Carries are one of the most simple yet effective addition to any strength program. They are the ultimate “functional” movement, especially for those who want to make only one trip with all of the groceries. Carrying is ultimately a single leg stabilizing movement in which every time you take a step you are for a moment on one leg and creating stability through the midsection. Most variations can be made more difficult by doing them on a single arm.
Here are my top 5 carry variations and some options to mix them up:
1. Farmer Carry: This is the king of the carries in my opinion. The farmer carry is simple and super effective. Pick up two weights in each hand and walk. For most grip will be the limiting factor on how much weight can be used. To help prevent this make sure you are reaching deep into the handle so the weight ends up in the palm to begin and not in the fingers. Good posture should be held and a cue I like to give is pinching a piece of paper under the armpit so that you flex the pecs. Don’t just try to pull the shoulders back and present a big chest as this will put the weight more on the back. The farmer carry can be done with both arms or single arm. The single arm variation will be more taxing on the core and the focus should be on maintaining posture and avoid leaning away from the weight.
2. Front Rack Carry: This could be done with a barbell, kettlebell or Sandbag. The kettlebell is my personal favorite as it requires less mobility in the shoulders and less stress in the wrists. Holding the kettlebells with both fists in the center of the body and the arm resting on the chest. This allows you to keep the weight as close to you as possible and keeps the force on the core and not in the shoulders or back. Focus on squeezing the core to prevent yourself from leaning back and feeling the movement in the back.
3. Overhead Carry: The overhead carry could be done with kettlebells, dumbbells, barbells and yokes. The purpose of this carry is to learn to stabilize the core while weight is overhead. Some that have mobility issues may want to modify the overhead carries to front rack or somewhere in between (those movements will be in a different post). Make sure while weight is overhead you are attempting to flex the shoulder down into position and not pushing up through the traps.
4. Sandbag Carry: This has become one of my new favorites. The goal is to keep the weight from taxing the low back as long as possible. A few tips to help do this is to carry the bag lower and lock it in with the elbows and not hugging in into you. This will allow you to flex the pecs and push the bag against the low abs to help give feedback and activate the obliques. The sandbag can be carried in multiple other ways like on the shoulder and in a front rack. As with all carries, the goal is to work on stability in the core and not allowing the bag to pull you into an inefficient position.
5. Yoke Carry: The primary way to carry a yoke would be like a back squat with the yoke on the back. Keys to the yoke are to push against the upright posts instead of hands on the vertical post. This will help lock in the shoulders as well as help prevent the yoke from swinging as you walk. The yoke can also be used in the front rack and overhead. The overhead yoke carry is one of the more difficult carries but great for overhead athletes like crossfitters and Olympic Lifters.
You can also mix up the carries by doing crossbody carries where you hold weight in a different way in each hand.
Carries are great to add to any strength program to work on maintaining posture under a load.
With any carry focus on footwork and keep the steps short. Remember, the longer the step the longer you have to stay on one leg and balance. To go faster pick up the cadence and not the stride length.
Focus on maintaining control of the core for the length of the movement and this should be your regulator on the weight that you use. If you are stumbling all over the place I recommend using a lighter weight.
As always focus on movement quality before adding in quantity or additional load.