Loaded Carries

Good Health LifestylesGet Healthy

Strength and Stamina to Seize the Day

I’m willing to bet that there isn’t a day that goes by without you picking up something heavy and carrying it to another location. Whether you are a mom carrying your baby, an executive carrying a briefcase, or a grocery clerk carrying boxes, carries are done daily by almost all of us. And wouldn’t it be nice if, after a hard day’s work, you still have energy left when you get home to actively engage in one-on-one time with the spouse or playtime with the kids? Well, let me share with you an exercise secret that offers both the strength and the stamina to do just that. It’s called “loaded carries,” or “weighted gait.”

Dan John, strength coach and Highland Games competitor (where guys in kilts throw giant logs into the air), calls loaded carries “game changers” for his clients, which include Olympic and professional athletes. No matter how many trophies his clients may have earned, he believes they will never become well-rounded athletes until loaded carries are included in their workout routine. He has turned around many athletes’ careers by employing this simple form of exercise (called “work” by farmers, loggers, miners, brick layers, and all people who build things). John describes loaded carries in highly technical terms as follows: pick up stuff off the ground, put stuff overhead, and carry stuff for a certain length of time and distance.


As with other exercises in the “functional training” category, loaded carries improve your overall health and functionality because your entire body is engaged. As you increase your capacity to carry stuff, you build muscle strength, improve cardiovascular fitness, and burn more calories. This then induces fat loss, which, in turn, increases your mobility and speed. You feel more energetic, you have more stamina, and your balance and coordination keeps getting better. You gain overall core strength which then supports better posture and improves spine health. And, for athletes, carries help you develop acceleration, explosiveness, and the hip and trunk stability necessary for abrupt changes of direction (as in football, soccer, or basketball).

Fun and Family Friendly

Because loaded carries are easy to learn, you and your family members can perform these exercises correctly and safely in no time. And, you don’t need much equipment or a gym in which to do them. Dumbbells or kettlebells are good weights, as well as heavy ropes or chains, sand bags, milk cartons, canned goods, and even rocks can serve as your “loads.” Weighted vests, backpacks and duffle bags also work. And, a nice space in the backyard, a nearby hill or slope, or any flat surface where you can move over a specified distance carrying or pulling weighted objects will do just fine.

The fun part is how creative you can be in finding the wide variety of ways to perform carries, and the types of weights or loads you use. For example, you can carry a weight overhead or chest level. You can carry one kettlebell or two. You can carry one weight above the shoulder while simultaneously carrying another weight below the waist. You can drag a sled behind you, or walk up a hill wearing a weighted backpack. The more you get into it, the more ideas you will have.

The following are just a few of the classic forms of weighted carries. In all of them, increase the distance (or repeat for 2 or 3 sets) and the weight as you get stronger and your stamina improves.

Waiter’s Walk

A “one-handed” carry, which works the shoulders, core muscles, and legs.

How to do it:

  • Hold the weight with a straight arm overhead like a European waiter in a café.
  • Make sure your shoulders are stabilized and your posture straight.
  • Walk as far as you can while holding the weight overhead.

Farmer’s Walk

This is a two-handed carry. Along with building stamina, the farmer’s walk is a free-weight exercise that targets the shoulders, upper back, lower back, forearms, derriere, and legs.

How to do it:

  • Hold a pair of dumbbells or kettlebells that are relatively heavy for you and let them hang at arm’s length next to your sides, palms facing each other.
  • Roll your shoulders back, open your chest and keep your core muscles actively engaged, while keeping your gaze straight ahead.
  • Walk as far as you can while holding the dumbbells at your sides.

Duffle Bag Carry

This is a basic bag carry. You can fill it with sand or de-icing salt (purchased very cheaply at any hardware store). Keep the weight light at first and then add more sand or salt as you get stronger. Use a backpack if you are more comfortable with your hands free and your arms at your side. Targets the core, upper and lower back, derriere, and legs.

How to do it:

  • Hold the bag behind your neck and on your shoulders like you would a barbell for squats.
  • Keep your posture erect, chest open, core muscles engaged, and your arms in a stable position as they hold the bag.
  • Keep your gaze straight ahead.
  • Walk as far as you can.

Sled Pull

Kind of a fun one, especially if you walk uphill. It targets the glutes, the legs (including the calves), as well as the core. All you need is a sled, or a wheelbarrow shell (available at any home supply warehouse), or anything you can put rocks on, and a weight belt. Tie one end of the rope to your sled and the other to your weight belt.

How to do it:

  • As with all carries, make sure your spine is straight, chest open, and your core engaged.
  • Keep your gaze straight ahead.
  • Walk as far as you can.

Before beginning any loaded carry activity:

  • Stand tall. Picture a string attached to the top of your head and another to your tailbone. In your mind, pull each of these strings in opposite directions.
  • Let your shoulder blades settle in naturally.
  • Breathe rhythmically and low into your belly.
  • Keep your core muscles engaged.

Stay in the Game – Natural Remedies that Reduce Inflammation and Stop Pain

If you’re consistent in your exercise program, you will inevitably experience inflammation and muscle pain which can set you back or temporarily take you out of your workouts.  While practicing good form for each exercise can help protect you from injury, keeping the following are herbs on hand can reduce pain and inflammation so keep you in the game.

  • Curcumin: The compound derived from turmeric is most clinically studied anti-inflammatory herb available. To maximize its pain relieving powers, look for a curcumin supplement that provides enhanced absorption and bioavailability like BCM-95.
  • Boswellia: This Ayurvedic herb provides both pain relief and assists in muscle recovery. But like curcumin, absorption can be problematic. Check labels for a propriety form of bioavailable boswellia known as Bos-Pure.
  • DLPA: Also known as DL-phenylalanine, this amino acid eases pain by blocking the enzymes that break down the body’s own pain–killing compounds, endorphins and enkephalins. Look for this natural pain reliever in combination with curcumin and boswellia for maximum relief.


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