Farmers Walk Exercise – Everything You Need To Know

Farmers Walk Exercise – Everything You Need To Know

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When it comes to those who work on a farm, you probably have two completely different visuals of these individuals. The first is the oversized, gray haired man, driving an oversized John Deere.  Today we will explore the farmers walk exercise.

He’s basically one step away from becoming a trucker in his overalls. 

Then, on the other hand, there is the farm hand. He’s the guy who works in the fields, carrying heavy equipment hundreds of yards every single day. He’s broad shouldered with a strong core and built like a tank from the countless hours he spends outside.

So, needless to say, when a workout is named after a farmer, it isn’t for the guy sitting in a tractor all day. The farmers walk is one of the most straight forward weighted lifts you’ll ever perform. It doesn’t even require you to bend a weighted joint.

But does this lack of muscular movements reduce your need to incorporate it into your workout? We’ll answer this question and

We’ll answer this question and much more.

You just need to continue reading. 

The Farmers Walk Exercise

This exercise has become more and more popular in recent years, thanks to its prominent display in “The World’s Strongest Man” and other, similar competitions.

Dumbbells are not always used.

However, the basis of the exercise is always the same. You hold something heavy in each arm and you walk a set distance. You don’t curl anything while walking.

You don’t squat.

You just walk.

That’s it.

While it may sound simple, it is by no means easy. In fact, in order to truly take advantage of the farmers walk, you need to load up on the weight, which can make it extremely difficult.

Now that you’ve got the basics of what the farmers walk is, let’s dive into what muscles it hits.

Areas The Farmer’s Walk Hits

When you think of the most important lifts you need to make at the gym, you probably list off the deadlift, squat and bench press.

There might be some slight variations in it, but for the most part, these are the core lifts your workouts revolve around. As is, these lists are incomplete though. You really need to include the farmers walk in your “must do” exercises.

Why?

Think of the farmers walk as the swimming of weight lifting exercises. It hits just about every single muscle in your body, even without flexing or bending your joints (we’ll get more into this later).

Realistically, you should probably include the farmers walk in your upper body workout day, but it fits just about anywhere. 

The main target of the exercise is your back and shoulders. All of the weight pulls down on your traps and delts. Even though you are not flexing the muscles, the extended and extreme strain placed on the muscles completely rips down the muscles, which is why it is a great exercise for your upper back. With the continual pull, your muscles are almost always in a contraction as the traps and delts work to keep the shoulder blades together and stable.

Even though your shoulders and back are the main targets, your arms are hit as well.

Your forearms will feel like you doused them in kerosene and lit the muscles on fire.

It quickly becomes that intense.

Your grip will also be tested as well. While your back and shoulders are the muscles used to exercise the lift, you still need strong arms and a strong grip to hold onto the extreme weight. Even your biceps and triceps join the party as the muscle groups help stabilize your back.

Walking is part of the exercise (thus the name). Because your legs are moving, your legs are hit during the workout. In fact, this is the only area of your body actually moving during the exercise.

Basically, every single muscle in your lower body is used during the walk, including your quads, hamstrings, gluteus (both medius and minimus) and your calf muscles.

The great part about this workout is you don’t need to lunge or squat for an incredible lower body workout. Just walk as you normally would. There’s nothing more to it. It is what makes this the simplest exercise to perform.

Lastly, lets look at your core.

Yes, you are not going to do any crunches (if you find yourself doing a crunch during the farmers walk something is terrible, terribly wrong). You are not doing any Superman floor exercises or anything else of that matter.

However, your core will contract in order to keep your body straight. It stabilizes your entire performance.

During the exercise, you need to focus on keeping your back straight. This is really the only true form you need to focus on. The width of your walk, a distance of your stride or anything else regarding the exercise doesn’t matter. Just keep your back straight.

Your core will begin to burn (not as much as your shoulders and forearms, but you’ll feel some nice heat). It’s just another reason why you need to include the farmers walk in your routine.

How to Perform the Farmers Walk

The farmers walk is one of the most straight forward exercises you’ll ever do. But even with that said, it is important to understand how to perform the exercise properly.

After all, you are likely dealing with a considerable amount of weight, so avoiding injury is essential. 

Begin with weights to both sides. Traditionally, you will use a dumbbell on each side, but you can also switch it out for kettlebells. There is also a specific farmer walk barbell configuration where you essentially stand inside of a rectangular barbell and each side is loaded with weight plates.

If you’re at the gym you may have access to this, although it does take up a good amount of space, and if space is limited, you’ll want to stick with the barbell/kettlebell option.

The purpose of the farmers walk is to really torch your back, shoulders, and arms (while also working your lower body). The best way to do this is by going as heavy as possible.

Basically, you should feel like you’re on the verge of dropping the weight because it’s too heavy for your grip.

This may become a bit of a challenge when working out at home or outside of a gym, but there are other farmers walk options for you, should this prove to be the case (more on this later).

