Doing the farmer’s walk can offer valuable benefits you may want other options. Discover some alternatives to this movement with similar effects.
In the farmer’s walk, you walk a certain distance or time with weights in your hand. This mainly works your forearm grip and trapezius muscles but also your core muscles, shoulder stabilization muscles, and legs to some extent.
In turn, that means that the farmer’s walk can help you build muscle mass, burn calories, and offer other typical exercise benefits.
Whether you don’t enjoy this exercise, you don’t have farmer’s walk handles, you don’t have enough room to walk around, or you want an alternative for any other reason, these farmer’s walk substitutes can offer you some or all of the same benefits.
For shrugs you need some form of resistance. Generally something of the heavier kind like a barbell or a trap/hex bar. Less experienced individuals may find dumbbells, kettlebells, or similar objects challenging enough.
Once you have one of these, take the following steps to do a shrug:
- Place a barbell in front of you on the ground. Put on the desired number of weight plates.
- Grab the barbell with your hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart with your hand palms facing downward/backward. Stand up straight with your feet at about shoulder width and let your arms hang down for now. Keep your arms slightly less than stretched throughout the exercise.
- Slowly raise your shoulders as far as safely possible.
- Lower your shoulders again in a controlled motion
The shoulder shrug does not look like the most impressive motion but this farmer’s walk alternative can be great to help you work your forearm grip muscles and trapezius without walking.
While the glute, hamstring, and calf engagement is a nice benefit of the farmer’s walk, it is typically not the main focus of the exercise. You do miss out on some of the extra calorie burning.
2. Dead hangs
To do the next farmer’s walk alternative you need a pull-up bar or something very similar. Once you have that, take the following steps to do a dead hang:
- Put your hands on the shoulder bar about shoulder width apart.
- Make it so you hang from the pull-up bar without your feet touching the ground.
- Hold this position for a certain amount of time or for as long as you can.
Dead hangs are not the most exciting exercise ever but they are a nice way to train the same forearm grip muscles that play a big role in the farmer’s walk exercise.
One potential downside of the dead hang is that it has a relatively specific focus which is the opposite of the farmer’s walk that works a variety of muscles.
In short, if training grip strength is your main training goal, the dead hang can be a good substitute. If not, one of the other options will likely be better.
3. Rack pulls
As the name implies, you need a power rack with adjustable safety bars for the next movement. Besides that, you will also need a loaded barbell, preferably not your best model.
Once you have these take the following steps to do a rack pull:
- Set up a barbell rack with the safety bars at a height just below your knees. Put the barbell on it and load it with the desired weight.
- Stand up straight with your feet at more or less shoulder width right in front of the barbell. Grab the barbell with a pronated grip which means with your hand palms pointing downward/backward. Slowly lift the barbell by tilting your upper body back until you stand up straight. Keep your back straight during the movement.
- Lower the barbell back into the position of step 1 in a controlled motion.
Racks pulls are another farmer’s walk alternative without walking. However, contrary to shrugs, rack pulls do work your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back a nice amount.
On top of that, this exercise also works your forearm grip and trapezius muscles a lot.
Two differences you do want to keep in mind is that rack pulls don’t work your abs, obliques, and cardiovascular system as much as the farmer’s walk.
4. Suitcase carry
The suitcase carry simply involves picking up a weight with one hand and walking a certain distance or time. Keep your body straight up during the walk.
Some of the equipment options you have include a workout sandbag, a dumbbell, a kettlebell, a loaded farmer’s walk handle, a weighted trap bar on its side, etc.
The main difference between the farmer’s walk vs the suitcase carry is that this alternative works your oblique muscles on the side opposite of the weight a lot more.
You will still work your trapezius and forearm grip muscles on the side of the weight a lot. Without any equipment for extra grip, your forearm grip muscles will likely still be the first to fatigue.
Your glutes, quadriceps, calves, and hamstrings will have to work to a certain extent too. However, because suitcase carries typically involve less weight, a lot less than the farmer’s walk.
For the next farmer’s walk alternative you likely need external weights, preferably a barbell. You can also use other free weights and even heavy duty resistance bands. Take the following steps to do a deadlift:
- Stand up straight with your feet at more or less shoulder width in front of a weighted barbell.
- Slightly fold your knees and tilt your upper body forward to grab the barbell on the ground.
- Stretch your knees and tilt back your upper body at the same time until your upper body and legs are stretched in one straight line. When doing a deadlift it is very important to keep your back in a straight line during the exercise.
- Slowly move back into the position of step 2.
Good technique is important in any exercise to avoid injuries but especially so for deadlifts. Before trying to deadlift the heaviest weights it is smart to improve your technique first by starting with light or no weights at all.
Deadlifts definitely do not have the exact same focus as the farmer’s walk but there are some important commonalities. First of all, you will work your grip and trapezius muscles a lot.
Additionally, you will work your glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, and lower back muscles harder than the farmer’s walk. On the other hand, the deadlift will work your abs and hip flexors less.
These differences compared to the muscles worked in a farmer’s walk can be both benefits or downsides depending on your training goals and personal situation.
If you really want to train your grip even more, you could consider doing deadlifts with an axle bar.
6. Sandbag carry
As the name implies, you will need a workout sandbag for the next alternative. Preferably one of the round strongman models without handles. Take the following steps to do a sandbag carry:
- Stand in front of the sandbag with your feet at about shoulder width. Put your hands below the edges of the sandbag and hold it.
- Raise your hips by stretching your legs and tilt your upper body back until it is straight in an explosive way while keeping your back straight. Move your arms around the sandbag while it is in the air. Clamp it against your chest/waist.
- Walk a certain distance or amount of time with the sandbag held against your body. Keep your body more or less straight up without swaying your hips too much.
The equipment requirements for the sandbag carry are just a bit less strict than the farmer’s walk. Even if you don’t have the exercise sandbag mentioned, you should be able to find a similar object.
Both exercises will train muscle endurance in your forearm grip muscles and trapezius a nice amount. You will also engage your leg muscles to similar extents.
On the other hand, the sandbag carry will focus more on your biceps, chest muscles, and lower back. A farmer’s walk also focuses just a bit more on your trapezius muscles.
7. Upright rows
As the name implies the upright row is similar to a bent-over resistance training row but done while standing up straight. To do an upright row with a barbell take the following steps:
- Load the barbell with the desired number of weight plates. Stand right in front of it with feet about shoulder width apart.
- Grab the barbell with an overhanded grip, your hand palms pointing back/down, with your hands at about shoulder width or slightly wider.
- Lift the barbell and stand up straight. Keep your spine straight during this initial lift. Let your arms with the barbell hang down for now.
- Raise the barbell straight upward in a controlled manner until your hands are at about shoulder height.
- Slowly lower the barbell back into the position of step 3.
Upright rows are definitely not the perfect farmer’s walk substitute in that they have the exact same effects. However, this exercise can be helpful to train your trapezius, deltoid, forearm grip, bicep, and scapular muscles.
You will also engage your core muscles to some extent but definitely not as much as the farmer’s walk. Additionally, you definitely don’t get the same leg muscle engagement in this alternative.