In my last post, I talked about 11 ways loaded carries can improve your core strength, athleticism, grip, metabolism etc for anybody of any age. If you haven’t checked that post out yet, do it before you continue reading this one to understand the importance of implementing them into your workout routine.
In this post, we’re going to focus on learning several variations of loaded carries, and what they improve.
Building Strength & Resilience With Carries
When it comes to doing carries it’s important to start with the basics and gradually build up to advance loaded variations that hit different planes of motion for the muscles, ligaments, tendons, joints and the core.
Whether it’s for sports, lifting more weight, or improving your performance in everyday life activities.
So I’m going to start off with basic to advanced. This is going to be part 1 of the loaded carry exercises.
Loaded Carry Variation Phase 1
In the first exercise phase of loaded carries, we’re going to go over some variations, that are unilateral in challenging the one side of the body but intensely challenging your core, grip and other stabilizer muscles.
Single Leg, One Arm Holds
If I was just starting out in the world of doing loaded carries, and was training a client who’s never done carries, or had a client with weak ankles and bad balance. This would be the exercise to start out with.
Not only do these challenge your grip and core but they also really challenge your balance which is very important as you do more technical loaded carries.
However, with these don’t go too heavy in the beginning to perfect your form. But as you get steadily stronger, steadily increase the weight.
Nonetheless, keep your form good as you get stronger and don’t let your ego get in the way.
How to do them: Stand on one leg, with a dumbbell on each side of the body. Keep the dumbbell waist high. Also, use a mirror to make sure your form is good and to get accustomed to how it feels. This will teach you how to maintain a strong neutral posture and make sure you’re leaning neither or away from the dumbbell.
Make sure it’s not touching you, if it is, it’s cheating
One Leg, One Arm Waiter Holds
These are a little more challenging since you have a weight pressed up by your shoulders and you have to stabilize yourself on one leg too. The same principles apply as mentioned on doing one leg, one arm carries.
You can’t cheat on these either and be careful about not KO’ing yourself or getting a head concussion.
Marching One Arm Waiter Holds
Same principle as a single leg, one arm waiter carries. The only variation now is…marching which makes your muscles work extra more to stabilize your core and keep a neutral spine.
One Arm Bottom Up Kettlebell Hold
Bottom-up kettlebell carries, can be quite taxing. You wouldn’t think holding a kettlebell upside would challenge you but it does.
You’re going to grab a kettlebell at least 10lbs – 30lbs and you’re going use your legs to drive the bell to your shoulder and then you’re going to press your arm into an “L” or half raise.
This exercise is going to challenge your core, balance, biceps and shoulder strength like no other.
Loaded Carry Variation Phase 2
Now we’re moving on to bilateral loaded carries, to where we’re hitting both sides of the body for overall body strength and maximum stability.
Farmer walks are the classic bread and butter exercise of building phenomenal grip, core, and overall body strength. Most of you haven’t thought of this, but you’ve been doing these for a long time.
Think of groceries, when you carrying grocery bags on both sides of your body, or with one arm you’re performing a loaded carry.
Anyway, when it comes to doing these, it’s quite simple.
Grab two pairs of heavy dumbbells that challenge you, keep them by your side but not touching your body. Remember that’s cheating, we still want to activate all the muscles to carry the load.
Next thing you’re going to do is bring your shoulders back(retract them back). This is going to bring your chest up, and the last thing you’re going to do is propel yourself forward with normal steps. However, emphasize on squeezing your glutes as you walk to give you more power and stability.
Now, pick a goal distance to walk and then go back to your original position.
Waiter Carries are somewhat similar to doing farmer walks, but you’re carrying the weight overhead.
When it comes to doing these, start off with a lightweight first to get a feel for it. Now, bend your knees to pop the weight up into a rack position, then bend your knees and drive with your legs again to drive the weight up into a waiter carries.
Now, just like farmer walks pick a goal distance to walk and then back to your original position.
Forearm Carries is another variation, I’ve never seen anybody do but I do them and I also have my clients perform them. They’re brutally effective for not only improving your core, back, and grip but also the biceps.
So, when it comes to doing these, grab a light to a moderate plate and put it on your forearms. Grab a step up platform/stand to put the weight on for you can put on your forearms especially if you’re wanting to add more weight onto the main big plate if you have nobody to do it for you.
Again, pick a goal distance to walk and then go back to your original position.
Bear Hug Carries
This loaded carry variation can be a beast since your bear hugging an object as hard as you can against your chest(making it harder to breathe).
When it comes to doing these, you can use a sandbag, 5-gallon water jug, or plates. In the demo above, I’m using a 43lb water for example. So, when doing bear hug carries, make sure you squeeze the weight against your chest with your palms laying flat.
Your not interlocking your fingers, or holding your wrist because it takes work away from your shoulders and chest. If you do anything of the things I mentioned, you’re only hurting your gains.
Kettlebell Finger Farmer Walks
I’m a big fan of maximizing grip strength in many ways, not only do the muscles, tendons and ligaments and forearms play a big role in grip strength but so does the hand.
You’re going to grab two plates and you’re going to grip them on the sides with your fingers. So, your hand will be forming a “U” shaped mouth squeezing the weighted plates as hard as possible.
If it’s cast iron plates with a rim, you can hook your fingers underneath the rim and squeeze as hard as possible.
These are brutal, but they will maximize your grip to a new level.
Stagger Farmer Walks
Staggers are just like performing an old regular farmer walk, however, instead of having two balanced dumbbells or kettlebells, you’re carrying a dumbbell that’s heavier than the other and one lighter. For example, 50lbs in one hand and 35lbs in the other.
This will challenge your core uniquely again since your off balance on both sides of your body compared to carrying equally balanced weights.
I truly believe loaded carries are one of the most productive exercises for anybody of any age to do that doesn’t have a disability that prevents them from doing it.
There amazing for developing functional movement patterns, developing nearly every muscle on the human body and a great protocol to incorporate into your workouts or training
They will hit your weak links in your physique such as your core, stability, grip, shoulders, posture, conditioning, muscular tension and reverse or slow down physical qualities that have waned in most people in the most sedentary century of mankind.
That will translate to enhancing your day to day performance in any activity whether it’s sport, manual labor work, carrying groceries, carrying somebody etc.
So give these a shot and tell me how it goes. You won’t regret doing these simple, but humbling exercises that will make you a stronger version of your former self.
Stay tuned for my next post on how to implement them into your workout routines and another loaded carry variation post.
Until next time
– Larentay Walker
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