In life, things don’t have to be over-complicated and when it comes to packing on the muscle, it can be the simplest things that really work.
If this introduction has got you to sit up and take notice, then read on – we’ve got an amazing bodybuilding hack that will pump muscle, boost strength and improve your core stability. And all you need to do is ‘pick up a weight and walk’.
We’re talking a loaded carry which, as its name implies, involves holding a weight or suitably heavy object and walking a distance carrying it. In return, you get an all-around muscle blaster that builds strength and endurance while honing your core stability and balance.
Too simple? Well, yes and no. You do have to put in the effort and, more importantly, do it correctly, but the loaded carry really does work. And all without the need for the technical kit or expensive gym equipment.
Fancy getting loaded? Then please read on….
What Is A Loaded Carry?
A favorite technique of many athletes, sportsmen, and powerlifters, the loaded carry comes with seriously loaded benefits that will soon bring you some totally awesome results. And the premise behind the move really is so simple – pick a weight of your choice (such as a dumbbell, kettle bell, weight plate or medicine ball), get a good grip and steadily walk forward as if your life depended on it!
There is obviously the need for a good technique to keep it safe and effective (more on this later) and you can shake up the weights and the way you carry them to hit different muscle groups, but that really is as complicated as it gets!
The Benefits Of The Loaded Carry
Put your back into loaded carries and you’ll soon feel – and see – the benefits, which include:
Builds your back muscles – like the pumped triangle back look? Then loaded carries will help you get those shoulder and upper back-framing trap muscles into shape, as well as power-boosting your back muscles for a concrete upper body.
Boosts shoulder strength – with a loaded carry, you work those deltoids, shoulder blades and pecs as you take the strain of the solid weight. The results are impressive, not only pumping the muscles for an awesome shape but creating strength and stability in your arms and shoulders.
Creates a rock-solid grip– who doesn’t love a firm handshake? Max the loaded carry and you’ll have a muscled grip that can bring tears to another man’s eyes.
Gives you a stronger core – you’ll need to engage your body’s central bedrock to keep the lift and while you may feel the burn, those core muscles will thank you for it. Working out with loaded carries not only tightens those all-important lower core muscles but improves your overall stability, strength, and balance. The benefits also extend into your lats, those spine protecting muscles running up your back, helping to improve your overall posture.
Increase muscle mass – this may initially sound unpleasant but don’t worry, regular load carrying will positively stress out your body’s muscles – known as Time Under Tension – to load up their mass to cope with the pressure. Over time, this will see positive muscle growth as your body adapts to deal with prolonged tension.
Increases overall body strength and stamina–we’ve all heard of muscle memory and with loaded carries, you can prime your body to cope with more, building overall body strength and capacity for performance.
The Essentials Of A Loaded Carry
Before you get carried away, it’s important to take a little time to crack the principles of the loaded carry technique. Smash the move’s essentials and you’ll not only keep your body protected but you’ll also get the most out of all that weighted effort.
Here are our must-dorules for a safe and effective loaded carry:
- Look ahead – before and during the carry. Balance is everything to a good carry and if you are looking down, you are more likely to make the whole move unstable. Once you have your grip on the weight sorted, look straight ahead as you lift and walk.
- Keep your shoulders tight – throughout the move, it is essential that you pack in your shoulders as tight as possible to maintain and improve joint stability.
- Straighten your back – without locking or creating any unnecessary tension, keep your lower back and pelvis straight and aligned throughout the carry.
- Lock your grip – this is not only so you don’t drop the weight at a crucial moment but also to create tension in your grip and work those core muscles in your hands and arms.
- Perfect a shorter step–avoid the temptation to strike out, but instead shorten your step, ideally to around no more than 12 inches. A shorter step gives you a stronger support base under the weight.
- Tuck in your chin–try not to crane your neck as this will put pressure on your spine. Instead, keep your ears straight over your shoulders and hips to keep your back nice and aligned.
- Engage your core–and keep your ribs nice and flat. If they push out too much, you will be putting a strain on your lower back. To help with your body positioning, breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, which will keep your ribs low and your core totally on board.
- Play with the weight–any weight you can hold for the distance you want to travel is good to go, so try working up to safely test your limit, for maximum impact.
Before You Start
If you have never tried a loaded carry before or are a little out of condition, it’s important you start slow. Yes, these are simple moves, but they really do test your mettle and so it’s essential to take care not to push too far, too soon.
Start with the basic front-loaded carry and work out your starter weight to crack the core technique and ease your body into play. Once you have found your stability in the move, step it up, both in terms of the weight you carry and how you carry it.
