Loaded carries are one of the best exercises around. Here are just some of the benefits of regular loaded carries:
Improved grip strength
Increased perceived ease of carrying shopping bags
Solidify good posture
Improved waiter/waitress skills
Increased muscle mass
Improved cardiovascular endurance
For one easy-to-do exercise that’s a pretty decent list of benefits. There are many different types of loaded carries and many different ways to do them. Here are, in my opinion, the best ones:
A heavy dumbbell in each hand and walk.
Unbalanced Farmer Walks
Same as the farmer walk above but with a heavy dumbbell in one hand and an even heavier dumbbell in the other.
A heavy dumbbell in one hand, nothing in the other hand.
Lift one dumbbell over your head (use a 1 arm dumbbell press) and then walk.
2 Arm Waiter/Waitress Walks
Same as above but lift two dumbbells over your head and walk. Use a dumbbell squat to press to get them up.
One Up, One Down (Waiter with a Suitcase)
Lift one, lighter, dumbbell over your head (waiter walk) and hold one, heavier, dumbbell by your side (suitcase carry) and walk.
Technique and Posture Use whatever heavy object you have access to: dumbbells, kettlebells, weight plates, trap bar, farmer walk bars. Use dumbbells or kettlebells for overhead variations — be sensible with what you try and lift over your head.
The aim is to have as strong and tall a posture as possible. As you walk, the dumbbells will be pushing and pulling you all over the place; the aim is keep everything as neutral as possible by bracing at the core (squeezing glutes and abs) and ensuring your shoulders are set back and down.
Don’t allow your shoulders to roll forward or your chest to puff excessively and resist any side to side motion that carrying a heavy dumbbell will cause.
Basically, aim to keep your chin, sternum (middle of your chest) and belly button in a straight line.
Weight, Time and Distance
Start conservatively with the weights and increase as you become familiar with the exercise and posture.
If you are more interested in strength improvements, use heavier weight for shorter periods of time. If you’re more interested in the calorie burn, use lighter dumbbells for several minutes. If you want to burn fat and build muscle, go somewhere in between.
Generally people either walk for a short distance/time with heavier weights or a longer distance/time with lighter weights; renowned strength and conditioning coach Dan John recommends using heavy weights for long distances... This is an excellent recommendation.
Where to do Loaded Carries?
Anywhere. You only need a short distance to walk in as you can simply turn around every 5 or 6m, this will actually add to the difficulty of the exercise.
‘Box’ style gyms are usually set up perfectly for loaded carries and some will even have a straight line of astroturf to use. If you’re in a commercial gym, do a couple laps of the treadmills.
One client has been doing suitcase carries for the last two months and is now able to carry one of the gigantic bags for life at Tesco without difficulty. Every little helps ;)
Loaded carries are tough and effective. They’re easy to do and you don’t necessarily need lots of space. Carrying heavy things will improve your posture, make you stronger all over, burn fat, improve your endurance and improve your usefulness as a waiter/waitress.
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