Feb 6, 2013

Loaded Carries: Functional Training That Actually Works

Prevail Strength Coach Jacob Goodin

In a quest for improved "core stability" and to "keep training functional", the fitness media has pushed the notion that we can lift less weight, use strange new movement patterns, and wear brightly colored spandex to get into the best shape of our lives.  This is not "functional" as they claim.  It is merely trendy.

At Prevail Conditioning we don't care about trends, fads, or spandex (though your personal workout fashion choices are up to you)--we care about results.  We continually witness huge improvements in our clients' ability to use their core to brace and stabilize the spine during a variety of movements because we only prescribe exercises that have been proven to bring results.  One such exercise is known as the loaded carry.

The Loaded Carry

A loaded carry is any type of exercise that involves walking for a certain distance or time while carrying a heavy object.  This forces the hips and core to work much harder to stabilize the pelvis and spine while walking, while at the same time working the shoulders, traps, and grip strength.

The basic cue for each of these variations is to walk tall and keep the chest proud and shoulders back.   

Carry Variations

The most basic form of loaded carry, also known as the farmer's walk.  Be careful, basic doesn't mean it's any easier.  Use a pair of equal weight dumbbells.

The same as above, but with a single dumbbell.  Start off lighter then you think as the unilateral challenge to the core is actually tougher then the two dumbbell version.  Don't let the weight pull you into a sideways lean.

The One Up One Down carry employs a heavy dumbbell on one side and a much lighter dumbbell pressed overhead on the other.  Keep your elbow straight and your bicep by your ear (but don't tilt your head like I do)

The Overhead Loaded Carry takes some of the load off your core and hips, but is much more challenging for the shoulder girdles.  Keep those abdominals tight to ward off excessive lumbar extension.

Walking Variations

The awesome thing about carries is that you can add variety and increase the training effect using different walking variations.  Below are two of my favorites.

The mini-hurdles force you to time and meter your steps more precisely.  You can also add a longer pause in the knee up position if you so choose.

Using stairs transforms the exercise into a loaded carry/step-up hybrid.  Drive through your heel on each step, skipping a step on the way up and hitting each on the way down with both feet.  Keep the eyes and head straight forward to guard your posture.

And there you have it!  Try implementing these loaded carry variations on their own at the end of your workout or as part of a general strength conditioning circuit.  You can mix and match the carry and walking variations.  (one up one down on the stairs is a personal favorite).  Just don't let anybody catch you doing these while standing on a wobble-board with your eyes closed wearing green yoga pants.  Loaded Carries don't have to be trendy.  They just work. 

Jacob Goodin is a Prevail strength coach, Westmont College instructor, and Providence Hall High School head track and cross-country coach.  Contact him directly or go to prevailconditioning.com to set up a training session today!


David MacCulloch said...

Excellent Article and Videos. I agree, these are much harder than at first glance - IF you do them properly!

David MacCulloch said...

Excellent Article and Videos. I have done these and they are tough - especially if proper form is maintained. I would not go down stairs backwards as I would fall!