The farmer’s walk exercise is known for being an event in strongman competitions, but it’s also used by athletes, bodybuilders and anyone interested in developing their grip strength. Your glutes, quadriceps and gastrocnemius handle movement at your hips and legs, while your erector spinae and trapezius keep your spine and scapula stable. Because the farmer’s walk forces you to grip and hold very heavy weights, however, you’ll really feel most of the strain in the flexor digitorum profundus, flexor digitorum superficialis and flexor pollicis longus muscles in your forearms.
The farmer’s walk involves walking back and forth while holding weights down by your side. It's most commonly done with a pair of handled barbells. If you don’t have access to handled barbells, regular weighted barbells will also work. Make sure you have plenty of open space to walk and eventually turn around while holding the barbells. Set the handled barbells on the floor so that they’re parallel to each other and positioned about shoulder-width apart so that you have enough room to stand in between them. Squat down so that you can reach the handles and then stand back up while holding a barbell on each side. Walk forward, while taking small, quick steps. When you run out of room, turn around and walk in the opposite direction. Continue until fatigue forces you to lower the barbells back to the floor.
Using Various Weighted Implements
You need to be able to wrap your thumb and fingers around each weight for a weighted implement to be appropriate. While the handled barbell is the weighted implement used for the farmer’s walk in strongman competitions, you can also do the exercise with other types of weighted elements. Other options include dumbbells, kettlebells and anvils. To make the exercise even more difficult for your finger-flexing muscles, you can do the farmer’s walk while pinching weight plates between your fingers and thumb.
Frequency, Volume and Intensity
Incorporate the farmer's walk exercise into your upper-body weight-training workouts one to two days per week. Complete one set of the exercise. Instead of performing the farmer's walk for repetitions, perform the exercise for a maximum amount of time. Use a relatively heavy weight. To figure out what weight you should start with, multiply your bodyweight by 0.75 to get an estimate of the weight you should carry in each hand. If you find you can walk more than 60 seconds without fatigue forcing you the drop the weights, bump up the load by 10 pounds next time.
Scheduling the Farmer’s Walk in Your Workouts
It's important to only perform the farmer's walk after you've finished all the other weight-training exercises in your workout. After you complete your set of the farmer's walk, the finger-flexing muscles throughout your forearms will be extremely fatigued. If you do other exercises that require you to hold a barbell, dumbbell or kettlebell, such as chest presses or deadlifts, after the farmer's walk, this forearm fatigue can cause your grip to be weakened and can limit your performance during the other exercises.
- Photo Credit Hlib Shabashnyi/iStock/Getty Images
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