BENEFITS OF CARRYING
Carries in the weight room are some of the most applicable patterns that carry over to the real world, and the mats. Anytime you can think back to a heavy carry you have performed in your life, whether it be a removal of an old fridge, helping an injured buddy, or making the grocery run with multiple shopping bags in each hand, all in one trip, there’s one thing that cannot be avoided; effort.
Heavy carries recruit muscle fibres head-to-toe and summon the inner primal realms of pure effort. Torso strength and stability are challenged, as are many of the hip, knee, ankle and shoulder stabiliser muscle groups. The beauty of the carry as an exercise category is that it can be used for a variety of adaptations, depending on what you’re after. They don’t all have to be balls-to-the-wall.
Stability, strength, endurance, power, hypertrophy – all available depending on what you’re after.
GRAPPLERS AND STRONGER CIVILIANS
When I program carries for grapplers, I think in terms of pragmatism relative to the phase. For example, a heavy farmer’s carry will really tax the grip faculty, trapezius muscle group and torso strength. A suitable place for this variation is in the grappler’s off-season, where they can afford heavier work in the weight room and slightly longer recovery periods because they are not competing.
For stronger civilians, because they are not playing a sport, I also program the carry variation depending on what adaptation we’re after, and adjust the variables accordingly. I really like using carries with everyday people because they’re always challenging and there’s so many options.
Here’s some of my favourites for you to try;
WHAT ADAPTATION ARE YOU AFTER?
Shoulder Stability – Double Arm Overhead, Single Arm Overhead, Offset Overhead + Farmer’s. Bottoms Up variations: Bottoms Up Single Arm Overhead, Bottoms Up Offset, and Double Bottoms Up.
Torso Stability – Single Arm Farmer’s, Double Arm Farmer’s, Single Arm Front Rack, Double Arm Front Rack, Offset Overhead + Farmer’s, Offset Overhead and Front Rack, Wheelbarrow
Isometric Strength / Squeeze Endurance – Zercher Sandbag/Medball, Gable Grip Sandbag/Medball
Grip Strength – Heavy Double Arm Farmer’s, Plate Pinch Grip, Wheelbarrow
Hip Stability – Carry upstairs
Knee Stability – Carry downstairs
HOW TO PROGRAM
For strength gains, heavy carries work best – aim for 80%-90% of bodyweight.
30s-45s of work, 2-3 minutes of rest.
For hypertrophy gains, lighten the load – 60%-70% of bodyweight.
45s of work with 90s of rest.
For power endurance gains, set a distance of 20-30m and carry a heavy weight (60%-80% of bodyweight) as fast as you can, then rest 5x the time it took you to complete.
For example, the carry takes 15 seconds, so you rest 75 seconds. Do 4 -5 rounds.
For isometric strength or squeeze endurance, sand-filled objects work best.
For isometric strength, load yourself in a position where the sandbag is locked to your body.
Zercher, Gable grip, Ten Finger grip, etc.
Work hard for 10-20 seconds, then rest 60-90 seconds. 5-6 rounds.
For squeeze endurance, try and burst the object with your squeeze for at least 30 seconds of work time. You can do this moving, or static. The slight give of the sand compressing will give you a little bit of feedback that you’re doing it right. Choose a variety of grips with your hands.
Rest 90 – 120 seconds. Repeat 2-3 rounds.
For stability work, back the load off to 20%-40% of your bodyweight and focus on really controlling the load, moving smoothly towards to finish line. It’s not about speed, but controlling the natural oscillations that occur when you start walking.
For conditioning work, think about which energy system you’re trying to tax and then setup your work:rest ratios, accordingly.
For example, if you’re trying to hit the glycolytic (anaerobic glycolysis / lactic capacity) system, lift something heavy (75%-90%), carry it for 30 seconds, then dump it. Rest for 2 minutes 30 seconds for a complete recovery, or 60-90 seconds if you’re trying to improve your lactic capacity.
If you’re trying to target the glycolytic-oxidative (aerobic-glycolysis) system, lift a medium weight (30%-70%) for 1 minute, rest 3 minutes for a complete recovery. To train aerobic power output, rest for 1 minute and repeat for 4-8 rounds.
To target the oxidative (aerobic) system, carry a light weight (20%-35%) for 3 minutes or more, and rest 3 minutes. Long wheelbarrow carries work well for this and will help build general physical preparedness (GPP) which is perfect for off-season work.
It doesn’t get more practical than carrying something. Think of what adaptation you’re after and get creative! There’s so many loaded carry variations out there, I’ve only scratched the surface here. Partner carries open up a whole new world for grapplers and stronger civilians alike, and they’re super fun. Wheelbarrows will test your mettle, sandbags offer a unique deadweight challenge, and strongman-inspired medleys can make finishers a fun ordeal after your max or sub-max strength work. And don’t forget the trusty sled. Carries mixed with sled drags offer a whole new world to explore.