The number of individuals performing the Farmer’s Walk in average gyms is slowly increasing and as I see the number of users increase I see a slow, but steady watering down of proper form. The same decline that has been seen with other classic lifts, such as the bench press and squat. I am in no means saying that the Farmer’s Walk is not for the everyday average gym goer because in my opinion any body from any population can and should work the Farmer’s Walk into their training program. The benefits it offers are enormous. From the challenges it places on grip strength to the demand it creates on the upper back, hips, legs, and especially trunk not one is left unscathed. Renowned Canadian spine researcher Stuart McGill even called the farmer’s walk and it’s many other variations a “moving plank” which gives you an idea to the huge amounts of benefits this lift contains. But, the biggest problem with such a simple lift that offers loads of benefits is that many try to imitate the movement, but fail miserably because they have not been properly coached through the movement. A few very common mistakes I see with the average performer are exaggerated forward head and rounded shoulder, shortened gait length, limited hip mobility, and way to much time spend in a unilateral stance.
To begin we must fix our posture especially are excessive cervical anterior tilt and thoracic rounding. This improper position of the head places to much stress on the intervertebral discs. Placing a load held in the hands with the cervical spine in this position just adds to this stress. In addition the rounded thoracic positioning is the giving way of weak scapular retractors which further rounds the upper back. Doing all this poor posture under load just re-ingrains lousy postureThe fix for this problem is simply done in a two step process. First the correct cervical and thoracic spine mobility must be established. Second, you must also progress from restored thoracic spine mobility to proper thoracic extension
The second most crucial point when performing this exercise is to watch time spent in a unilateral stance as well as the length of gait. This unilateral stance is marked with a shuffling gait often associated with increases in weight. This shuffling is a combination concurrent hip adduction and internal rotation which negates a lot of glute activity going on during the carry. This gait also robs the carrier of the incredible core challenge this lift elicits because the more amount of time spent in a unilateral stance places more emphasis on the oblique, quadratus lumborum, and hip abductors while trying to maintain the pelvis and trunk in a correct position.To insure you avoid such a gait be sure to focus on equal steps of length and picking up each foot when taking a stride.
To close I hope you have a better understanding of the proper farmer’s walk technique to be used. This lift is a staple when it comes to metabolic work and overall general preparedness, but with a few tweaks and technical proficiency it can allow for a vast number of benefits.