The farmer’s walk and suitcase carry are different exercises that lead to different effects. Find out what changes when you choose one instead of the other.
First of all, some people confuse these exercises with each other. In a farmer’s walk, you walk a certain distance, number of steps, or time with weights in both hands.
A suitcase carry is similar but you only hold weight in one hand.
Farmer’s walks are a more convenient and time-saving way to train your forearm grip muscles, trapezius muscles, and cardiovascular system.
On the other hand, the suitcase carry can be a good choice for individuals who want to work their oblique muscles a lot more on top of the forearm grip muscle training.
While these muscles are not the main targets of the exercises, the farmer’s walk will also work your glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, abs, and lower back muscles somewhat more than a suitcase carry because you use more total weight.
Differences in technique
Some people confuse the farmer’s walk and suitcase carry with each other but these are different exercises.
Because the technique influences other important effects, it can be helpful to go over each one separately together with a demonstration video.
How to do a farmer’s walk
In the farmer’s walk, you simply pick up some weight with both of your hands and walk for a certain distance, steps, or time. Each side carries the same amount of weight.
Pay attention to keeping your spine straight in the initial lift and keeping your body upright during the rest of the walk.
You have a lot of options when it comes to equipment. The main ones include farmer’s walk handles, dumbbells, sandbags, kettlebells, and a trap bar.
How to do a suitcase carry
Instead of picking up two weights, a suitcase carry involves picking up one weight. Again, you walk a certain distance, number of steps, or time with the weight.
You can use basically all of the same equipment options as the farmer’s walk but if you use a trap bar, you have to hold it at the side instead of the actual handles.
The main technique attention point is again keeping your body upright. Because you are only holding a weight on one side, this is a lot harder to do in the suitcase carry.
Additionally, make sure you do suitcase carries of roughly the same challenge while holding the weight on the other side to avoid muscle imbalances.
Differences in muscles worked
At first, this change in technique may not sound that important. However, in terms of what muscles you mainly work, it causes some important differences.
The main muscles worked in a farmer’s walk include the forearm grip muscles, core muscles, and the trapezius muscles.
Additionally, your deltoids, scapular muscles, glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves have to work a decent amount to keep the weights in position and walk.
Suitcase carries still work these same muscles but in a different ratio. The most important difference is that you work the oblique core muscles on the side opposite of the weight a lot more compared to the farmer’s walk.
At the same time, even in the suitcase carry, your forearm grip muscles will likely fatigue first if you don’t use any equipment to improve grip.
That aside, the suitcase carry will also engage the muscles around the shoulder with the weight somewhat more.
How much weight you can use
Besides working muscles in a different ratio, the changes in technique also influence how much resistance you can use in both exercises.
The total weight used in the farmer’s walk is about twice as much as a suitcase carry. This is because your forearm grip muscles will still likely be the area that fatigues first.
For the grip and trapezius muscles, this does not change that much. These body parts have to carry about the same weight in the farmer’s walk as the suitcase carry.
However, this does change things in other areas. Farmer’s walks will generally be more challenging for the core muscles besides the obliques and leg muscles.
Additionally, the suitcase carry is more awkward. This could cause you to be able to use less than half of the weight of a farmer’s walk.
Time and convenience
What muscles you work to what extent is very important but there are other factors that could influence the decision between the farmer’s walk vs the suitcase carry.
One of the benefits of the farmer’s walk is that you can work out the muscles on both sides at the same time.
On the other hand, in a suitcase carry workout, you basically have to walk twice as long to train the forearm, oblique, and trapezius muscles on both sides. This means less time for other exercises and activities.
Besides that, if you give both exercises a try, you will notice that the farmer’s walk is the good kind of more convenient for training your grip muscles. In a suitcase carry, the weight bumps against your leg more easily.
Whether you should choose the farmer’s walk or suitcase carry mostly depends on your training goals but also personal preference and time to some extent.
If you value the oblique training of the suitcase carry enough, this exercise could be worth the extra time and awkward handling of the weights.
On the other hand, individuals who just want to train their forearm grip muscles, trapezius, and/or cardiovascular system can save some time by choosing the farmer’s walk.