You may wonder if walking around with weights in your hands is really that great. Find out ways to do the farmer’s walk and why you would do so.
Farmer’s walks simply involve picking up weights and walking a certain number of steps, distance, or amount of time. Keep your body upright throughout the walk.
This exercise can be helpful for two main goals.
The first one is improving forearm grip muscle endurance while working a few other muscles and cardiovascular health to some extent.
For this goal, you want to do relatively heavy farmer’s walks for short distances.
Next, you can use the farmer’s walk as a cardiovascular workout.
To do this you want to use lighter weights, pick up the pace, and walk for a relatively long time or in fast intervals.
How to do a farmer’s walk
The walkthrough below assumes that you have a pair of good farmer’s walk handles with weight plates. You can also find what other equipment options you have for farmer’s walks later in the article.
Take the following steps to do the exercise:
- Stand up straight with your feet at more or less shoulder width in the middle of the two loaded farmer’s walk handles.
- Slightly fold your legs at the knees and tilt your upper body forward to grab the handles.
- Tilt your upper body back and stretch your legs in one continuous motion until you stand up straight. Keep your spine in a straight line during this initial lift.
- Walk a certain time, distance, or steps. Keep your body upright.
The things to keep in mind when doing a farmer’s walk are keeping your spine straight in the initial lift and keeping your body upright.
Don’t slump your shoulders forward but also don’t lean back.
How fast you want to walk depends on the other goals you have with the farmer’s walk.
For example, if you like the idea of adding some cardiovascular training on top of your grip strength training, you can focus on walking faster.
Farmer’s walks muscles worked
The muscles worked with farmer’s walks include your forearm grip muscles, trapezius (upper back/shoulder), core muscles, deltoids (shoulder), a variety of scapular muscles (upper back), pectoral muscles (chest), glutes (butt), hamstrings (back thighs), quadriceps (front thighs), calves, hip flexors, hip abductors (outer thighs), and hip adductors (inner thighs).
Your forearm grip muscles, trapezius (upper back/shoulder), and core muscles will have to work the hardest relative to their strength.
If you don’t use equipment to improve grip, your forearm muscles will likely fatigue first and experience most of the resistance training benefits.
This is because you have to pressure muscles with enough resistance relative to their strengths.
The smaller forearm grip muscles are typically a lot weaker than something like your glutes.
In turn, it becomes hard to use enough weight in a farmer’s walk to work these bigger muscles enough to see a lot of benefits.
Farmer’s walk weight recommendations
The next question most people have is what farmer’s walk weight is optimal for their training goals. First of all, the number of pounds and kilograms depends on your current strength level.
Secondly, you can do farmer’s walks to improve different muscle-related benefits that each have their optimal weight and set ranges.
Additionally, you can also do farmer’s walks to improve cardiovascular health.
That being said, let’s say you want to grow your forearm grip muscles.
In that case, you want to do farmer’s walks of 3 to 30 seconds per set and more than 80 to 150 seconds per workout at 70-75% of maximum voluntary contraction (MVC).
Since MVC is hard to measure at home, you likely just want to use a weight where these ranges feel challenging.
To train forearm grip muscle endurance instead, you want to do farmer’s walks with weights where you can walk for longer than the durations for muscle growth.
If you want to train cardiovascular health with farmer’s walks, you would use relatively low weights that you can use for longer durations like 3 minutes+.
For cardiovascular health, you also want to focus on walking slightly faster. How long depends on things like how much time you have, your endurance, specific training goals, etc.
Farmer’s walk benefits
While this exercise is not ideal for something like growing your glutes, farmer’s walks still offer benefits that could make them worth adding to your routine. A few of these are:
- Stronger muscles: With enough weight, duration, and frequency, farmer’s walks can help you grow and strengthen certain muscles.
- Can help with losing weight: Farmer’s walks burn more calories than your regular daily activities. The small amounts of extra muscle mass help with this too. In turn, you can say that farmer’s walks can help weight loss. Many people will need to make other changes too to achieve this result.
- Balance & coordination: You can improve your balance and coordination by challenging yourself enough in these areas. Farmer’s walks could be enough to do this.
- Easy technique: While there are some things to keep in mind, farmer’s walks are relatively easy when it comes to technique. This allows you to start getting the health benefits right away.
- Improves cardiovascular health: Especially with lower weights, farmer’s walks work your cardiovascular system a nice amount. This can lead to strengthening and the better health that comes with that.
- Stronger grip: Strengthening your forearm grip muscles with the farmer’s walk can be useful. You could lift heavier in other exercises and/or find certain daily activities easier to do.
- Improved bone density: Pressuring your bones in safe amounts can make them thicker. Heavy farmer’s walks can help with this in many areas of your body.
Farmer’s walks are not always unique or the best in these benefits but these effects could still be enough to convince yourself to do this exercise more often.
