How to Carry Your Way to Gains

They aren’t something you hear people brag about or a trendy Instagram post. But loaded carries are king of functional movement and are one of the best ways to eliminate pain, increase strength and improve your conditioning at the same time. 

Grip strength, core strength, trunk and shoulder stability, muscular imbalances. You name it and there’s a carry that can help it. Still, most people either don’t know enough about them, aren’t sure when to do them or simply don’t have the time to add anything more to their training regimen.

Don’t let the only time you walk with weight be to save a wayward snatch. Find the area that best suits you and start adding this stuff in. Give it a few weeks and you’ll see some serious results. 

When you have no damn idea what you’re doing, but you’d like to try

Great, find something heavy and pick it up. Seriously, it’s that simple.

Putting a weight in your hand — whether it’s a dumbbell, kettle bell, sandbag or just a really heavy object — for farmers walks is one of the simplest ways to get the benefits of carrying.

You can hold it locked out overhead, which is great for the shoulders, to your side -suitcase style— or in a rack position to help you learn how to use your core.

You can do carries with one hand or with weights in both, though  try to see where each individual side is at first. If there’s a noticeably weaker side, work on closing the gap.

When you just want to get really damn strong

If you want to move the most weight possible, and see some serious gains in your legs, yoke carries are for you. There’s massive benefits to being under a heavy load and moving with it, as it requires your entire body to do so.

Most people will be able to yoke carry far more than they squat, so this is overloading your system and increasing time under tension. You can try to load it up as heavy as possible for as little as 10 feet, or do sets of moderately heavy weight up to 100 feet. Either way, you’re going to get strong quick.

The movement itself isn’t technical, but getting in and out of the yoke safely is important. Ask a coach or someone with experience to show you before you start loading it up.

When you’re pressed for time

But I don’t have time to carry! It’s not in my program! Throw it into your warmup instead.

Light kettle bell overhead carries work great here to get all those stabilizers firing. You can also jazz up a CrossFit group class with some partner sandbag carries or squats. You won’t be able to go as heavy but going for distance still has some of the same benefits.

Plus, it’s different and way more fun than doing another 500 meter row and walking lunges.

If you have time post-workout, get some extra core work with heavy farmers carries. They’re great grip burners and everyone could use extra grip work. (They translate to kipping pull-ups, heavy deadlifts, etc.)

The very smart guys at Active Life Rx recommend you work up to carrying (total between both arms) what you can deadlift for reps across 10 meter increments. For example, if you can deadlift 400 lb. for three reps, you should be able to carry 200 lb in each arm for about 30 meters. Not there? Start carrying more.

When you are dealing with an injury

Back injury? Sleds aren’t technically a loaded carry, but they are often grouped in that category because they offer the same benefits.

Unlike yokes, you aren’t loading your spine which is what makes them a great tool for people who want to keep leg strength and conditioning levels high while letting your back get to full strength.

Shoulder injury? How stable is your overhead? A lot of injuries are caused by weakness and instability and carries can benefit both. There’s no down side to carrying. You don’t tweak anything doing a carry. It’s all reward, little risk.