Updated: Mar 28, 2020
This post is dedicated to carrying heavy shit. It is one of my favorite things to do in the gym, at home, and anywhere I can find something heavy. Why is that?
First, I feel really powerful carrying heavy shit.
And second, I am humbled when I carry heavy shit.
I love that dichotomy. Hence, I love carrying heavy shit.
We all deserve to feel powerful and strong; we also all deserve to struggle and be unforgivably humbled by a physical experience on a regular basis. What happens if you find success within the struggle? The struggle itself is the beauty of the work. We can create a sustainable relationship with the struggle, which is an act of success in itself. We don't always need to succeed or fail, but we do need to struggle.
Real strength comes from moments when we encounter a challenge of both our physical and mental capacities. I'm sure the strongest people out there would agree that it is necessary to have those moments of humility to secure their self-empowerment and physical strength.
Moments of defeat, such as your hands literally giving out and the feeling of the handle of a kettlebell slowly slipping out of your grip, are not something we as modern humans experience on a regular basis. When was the last time you carried something heavier than a bag of groceries? Or do you get those delivered now?
As a kid, I remember playing on monkey bars until I couldn't physically hold on any longer. I remember climbing trees and tire swing ropes to the top, only to slip down from the fatigue taking over and forcing me to release. I think we all need to find more moments where we reach to our physical extremes. And I don't mean that you should just walk into a gym and try to squat 300lbs or take off for your first run at a sprint. Of course, we have to train smart and develop prerequisites to establish a strong foundation. We need to allow our bodies to progress steadily, and naturally, to achieve whatever goals we are working toward.
A Farmer Carry is a wonderful skill to learn and build upon. It creates strength in many ways and is the prerequisite for so many other movements and tasks. For example, practicing a carry can help you with kettlebell swings, handstands, pull-ups, and even running. I'll get into more of the benefits a bit later, but for now just know that when you learn how to carry heavy shit efficiently, your body will have the ability to transfer that efficiency and integrate what it learned with many other skills. Farmer Carries can establish the foundation of strength, posture, mind-body connection, and full-body coordination of effort. You can accomplish dynamic movement efficiently and safely after you are able to complete simple tasks, like carrying heavy shit from point A to point B.
Sounds boring, maybe? It could be, but I've learned to love the art of simplicity. I've learned to love the struggle. Uncovering the dynamic layers of engagement that are necessary to execute something simple, with precision and grace, is a thing of beauty, and a skill that most humans overlook or don't even attempt.
We can make the simplest things into a task that challenges more than just our physical extremes, but also our mental capacity to participate in life more fully. If you want to be in the present moment, try carrying 16kg on each side for 5o meters, walking really slow. I'm talking pretend-like-you're-walking-through-concrete kind of slow. Find the struggle. You'll be in the present real quick. And when it's hard, you know you're doing it right.
So now you might be asking yourself, "What can carrying heavy shit actually do for me?" I'm so psyched that you asked.
Here are a few benefits:
*Grip strength and endurance
*Patterning proper locomotion and the transfer of weight from one foot to the next with load (lots of ankle dorsi-flexion + plantar flexion, hip flexion + extension to propel your body through space smoothly)
*Posture -ability to activate within your most efficient and supported "anatomical" position while walking with load
*Endurance of full-body engagement and activation head to toe
*Intra-abdominal pressure and trunk stability while moving through space with load
*Shoulder stability and loaded external rotation of the shoulder joint
*Mental fortitude and capacity of willpower to keep carrying heavy shit further or longer than you think you can
Alrighty then, let's get into some fun variations! Of course there are an infinite number of ways to carry heavy shit, especially since you can use almost any object or workout tool for a carry and there are many different types of grips to play with too. I'm simply sharing a few that I like to execute with kettlebells.
Asymmetrical Farmer Carry
Single Rack Carry
Rack + Suitcase Carry
Double Rack Carry
Rack + Overhead Carry
Now go find some heavy shit to carry, and remember it's not a race, literally. Go really slow; go slower than you think you should.
*Don't know the technique of a Farmer Carry?
In my first post, one of the exercises I shared was the symmetrical Farmer Carry. Here's a simplified "how to" description if you want a refresher of the technique. Or find a movement coach, trainer, or friend that is skilled with kettlebells/knows their shit and ask them for some help to make sure you're engaging properly and getting the most out of your time carrying heavy shit around. You don't want to do it for nothing, so try not to cheat yourself out of the effort and full-body engagement that you can achieve when doing a carry properly.
*And don't worry. I'm going to share a video as my next post that breaks it down for you and gives you the subtleties of good technique.