Is a Farmers Carry Workout Better than Rotation Exercises?

When people hear the words golf fitness workout, the exercises most people think about are resistance band or rotational exercises.  

The one that sticks in my mind is the seated Russian medicine ball twist. Which by the way, might be the worst exercise ever for your lower back.

Other people visualize resistance band chops or any exercise that imitates a golf swing. 

However, if you ask the strength & conditioning coaches of professional athletes that play rotational sports they say the last thing that the athlete needs is more rotational work.

Coaches such as Dan John (track & field), Eric Cressey (baseball), Jason Glass (quarterbacks & golfers) use anti-rotational exercises for strength and power, especially when the athlete is fully involved with practice or is competing in their sport. 

When a golfer is on the practice range every day making 400 or 500 full-swings the last thing he needs to do is hit the gym and do resistance band chops & lifts at high speed. 

S&C’s are finding that exercises that strengthen the muscles used to slow down and stop rotation actually help the athlete rotate faster and reduces their chance of injury.

Let me use this analogy, a fast car without a good braking system is bound to be in an accident. But put a good braking system on that car and the driver will be more confident to drive faster and be more aggressive during the race.  

So what are these braking exercises?

Anti-rotation exercises such as the Pallof Press and Deadbugs are good alternatives to rotational exercises. So are suitcase carries, one-arm cable presses, and one-arm overhead presses.

But before we get to anti-rotational workouts it is a good idea to strengthen the muscles and tendons that will be used to perform one-arm anti-rotational exercises. This will make the exercises easier to do and reduce the chance of injury.

The farmers carry workout is a great bilateral strength exercise that will prepare you for the one-arm anti-rotation exercises. 

What is a Farmers Carry?

If you haven’t heard of or been introduced to a farmers carry, it is a simple exercise to perform. 

That said, it is a tough and demanding exercise that is meant to test your strength.  

A farmers carry is simple to do. Pick up a heavy weight in each hand, and calmly and slowly walk in a straight line.   

The speaker mentioned a unilateral farmer carry; this is what most people call the suitcase carry. Before you attempt that exercise, you should be able to do a very heavy farmers carry workout. 

Heavy means you should be able to move at least 60-pounds in each hand for 60- to 80-feet.

The heavier, the better. Carrying over 100-pounds in each hand should be your goal. You can do more if you want. 

Remember, you need to keep good form. More on this later. 

Benefits of a Farmers Carry Workout

A farmers carry workout strengthens almost the whole body. 

The farmers carry will benefit your calf and leg strength, core stability, make the entire posterior chain (back side of the body) stronger, and improve your grip strength.

You will most likely find that grip strength will be the limiting factor when doing a farmer carry workout. Your grip will give out first. This is good, as grip strength is rarely worked.

Many articles describing the farmers carry suggest using grip straps so you can hang onto the weights longer. I don’t recommend this for golfers or throwing athletes. Improving your grip strength will help you with other exercises later on as well as with your golf game. 

Benefits for Golf Game

The farmers carry is an excellent strength exercise to do when you are hitting a lot of full golf shots, either on the range or course. Since you are completing a lot of full swings, there is no need to rotate your body when you exercise. 

The farmers carry will help you with your posture and strengthen your legs, core, back, shoulders and grip strength all with one simple to do exercise. 

The muscles worked by the farmers carry either generate power, transfer power or provide stability in the golf swing without putting undo rotational strain on your back. 

Equipment for the Farmers Carry

Since a farmers carry workout involves very heavy weights, it is ideal to do this exercise outdoors. Being outdoors also gives you more room to walk in a straight line. 

If the weather dictates you need to workout indoors be careful. 

Grip strength is the weak link, so carrying heavy weights around the house over your hardwood floors isn’t a good idea. 

The least inexpensive weight you can get is one you make yourself out of a 5-gallon pail and some sand.

A gallon of sand weights about 12.75 pounds. So a full pail is a little over 60-pounds.

If you use sand or any other filler in a bucket, make sure both containers are equal weight. Use a bathroom scale or measure the height of the material so the weight is the same for both hands. 

At the Gym or Purchasing Equipment

If you do your farmers carry workout at the gym, or want to buy equipment, you can use dumbbells or kettlebells. 

Kettlebells are easier to use than dumbbells since they have higher handles, and the weight hangs straight down instead of having to grip the dumbbell exactly in the middle. 

Although a little pricey, kettlebells are useful for many other exercises and are worth having in your home gym. Kettlebells are available from Amazon or better quality kettlebells can be purchased from Onnit.  

Competition kettlebells are better since the bell is the same size for each weight and this makes it easier to use as you progress.

If you want to go hardcore there are farmers carry handles that you can use with weight plates. If you already own weight plates, this is the way to go.

That is all you need for equipment. Just two weights that are heavy and small enough to carry at your side. 

A Few More Tips

There are a few more farmers carry tips in the video below, and then I will summarize how to do the farmers carry workout.

Farmers Carry Workout Summary

Use kettlebells, dumbbells, or any other heavy objects that you’re able to carry with each hand. 

Make sure the weight in each hand is equal if you aren’t using a standard weight.

When you pick up the weight, hinge at the hip and lift up the weight without jerking it up. Protect your back. The weight you use should feel heavy and won’t be easy to pick up.

Use good posture; your back should be straight and not hunched over. Your shoulders, hips, knees and feet should be stacked over each other.

Don’t shrug your shoulders up. Let the weights hang down, and as the video mentioned, you should feel like you are pushing the weight down into the ground.

Walk slowly and in a straight line. Don’t walk in a circle. Walking in a circle will cause your inside shoulder to dip down. 

Walk 60- to 80-feet for each set.

If you only have a short walk space, make a wide turn and come back to where you started. Or slowly turn around. Don’t get your knees too twisted on the turn.

By the end of your carry, you should feel like you need to drop the weights. Use the heaviest weight you can without losing a good postural position. If you have to drop the weights early so be it. Carry them as far as you can then drop them. If you make it back to the starting point easily, add more weight.

Try to carry 60 to 100 pounds in each hand. If you can do more weight, go for it. It will only make you a better athlete. The farmers carry handles work well when you can handle a lot of weight. 

You should do three sets and rest 2 to 3 minutes between sets. I recommend doing the farmers carry workout at least once a week. 

Once you have heavy farmers carry down pat, we can move on to other heavy one-arm anti-rotation exercises, such as the Suitcase Carry.

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