Farmer’s walk alternatives
Doing the farmer’s walk can offer helpful positive effects but they are not ideal for everyone. You can also consider one of the farmer’s walk alternatives to get similar benefits.
- Dead hangs
- Rack pulls
- Sandbag carry
What exercises you prefer depends on why you are interested in the farmer’s walk and why you conclude that it is not the ideal movement for you.
Other farmer’s walk equipment options
The walkthrough above uses farmer’s walk handles. While these are great for a variety of reasons, you also have a good amount of other options that each have their upsides and downsides.
Farmer’s walk handles
First of all, farmer’s walk handles are great because they can be loaded with a lot of bumper or other weight plates. This may be necessary for stronger individuals to make the exercise challenging enough.
Next, most farmer’s walk handles have smooth handles to make the exercise even more challenging for your forearm grip muscles.
Additionally, there are different styles of farmers’ walk handles that can be helpful. For example, top-loaded models can save your weight plates from scratches and damage.
Dumbbell farmer’s walks, also known as db farmer’s walks, are a popular variation because dumbbells are so common. While they can be a good choice, there are also downsides to using this equipment option.
First of all, the dumbbells available may not be heavy enough to reach the challenge level required for a lot of grip strength results.
This is partly due to the limited weight ranges of dumbbells but also because most of them have knurling (grooves on the handles) which makes them easier on your forearm grip muscles.
Additionally, dumbbells can easily bump around against your legs. This is not convenient when doing heavy farmer’s walks.
A trap or hex bar is a hexagonal-shaped bar where you can stand in the middle and hold the bar with neutral grips. This can be a great equipment option for the farmer’s walk if you have one available.
The first reason for this is that you can load trap and hex bars very heavy. Even if you have a steel grip, you can load this bar heavy enough to do a challenging farmer’s walk.
Secondly, because the handles are in a fixed position, the chances of the equipment bumping against your legs become a lot lower.
Additionally, you have to engage shoulder stabilizing muscles to a lesser extent compared to one-handed weights to keep the weights in place. This can be good or bad depending on your training goals.
Kettlebells are thicker steel balls with smooth handles. These handles do make them more challenging when it comes to grip but even then, the weights available may be too easy to get in a good workout.
Secondly, because kettlebells are thicker, you risk bumping them into your legs during the farmer’s walk even more than dumbbells.
Some gyms do not have enough room to do farmer’s walks. Many people wonder if they can use a treadmill in a situation like that.
You typically want to avoid doing treadmill farmer’s walks. Especially heavy ones on treadmills where you don’t know the weight limit.
That being said, in theory you could do cardiovascular-focused farmer’s walks with light weights on a treadmill. You do want to be informed about the weight capacity of the treadmill and not go over this number.
Even then, doing farmer’s walks on a treadmill will likely speed up its wear and tear.
Farmer’s walk variations
The main exercise that is a farmer’s walk variation instead of a different exercise is doing the movement on your toes. This works your calf muscles a lot more but still focuses on your forearm grip muscles.
Besides that, there are also a variety of other weighted carries you can consider.
One of the variations is the suitcase carry which is basically a farmer’s carry but you only hold a weight in one hand.
The main differences between farmer’s walks and suitcase carries are that suitcase carries work your oblique muscles more but also take up more time to complete a workout.
Next, there is the overhead carry. As the name implies, you hold the weights above your head instead of by your sides like in the farmer’s walk.
This changes the focus from your forearm grip muscles to your trapezius, deltoids, triceps, and shoulder stabilization muscles.
Lastly, you can do a Zercher carry where you walk with a barbell on the insides of your elbows. This will change the focus to your trapezius, upper back muscles, biceps, deltoid muscles, and cardiovascular system.
It is worth quickly mentioning that some people will find farmer’s walks uncomfortable on their wrists, back, knees, and shoulders.
If you have any issues in these areas, you want to start with light farmer’s walks and potentially other movements first.
Additionally, if you do feel any pain or aches, this may be a sign you need to make changes in your workout routine or other lifestyle habits before you can do the farmer’s walk exercise successfully.
Is the farmer’s walk a good exercise?
The farmer’s walk exercise can be good to improve forearm grip muscle endurance or cardiovascular health.
For really growing and improving strength in your forearm grip muscles, farmer’s walks can still help but more dynamic resistance training exercises tend to be better.
That aside, personal preference matters too. You may find the farmer’s walk a fun exercise to switch things up. This could compensate for some of the smaller training results.
In any case, make sure you do the farmer’s walk with weights, distances, speeds, etc. that align with your training goals.
What is a farmer’s walk good for?
A farmer’s walk is mainly good for improving grip strength and potentially trapezius and deltoid strength with some extra cardiovascular engagement. Doing this movement with lighter weights can also be good for improving cardiovascular health.