
How to Perform Farmer’s Walks & Carries
Understanding the farmer’s walk is one thing; executing it with precision is another.
Every movement, every step, should be deliberate. Rushing or being careless not only diminishes the benefits but also increases the risk of injury.
Step 1: Position two weights ahead of you, standing with your feet hip-width apart.
Step 2: Hinge at your hips, bend at the knees, and lower yourself into a squat.
Step 3: With a straight back and elevated chest, grasp the weight handles.
Step 4: Engage your core and glutes, rise, and lift the weights with you.
Step 5: Eyes forward, carry the weights beside you. Keep a slight elbow bend.
Step 6: Walk forward and keep an upright posture.
Step 7: To end the walk, safely lower the weights with a controlled squat.
To get started, you could try 20-30 feet in distance or choose a 30-45 second duration. Make sure you have a clear, and obstacle-free path for the exercise.
It's tempting to see how many sets or how the max weight you can do, but if you want real results come hunting season, prioritize form. That's where the full-body benefits happen.
Mastering Form of the Farmer’s Carry
Like any exercise, form is key.
Avoid the pitfall of starting with excessive weight. Begin with lighter weights, perfect the technique, then progressively challenge yourself.
The following cues will keep your form in check the entire walk:
Shoulders relaxed and retracted.
Direct your gaze forward, not downward.
Engage your core consistently.
Maintain spine neutrality.
Adopt a comfortable walking pace.
5 Common Mistakes with the Farmer's Walk
Take a minute to familiarize yourself with five of the most common missteps newcomers face in the farmer's carry.
Posture Missteps: Refrain from shoulder hunching or excessive lower back arching.
Imbalance: Engage your core to maintain equilibrium between your left and right sides.
Weight Selection: An overly light weight minimizes benefits, while excessive weight jeopardizes form. Aim for a weight that challenges but doesn't compromise form.
Rushing: Prioritize controlled movement over speed.
Warm-Up: Engage in dynamic stretches before you start - you should always do this.
Choosing The Right Equipment
The farmer’s carry is as adaptable as they come. Wherever you are and whatever gear you have, you can customize the exercise to your needs or preferences.
Option 1: Dumbbells
Dumbbells are a staple in many training regimens, and for good reason. Their symmetrical design ensures even weight distribution, making them an ideal choice for those new to the farmer’s carry.
Their varied weight options cater to both rookies and seasoned mountain athletes.
Option 2: Kettlebells
For those seeking a challenge, kettlebells are your go-to. Their unique design, with the weight skewed towards the bottom, demands more from your core and balance.
Whatever you're training for, kettlebells will help push your limits.
Option 3: Trap Bar
The hex bar, or trap bar, offers a different dynamic. Its design keeps the weight closer to your center, promoting better posture.
Beyond the farmer’s carry, it's also an excellent tool for refining your deadlift technique.
If traditional gym equipment isn't available, get creative. Water jugs, sandbags, or any evenly weighted objects can serve the purpose. The key is balance.
How Much Weight Should You Use for a Farmer's Carry?
You should use between 20% to 50% of your body weight in each hand. Beginners should start toward at the low end of the range. If you can comfortably hold this and carry it for a short distance (think 20-30 feet), start gradually increasing your weights by 5-10 pounds.
As your muscle endurance and strength grows, use the progress as a cue to incrementally increase the weight. But remember, progress is about pushing boundaries without compromising safety.
Be smart. Listen to your body.
Farmer's Carry: The Backbone of Backcountry Fitness
Whether you're gearing up for the elk rut or training for your first trail ultra, this functional full-body exercise will inch you closer and closer to your goals.
The farmer’s carry yields incredible physical benefits while also taking your mental toughness to the next level. This dual strength is what separates the successful hunters from the herd.
So gear up, practice your form, and let MTNTOUGH guide your journey to unparalleled performance this season. Go the extra mile with unlimited access to MTNTOUGH’s training programs.
You can now try MTNTOUGH for 14-days at no cost, and no obligation. Go ahead, see for yourself what it takes to become MTNTOUGH.