6-Week Challenge: Loaded Carries for Farmer's Strength
Let’s talk about how to gain some good old-fashioned work capacity, potential work productivity, horsepower, strength endurance, stamina, or whatever you call it. Just don’t ask me to discuss semantics. Some people like to argue about semantics (i.e., “I’m training. Oh wait, maybe I’m exercising. No, it must be working out.”), but I couldn’t care less.
I worked on a farm when I was younger, and almost every blue-collar job I’ve had since then involved carrying objects from one location to another. I remember the first time I tried carrying a hay-bale in each hand when I was a kid. I staggered along and struggled to hang on and cover the length of the barn. But I had the capacity to improve, and I did.
Since then, I’ve carried about everything you can think of in all sorts of positions: on my back, up high on my chest on one shoulder, at my waist, one-handed, two-handed, overhead with one hand, overhead with two hands, and more. Each position strengthens the body in a slightly different way.
If you’ve never done any form of loaded carry, it’s hard to describe what they bring to your table. Carries toughen up the body. They help you express your strength in odd ways. Carries create stability under motion. They can transform a person and give them that missing quality in their performance.
My Challenge to You
This year, a lot of people have found it hard to perform a regular routine and stick with it. But I like challenging people. So, here’s the challenge: perform loaded carries for the next six weeks. I’ll lay out a few ideas for you to try. I guarantee you will be amazed at how you feel at the end if you stick with it.
Most people perform carries by picking up an object, carrying it, and then setting it down to rest for a minute or more. This is even how carries are contested in strongman competitions. During loaded medleys, for example, a contestant will move 5-10 objects from one location to another, and then they are done.
But we are going to change the game.
The 6-Week Loaded Carry Challenge
You’ll need three objects to carry. It doesn’t matter what they are. My suggestion is do this close to home. Take a break from the gym for the next six weeks. It will save you drive time (traffic is terrible this time of year) and the time it takes to figure out what to wear to the gym so you look fashionable.
If you don’t have your own backyard, store the objects in the trunk of your car or hide them in some bushes. If you don’t have much money, you might use several different sizes of rocks, an old duffle filled with gravel, a short log, or an old tire. Use things no one would want to steal if they found them. You can store them out back at the company where you work. Just let a few people know so they don’t throw your training “equipment” away. Improvise, adapt.
I trained like this in Yellowstone Park years ago while on a camping and hiking trip. I used long logs and a rock. The surrounding campers thought I was nuts. After observing me, they gave me a wider berth than they did the bison.
The Set Up
Put one object at a line or wall and set the other two at the other line or wall, with about 30-60 feet between the lines. With heavier objects you want less distance between the two lines. Start at the line with two objects. You will figure out why in about one up-and-back trip.
Let’s paint a picture of what the carries will look like. Be sure to have a timer or clock handy. Note the time.
- At line A you have a barbell and slosh pipe lying on the ground, with a sandbag 60 feet away at line B.
- Grab the barbell and carry it over to the sandbag. Drop it.
- Pick up the sandbag and carry it back to the slosh pipe. Set the bag down or drop it.
- Pick up the slosh pipe and carry it back to the barbell.
- Set the slosh pipe down and grab the loaded barbell. Carry it back to the sandbag.
Okay, so you know the drill. Keep the medleys going for 20-30 minutes. Rest as needed.
Your goal is nonstop carrying for thirty minutes. At that point you can begin to increase the time, working up to an hour. Or you can increase the weight of one or two of the objects. Increase weight, time, or both. Pick your poison. Just don’t try to kill yourself. Let your body adapt and enjoy the process.
"Heavier and odd-shaped objects are more difficult to carry. You want to develop the endurance to carry the entire time, but don’t forget to bump up the weight and difficulty every now and then."
If you are up for the challenge, drop your regular routine and do these loaded carries 3-4 times per week for the next six weeks. You will find clarity when you free yourself from your regular convoluted gym routine. If you miss a day here and there due to the holidays and family visiting, no biggie. You can do carries nearly every day if you mix things up. Vary the objects, carries, weights, and length of time spent carrying.
Add a Friend
If you want some added fun, get a partner and another object so you have four objects total, with two at each end. You start at one end and your friend starts at the other end. You each pick up an object and walk past one another to the opposite side. There will be only one object there, the one your friend did not pick up. So drop your object and pick up the other one and walk back to the other line. At the same time your friend will be doing the same thing opposite you. Walk past each other again and repeat this sequence. On your fifth pick up you will be back to the first original object. But you’re not done yet - you’ve got 27 more minutes to go!
If your friend is faster, you’ll have to pick up the pace to make this work. You can actually push one another a bit. But don’t get carried away (haha). The objective is to last the entire time, not run back and forth.
If you’re doing the carries by yourself, test yourself every month or two and see how long you can last. You might go for three hours or so. Of course, you will need to drink some water and perhaps take short rest breaks here and there. Have a protein drink available to sip on if you need it. Hey, some people have hypoglycemia, so don’t get all high and mighty with your “worrier diet.” Or was that warrior? Who knows.
Just Pick It Up and Move It
Carries don’t require a lot of thinking. Just go out there. Pick three objects and carry them back and forth. View it as if it’s a job. You just go do it, no questions asked. Put in the work, push a little, and it’s pretty easy to get stronger and create some work capacity without killing yourself. Plus, it’s a heck of a lot of fun.
Heavier and odd-shaped objects are more difficult to carry. You want to develop the endurance to carry the entire time, but don’t forget to bump up the weight and difficulty every now and then. This will help strengthen your body in odd ways as you build more capacity, potential productivity, or whatever you want to call it. Put in the time, and I guarantee in a couple of months you’ll have more bite to your bark.
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