Grab hold of the weights.

Make sure to keep your back straight when doing so. That is the most important safety caution to exercise when performing the exercise. Keep your back straight.

Once you have your weights and are comfortable with the grip, begin to walk. If you’re in a gym you may need to walk back and forth in a small area. The same is true if you’re doing this at home.

If at all possible, it is great to get outside with the exercise and just walk across a field (in true farmers fashion).

Once you have your weights and are comfortable with the grip, begin to walk. If you’re in a gym you may need to walk back and forth in a small area. The same is true if you’re doing this at home. If at all possible, it is great to get outside with the exercise and just walk across a field (in true farmers fashion).

However you do it, try to keep the area consistent. This way, you can take note to how far you walked. Keep track of this so you have something to measure your gains against (The Athletic Build, 2016).

Farmers Walk Variations

The entire purpose of the farmers walk is to go with big weights. Because you are not directly using any joints in connection with the weight, you can load up and really go heavy.

However, this is not always possible. If you workout outside of the gym there is a good chance you don’t have the hundreds of pounds of weight at your disposal.

So what in the world should you do?

Should you just skip it?

Not at all. And thankfully, there are a few options. 

Lifting light can prove extremely beneficial for your workout. Not only can you focus on form, but when lifting light, you can go slow. This forces your body’s muscles to remain engaged for longer periods of time. It also works the reverse side of the lift often more so than heavy weights.

However, going light is not really a possibility with the farmers walk, at least in the traditional sense.

Because there are no moving joints, going slow doesn’t help. You’ll need to walk longer, and even then you won’t have the same kind of pull on your muscles.

They will become fatigued instead of damaged. Fatigued is better than nothing, but you have better options.

Probably the best way to go when you don’t have the available weight is with an overhead farmers walk. This is where you grab your two dumbbells and press the weight over your head. You will then walk with the weight above your head as if you’re frozen in a shoulder press lift. There are a handful of benefits of this (even over the traditional farmers walk).

For starters, it engages your shoulders, traps, biceps, and triceps in a different way. Instead of the weight pulling down on your muscles, your muscles are engaged and forced to hold the weight. You’ll especially feel this in your delts.

Additionally, you will work your core muscles more. With the weight elevated above your body, it shifts your balance.

In order to maintain the erect status, your core will need to kick into overdrive to prevent any kind of shifting or swaying. You may not receive the same kind of lower body workout as you would with the traditional walk, but this still is an excellent upper body option.

Beyond this, there are all sorts of variations to keep the farmers walk interesting. You can go with the single farmers walk. This is where you load up a single dumbbell and switch sides once the one has given out. This is an excellent option when you have the heavy weight for one side, but not enough for both sides. You can also go with uneven farmers walk, which is where one side is loaded up and the other side is light.

Then, when the heavy side gives out, you switch.

You may find the uneven farmers walk works better for you than the single farmers walk as it does help provide a bit more balance between your sides.

Why the Farmers Walk is Great (at Reducing Injury)

We’ve already gone into the kind of muscles you’ll hit with the farmer’s walk.

But we need to talk about how it can reduce injury. Some of the most prone to injury locations on the body are your knees and shoulders. Squats, shoulder presses, lunges and other moves put a direct strain on your joint, which needs to bend and contract during the move.

This increases the chance of injury.

Often times, you’ll need to avoid these exercises altogether due to joint pain. This leaves a gaping hole in your workout though.

The farmers walk can help fill the void thanks to the lack of joint movement. Instead of placing a heavy weight on your moving shoulder, your shoulders remain in place with weight pulling down on it. You also won’t need to put extra strain on your knees.

This makes it an excellent upper and lower body workout when you currently suffer from joint pain. 

Where to Put the Farmers Walk and Workout Example?

So where on earth should you include the farmers walk?

After all, it hits both upper and lower areas of your body. It depends on how you break your workout up. One of the most beneficial workout schedules is to have a push day, a pull day and a leg day (then repeat).

On your push day, bring in the standard farmers walk.

On the pull day, bring in the single arm farmers walk, and on leg day, do the uneven farmers walk. It’s straight forward and you’ll really feel it throughout your body (T-Nation, 2013)

The farmers walk is one of the most underused yet beneficial exercises available.

It is also one of the easiest to do. So why don’t more people do it?

It murders your grip and completely shreds your shoulders. There are those people who just don’t want to feel completely uncomfortable during a workout.

Conclusion

The more comfortable you become feeling uncomfortable (as long as the form is right), the faster you’ll see results.

So take your workout to the next level and include the farmers walk. 

-Terry Asher

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Terry Asher

Owner & Founder at Gym Junkies LLC
After changing his best friend’s life by helping him lose over 70lbs, dropping him down to an amazing 7% body fat, Terry was inspired to be a full-time internet trainer knowing he could do the same for many more. In 2010, Terry published his own diet and fitness e-book that can be purchased on this website. Let Terry help you change your body for the better!
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