Loaded carries Fast, simple, heavy and extremely effective

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Do you simply bench press one and a half times your body weight, but do you have trouble carrying heavy shopping bags to the car? Then it might be time to integrate loaded carries into your training program.

A loaded carry is simply moving a weight from A to B. For example a dumbbell, kettlebell, sandbag or other heavy object. In fact, it’s ‘just’ making one of the most mundane activities harder: walking.


Loaded carries have several unique benefits not found in other exercises. In the first place they are functional and have a transfer to various daily activities. You work on your core stability and your grip strength at the same time. You can use loaded carries for almost any training purpose: strength gain, muscle growth, fat loss or a better overall condition.

Practical advantages of the loaded carry are that they are relatively simple and time-saving. After all, you train all your muscles at the same time. With some simple instructions, anyone can perform a loaded carry technically correctly and you can complete a complete workout in 15 to 20 minutes. With plenty of variations, loaded carries don’t have to get boring quickly. You don’t even have to go to the gym for it.


Loaded carries are basically a combination of cardio and strength training. Which of these two aspects you emphasize depends on the weights you use, the distance you move the object and the time in which you do that. You will understand that wearing a 10 kg weight vest during your 5 km walk has a different effect than a 200 kg yoke walk over 30 m. After all, you rely on two different energy systems. Of course you can also walk the golden mean and opt for a training intensity and volume that gives you the best of both worlds.



The farmer’s walk is undoubtedly the most famous loaded carry and a recurring feature in strongman competitions. In the farmer’s walk, you hold two weights, traditionally farmer’s walk handles, in your hands. But a few heavy dumbbells or regular barbells will also suffice. Although the latter are more difficult to balance than the traditional handles, which have handles. Grip is a limiting factor in the farmer’s walk. In other words, you can only use such a heavy weight as your grip strength allows.


In the suitcase carry, unlike the farmer’s walk, you carry a weight in only one hand, like you carry a suitcase. That can again be a (one) farmer’s walk handle, but you can also use a dumbbell or kettlebell here. Due to the lack of a counterweight, this exercise puts a lot of strain on your obliques.


At the Zercher carry you wear a barbell with supinated forearms (palms up) in front of your body. The bar rests in the hollows of your elbows. For extra grip, you can fold your hands and press against your chest. This carry is really killing for your abs and traps!


Overhead walks are all carries where you carry the weight above your head, which in particular demands a lot from your shoulders and traps. But also your arms and abdominal and lower back muscles, which have to stabilize the weight. For overhead walks you usually use dumbbells. A one-armed version with a dumbbell is called a waiter walk, referring to a waiter with his tray.


The cross walk is a cross between a suitcase carry and a waiter walk. For example, you hold one dumbbell or kettlebell with your arm straight above your head and you just hold the other one at your side.


Yoke means ‘yoke’. With the yoke walk you carry the load on your shoulders/upper back, just like a beast of burden. You are therefore not dependent on your grip, so that you can perform the exercise very heavily. No yoke? You can of course also ‘just’ use a weighted barbell.


With the bear hug you ‘hug’ a sandbag or other heavy object while walking – a number of heavy weight plates also work fine. Don’t expect a hug in return, but a sore upper back and burning arms!


In fact, sled pulls also fall under the loaded carries, even though you are not actually carrying any weight, but you are pushing or dragging it along. Sled pulls are great for metabolic conditioning and fat loss.


There are specific tips for each loaded carry variant, but there are also some general tips that apply to all loaded carries.

One of the most important is: use a high stride frequency, or take short strides. In addition to being the most effective way to carry a heavy weight from here to there, you also achieve an optimal training effect. After all, every pass is in fact a repetition.

To prevent injuries to your neck muscles and vertebrae, it is wise to press your chin against your chest and not to overextend your neck.

If you’re carrying a heavy weight, you may have a tendency to bulk up and stretch on yourself. This basically puts your spine in an injury prone position. Instead, it’s better to counteract gravity by tightening your abs, as if you were about to do a sit-up.


Just like for normal strength training, loaded carries also have different training variables for different training purposes.

If strength is your goal, do your carries over a distance of about 30 meters. Do 5-10 sets and, depending on the intensity, rest 2-5 minutes between sets.

If you’re training for conditioning, take it up a notch and aim for about 100 yards, pausing for just 20 to 60 seconds. Limit your number of sets to 3 to 4.

People who train for fat burning should time their carries and aim for one to one and a half minutes, with equally long breaks. Do about 5 to 6 sets.

Do you train for muscle growthThen double the distance you cover, do 3-5 sets and limit your breaks to one to one and a half minutes. That means you take walks of at least 40 seconds.

You can also combine your loaded carries with each other or with other exercises, or do them in circuit form . If you use supersets, you can also integrate other strongman exercises into your training. Here you will find some suggestions.

Obviously, you choose a weight that is sufficiently challenging and fits your training goal.


What is the place of loaded carries in your training program? When and how often do you perform them? It’s hard to say in general because we don’t know your current training goals and program. In any case, it is important to know that any loaded carry is a full-body exercise. That means that you train all your muscle groups with it, some of course more than others. So one day later you will have to pay for your efforts in a way.

Depending on your goals, you can schedule loaded carries into your training one to three times a week. Because loaded carries only involve concentric muscle contractions, and so there is no eccentric training stress, they are usually easy to integrate into an existing training schedule: you don’t have to drop any other exercises.

Image: Elliott Hulse’s Strength Camp

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