Loaded Carries – The Top Four Moves
Now you have mastered the rules for the core technique, you can move on to put together a full workout using the four main variants of the basic loaded carry. Mix them up in one session for a full body blastor focus on one or two for a targeted muscle-crunching workout.
OK, let’s get carried away….
Version 1 – front-loaded
Exactly as it sounds, you pick up your weight and hold it in front of you, normally close to your body and held in both hands.
Best for: good for most muscle groups, a front-loaded carry will get your hamstrings and biceps especially on the burn.
Why not try…
- The Zercher Walk–in weightlifting terms, the ‘Zercher’ move refers to where you hold the weight, which should be in the crook of your elbows. So, this follows through into this front-loaded carry. Hold the weight or barbell in the crook and close to your chest, with your core engaged and your back straight and off you go.
- The Bear Hug –just as it sounds, this involved wrapping your arms around a weight (or weighted object such as a sandbag) as if giving it a massive bear hug. Keep the weight at chest height and hold securely, with your fingers clasped at the front. Take a breath and start moving in small strides forward.
Version 2 – Side-loaded
To go side-loaded take a firm grip of weight in each hand and hold them low beside your sides. With this position, you can really up the size of weight to give an awesome all body workout.
Why not try…
- The Farmer’s Walk –this is the classic carry that gets you to release your inner countryman as he heaves those bales around the farm. Hold an equal weight in each hand by your side, with your arms straight and walk on.
- The Suitcase Carry – You can also shake it up the Farmer’s Walk and turn it into the Suitcase Carry by just using one arm weighted at a time, keeping your core tense and back straight so that your body is evenly balanced as you walk forward. Rest, then walk for the same distance or time with the other side loaded. If you really don’t have a heavily loaded suitcase to hand, then use a dumbbell or kettlebell will do!
Top tip: you can really up the toughness of both the Farmer and the Suitcase carries by just pinch gripping a weight plate and see how far you can walk.
Version 3 –Overhead
OK, this where the muscle heat steps up to really challenge your stability and upper body.
Take a weight firmly in both hands and raise straight above your head before you step out.
A barbell is a good fit for this exercise, but hand weights will also work well. A clean jerk up into position will be needed, just make sure you take a moment to recover your position and balance before moving on. Try it with a snatch grip for even more of a challenge.
Best for: Shoulders, traps, core muscles, all-around strength, and stamina
Why not try…
- Overhead Walk x 2– Make it two dumbbells or kettlebells, one in each hand and hold directly over your shoulders. Make sure you have stabilized the weight overhead and then walk with your arms locked in the up position.
- Bottoms Up –Not totally an overhead, but the principle (and the muscle burn) are the same. To go bottoms up, hold a kettlebell upside down, with your upper arm parallel to the floor and your elbow at 90 degrees. Hold tight and move steadily forward.
- The Waiter Walk – by now you may be feeling you need a drink, but not yet, you’ve more weighted carries to do and the Waiter Walk is one of the best ones. The name is self-explanatory: hold a dumbbell, single weight or kettlebell over your head, with your elbows bent as if you are a waiter carrying a tray through a crowded bar. As you walk, you should feel it in your forearms, biceps, shoulders, and traps.
Version 4 – Between your knees
Perhaps not the most dignified of moves, but hey, who’s looking! Bring your arms down with both hands firmly clasped around a weight or dumbbell and hold low between your legs at knee height, trying to keep the core tight.
Best for: glutes, shoulders, core
Why not try…
- The Duck Walk–this is an appropriately named weighted carry as it’s impossible not to waddle a bit when you move forward. But done properly, that waddle will pay off, trust us! To get started, hold a weight or kettlebell in each hand Hold a kettlebell in each hand between your legs and when you’re ready and stable, start to walk (or waddle) forward.
Mixing It Up To Carry On
Once you have perfected the four variants and played around with the different workout combos, you should start to really see and feel a difference. Not only will your muscles start to become more defined, but your strengthened core will also offer you greater stability and your stamina will have increased. And these changes can only pay it forward when it comes to your other workouts, sports, and fitness goals.
But now that you are in on the simplest of workout secrets, don’t stop. Continuing to push your loaded carries will keep you lean and your muscles keen. And with most things, variety really is the spice of life. Try out different weights or weighted objects of different shapes to really up until the difficulty level. Or add a little more distance each time you run through your loaded carries routine to keep your stamina and endurance levels on their toes.