When it comes to training in the gym, its seems like everyone wants to do crazy, complex-looking movements. While there’s a time and place for those, don’t overlook the simple exercises — they might not look like there’s a lot going on, but deep inside, it’s working wonders on your body.
One of the best — and most basic — things you can add to your routine is a weighted carry. It can help you build a stronger core, stronger grip, thicker arms, healthier shoulders and tremendous total-body stability. Even better, they’re almost impossible to do incorrectly, which makes them a “self-limiting” exercise.
Carries of all kinds are a fantastic core exercise because they target your midsection in a dynamic way. Core exercises like planks, for example, don’t require movement, but with weighted carries, you have to brace your core while covering ground. (Now you’re training your core in a way that matches an actual sport.) They also force you to maintain good posture throughout, otherwise your form will break down and you’ll eventually stop and drop the weights.
Finally, carries build incredible grip strength, which carries over to almost every exercise imaginable. (Generally speaking, the stronger someone’s grip, the stronger they are.) With a stronger grip, you can squeeze the barbell or dumbbell harder and put more force into your exercise.
HOW TO USE CARRIES
The best times to use carries are near the end of your regular workout as core exercise or as a low-impact finisher. You can also add them to a “recovery” workout as an activation exercise.
Generally, keep your distances between 15–30 yards to give you a blend of strength and endurance.
Finally, it’s important to understand you’re not trying to use the heaviest weight you can possibly hold; you’re trying to maintain great posture, activate the right muscles and cover the distance you want.
Once it gets easy, gradually increase the weight or the distance.
Here are the best carries to add to your routine right now:
SINGLE-ARM FARMERS CARRY
This is the most basic carry variation, and it builds powerful forearms and a strong core. Just hold a weight on one side and walk with great posture.
The move: Hold a heavy weight on one side (instead of both) and walk so your midsection has to work harder to keep your torso and hips stable, which increases core activation.
The waiters walk is similar to the farmers carry except the weight is overhead to improve both your core and shoulder strength.
The move: Grab a heavy kettlebell in one hand and hold it overhead. Keep your shoulder down-and-back and walk while keeping your hips and shoulders level. Keep your wrists as straight as you can.
With the rack carry, you’re holding the weight in front of you, around your chest. By loading the front of your body, you’ll feel a huge activation in your core and your upper body. It also forces you to use great posture; if you start rounding over, the exercise gets a lot harder and you’ll stop.
The move: Hold two heavy dumbbells (or kettlebells) in the rack position. Keep your chest up, pull your shoulders back, and crush your armpits. Don’t let your ribcage flare up. Walk for time and breathe through your nose.
BOTTOMS-UP KETTLEBELL CARRY
This is an extremely humbling exercise: By holding the kettlebell upside down, you’ll force your entire body to activate correctly. (Once you do it, you’ll understand why.) As long as the kettlebell stays up, you’re doing it correctly.
The move: Start with one kettlebell in the “rack position” with the large part of the kettlebell above the handle. Keep your chest up, pull your shoulders back and crush your armpits. Keep your wrists straight, tense your body and walk forward while keeping the kettlebell up. There’s no need to put a “death grip” on the kettlebell; if you activate your core correctly, it will stay balanced.