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Old 10-31-2013, 10:46 AM   #1
5 Reasons to Use Carrying Variations in Your Strength Training Programs
zoelski zoelski is offline 10-31-2013, 10:46 AM

With the release of my new resource, The High Performance Handbook, I received the following question the
other day:

“I noticed that you’re always including some kind of carrying variation in just about every program you write; are these exercises really this valuable?”

I thought I’d use today’s post to answer this inquiry and highlight how we might use different variations. First off, I should give credit where credit is due: you might call Dan John “The Godfather” of carries. Dan might not have invented most of the variations, but he’s certainly the one most responsible for popularizing them in the strength and conditioning world. Thanks, Dan, for helping to
“change the game.” You see, it’s one thing to “pick things up and put them down.” It’s another thing altogether to pick things up, walk with them as they awkwardly fight you the entire way, and then but them down. Let’s talk about what these training exercises are, and why they can provide so much benefit to you. You can incorporate carrying variations in a number of different ways with your strength training program. The implement may be a dumbbell, kettlebell, or dedicated implement like the farmer’s walks handles you’ve probably see on World’s Strongest Man on ESPN. And,
you may carry things at the side, shoulder level, or overhead – or even a combination of a few of these positions. Different positions will yield different outcomes, so check out these
reasons you should use carrying variations in your strength and conditioning programs.

  • Reason #1: increasing time under tension.

    If you want to build muscle at an optimal rate, tissues need to be under loading for a considerable amount of time. Carrying variations like farmer’s walks can really help to pack some meat on your upper back. And, as the video below shows, they can be great for building some camaraderie with your training partners! Of course, if you don’t have this much room to move around, you can always
    do farmer’s holds in place.

  • Reason #2: improving grip strength.

    Carrying variations can really help to build up your grip strength by improving supporting supporting grip. This is with both the case of heavy farmer’s walks and lighter variations with the thick handle of a kettlebell. This will carry over the most to your strength training exercises, whether it’s a deadlift, chin-up, or just about any other exercise you’ll attempt in the gym.

  • Reason #3: training scapular
    upward rotation.

    In order to safely train overhead movements, we need to have adequate upward rotation of the scapula (shoulder blade). Unfortunately, a lot of people come up short on this dynamically; the arm moves up, but the shoulder blade stays down. However, if you guide them to an upwardly rotated position and keep them there, they are often able to stay in place and get a great training effect that will ultimately lead to healthy shoulders. I like the bottoms-up waiter’s walk for this:

  • Reason #4: getting reflexive
    rotator cuff firing.

    The primary job of your rotator cuff is to keep the ball from popping out of the socket. Incorporating bottoms-up variations gives you subtle perturbations to stability that force your rotator cuff to do its job in a more functional manner. Here’s one that will complement the waiter’s walk from above nicely:

  • Reason #5: improving core stability

    When you take your arm(s) overhead, you’ve got to resist excessive extension (arching) of your lower back; this makes overhead carrying variations great anterior core stability exercises. And, when you only hold an implement in one hand at a time (as in a one-arm farmer’s walk), you also have to resist rotation and side-bending of your spine, so your exercise becomes a great rotary
    stability and lateral core challenge. Taking it even a step further, simply going into single-leg stance on each step with considerable resistance in each hand presents a core stability challenge, too. All these challenges taken together, you can quickly appreciate that carrying variations can really kick your core stability exercise program up a notch.

    As you can see, carrying variations provide many benefits while building a variety into your strength and conditioning programs. If you’re looking for a comprehensive training program that strategically incorporates carrying, be sure to check out The High Performance Handbook. It’s on sale at a great introductory price this week only!

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Last edited by aletheia; 10-31-2013 at 10:03 PM..
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