Is Doing Loaded Carries Only A Good Workout?

February 16th 2020

Is doing loaded carries only the secret way to get stronger?

It may not be common today but when gyms and fancy equipment did not exist, how did our strongman and lifters practice lifting heavy weight?

They used what was around.

In Iceland and in the mountains, they lifted stones.

If you grew up on a farm, you lifted heavy stacks of hay and farm equipment.

If you grew up in a blacksmith’s shop, you lifted heavy iron ingots, rods, molted metals.

If you grew up in the forest, you cut down trees and carried logs.

You get the picture.

We get strong because we lift heavy.
And we do it often with enough food and consistency.

But these are the modern times now.

Will doing ONLY loaded carries still give us the same or better results than modern strength training exercises like the squat, bench press and deadlift?

Loaded carries only

Loaded carries are a great to build your stabilizers, core, static strength and an awesome way to supplement your deadlift, squat, and overhead press. 

Loaded carries are typically seen as farmer’s carries, sandbag carries, husafell carries, and yokes.

Strongman event days

Before we go into discussing the Strongman event training days, you are probably familiar with the farmer’s carries, sandbag carries, and yokes.

But do you know the origins of the husafell carries?

To achieve FULLSTERKUR in Iceland, a boy to become a man, he must lift a stone that weighs at least 341lbs.

The husafell stone weighs over 400lbs and really shows the virtues of strength within our lifting culture across the globe.

Here is a video that documents that, for your interests:

With that said, typically if you are starting out adding loaded carries onto your week, try once a week.

Strongman programs and other strength sports may tweak that number but you need to find something that suits your goals.

If you are unsure right now, there is no harm in adding a loaded carry once a week to do.

It will help build a big foundation for you to take advantage of later on.

Plus, I have written another article about how often you should do farmer’s walks so you should give that some attention as well.


Programming loaded carries into your workout

Okay, I am convinced.

How should I program farmer’s walks or some sort of carrying variation into program?

No, you do not need a specific Strongman program but you do need to think about what is the loaded carries training for you.

  • Loaded carries as a deadlift accessory
  • Loaded carries as a heavy conditioning movement
  • Loaded carries as a light conditioning movement
  • Loaded carries as a main movement 

Loaded carries as a deadlift accessory

Great exercise to help supplement your deadlift.

You can train the loaded carry in so many different ways

Train moderate weight for a fixed distance

2-3 sets of a certain distance will be enough. 

Do this once a week and try to maintain that consistency.

Too easy for you?

Up the weight a tiny bit.

With this variation, you get the most bang out of your time spent in the gym.

Train heavy weight for short distances

This is to train your grip.

Also to overload your big muscles while training your stabilizers.

Also a great option.

Train static holds

You just stand up with a decent weight.

Trains your grip, and stabilizers.

Loaded carries as a heavy conditioning movement

If you have this movement on its own day, a minimum of 3 sets should be done.

Start off with 3 and work your way up.

Use a heavy weight, maybe 1.1-1.2x your bodyweight would be good.

If not, try to aim for your bodyweight.

This variation is great for strongman training, powerlifting and anyone looking to gain peak strength.

Loaded carries as a light conditioning movement

This is more of a lighter conditioning movement.

With relatively light weight, you will train your strength endurance.

Again, great four your stabilizers.

This is great for general health training, and a recovery for heavy workouts.

A lot of people might want to get introduced to loaded carries through this training style.

But a majority of your progress will be made through heavier training for a fixed distance.

Loaded carries as a main movement 

With loaded carries as a main movement, you will work up to your top set and perform it for at least 3 sets.

Next time you come back, you will try to progressively overload the exercise.

What does this mean?

  • More weight next time, same distance
  • Same weight, more distance next time
  • Same weight, same distance, more sets next time
  • Same weight, same distance, same sets, less rest time (not a popular option)

However, you choose to improve your loaded carries each week, that will be decided on you.

Just make sure you do not try to improve everything at once since you want the ability to continuously get stronger. 

Should I do the waiters carries?

It depends on what your goals and training experience are.

For instance if you are a true novice with zero training experience, the waiters carries might be a good exercise to not scare you away from the gym.

On contrast, a 400lbs professional Strongman will not receive any benefit from the waiters carries that he could not get from doing farmer’s carries.

Unless he is warming up or rehabbing his body.

But I am referring to making progress and the Strongman won’t receive any with a light weight waiters carries.

And from what I have seen on the internet, a lot of waiters carries are done with relatively light weight.

The target audience is usually moderately active individuals that want to try something new.

This is something new but I would just stick with heavy farmer’s walks or sandbag carries.

While this may be good for the beginner, focus on big compound exercises.

Do not waste any time and the gym and be efficient with your exercise selection.

The message is great to promote moving more but there are better exercises out there.

And for those people looking for new exercises to make training more interesting, guess what?

There really is no secret and most of the exercises we do are repetitive.

We do them for years to build strength.

Occasionally, we add a few new exercises to keep our body healthy and to just train a new movement, body part, whatever.

But for a majority of our training, we do not change anything if it keeps working for us.

The timeless saying will continue to remain true.

Same thing does for the racked carries

I have watched the videos about the transition from a waiters carry to a racked carries. 

Then, after you get tried, you hold the weight beside your body until your grip gives out.

So, why should people not train a regular farmer’s carry instead of this?

Look, there is no formula for fast strength and if anyone is trying to sell that to your through a program or course, they are just being a salesman.

Hard work with consistency in exercises that work.

  • Farmer’s carries
  • Sandbag carries
  • Yoke walks
  • Stones
  • Awkward heavy objects to pick up

In my opinion, do not waste your time with light weights.

Challenge your body and watch your potential continue to grow.

Carry yourself into strength paradise

With the loaded carries, expect your strength to climb dramatically.

It will not be instant but you will see your strength blow up.

Training your grip and posterior chain with any loaded carry exercise has always been a good way to build your strength with time.

So, commit to this for your greater health and let us make gains together.

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