Carries: Why you should start utilizing them!


Hanuman Health Club loves utilizing loaded carries. In fact, we love it so much we are hosting a carry challenge. Go here for more information on our May 19th #HanumanCarryChallenge event and RSVP if you want in!

Hey, so why do you love carries so much?

Good question. To answer that let's go back some 12,000 years. Yes 12,000 years.

A lot of what we do at Hanuman is getting back to using our bodies the way they were designed to be used. Crawling, rolling, hanging, running, pushing, pulling, squatting, hinging, throwing etc. Carrying is right up there with the most important of them. Our ability to carry heavy items for long distances is one of the biological features that has allowed us to advance ahead of some of our primate cousins. The ability allowed us to be successful hunter gatherers, explorers, agriculturists and industrialists. This spurred us on to become great technologists. Ironically, this is where the carrying stopped. Nowadays we barely even carry grocery bags anymore. Humanity went from picking up camp and following a herd of wildebeest every 3 days to ordering for delivery everything we could possibly need and that means that carrying stuff has all but gone out the window. No surprises then when we actually do carry something we get little pains and niggles. At Hanuman Health Club we are determined to prevent New York City and Inwood residents from losing this magical biological gift. That is why we spend so much time recreating it in the gym.


From a neuromuscular point of view, developing bodily control against an external load while moving will see gains in core/hip/knee/ankle stabilization, posture and connective tissue. This is because it is almost impossible to carry weight correctly without being at an individually optimal alignment. As you are moving and carrying over long distances, your nervous system gets the chance to really program this alignment and structure.

How should I do carries?

Simple. Pick shit up. Carry it till your form fails (depending on goals, if you are training for performance and resiliency in a demanding sport or event you will need to push harder). Rest. Repeat.  

Don’t be a smart arse. What should I be looking for in performing the moves.

Ok, ok sorry. First off, make sure you are being mindful of how you move. The goal really isn’t to just get from A to B, but instead it’s about how you get from A to B. You don’t want the weight to hang passively from your body. The key element is to keep weight close to the center of the body. I like to think of it this way:The trunk (core, glutes, upper back, chest) as Zone 1, the upper limbs as Zone 2 and the lower limbs as Zone 3. Make structural adjustments to your pelvis, ribs, shoulders, breath etc until you feel Zone 1 doing most of the work. This will take some exploration. If you feel Zone 2 and 3 very early on in the exercise, you're most likely not utilizing the strength that can be created from the center of the body.


As far as types of carries go I always try to be creative, but often times end up reverting to the man who popularized carries in modern training: Dan John. The following examples are taken from his blog:

Category #1 – Weights in the Hand

These are the simplest and most recognized: grab a dumbbell or kettlebell and walk away.

One-Handed Carries

  •   Waiter's Walk: The weight is held with a straight arm overhead like a European waiter in a café. This is usually the lightest of the carries and does wonders for shoulders.

  •   Suitcase Walk: Grab the weight in one hand like a suitcase and walk. The obliques on the other side of the weight will want to have a discussion with you the next day.

  •   Rack Walk: Usually done with kettlebells, hold the 'bell in the racked position, which is the weight on the chest, like a clean. This is a fairly remedial move but it can teach an athlete about how the abs work.

Two-Handed Carries

  •   The Press Walk: This is simply a double waiter's walk but the weights come alive as you move. Warning: Do not do this to failure. It looks dangerous because, well, it is dangerous.

  •   Farmers Walk: The King of Carries. Go as heavy as you can with 'bells in both hands, just like in a Strongman competition. This can be done really heavy for short distances or lighter for great distances. My favorite variation is really heavy for great distances.

  •   Double Rack Walk: Same as above but with two kettlebells. Again, a learning move, but it's a great way to teach the athlete to breath under stress.

  •   Cross Walk: Waiter's walk in one hand while doing the farmers walk in the other. It's a very interesting way to teach the athlete to lock down the midsection during movement.


Category #2 – Bags, Packs, and Vests

This group includes backpacks, sandbags, and weighted vests. Personally, I still prefer the old duffle bag or field pack.

Go to any grocery store and buy either water softener salt or salt for de-icing. For about five to ten dollars, you can get 150 pounds of salt. Sand works better in many situations. Get whatever is cheap.

The basic bag carries are simple. It comes down to either "backpacking," holding the weight over the shoulders like a squat bar, or bear-hugging it. The backpack or vest setup is ideal as it leaves your hands free.

Bear hugging is a great training tool as the weight is not unlike Zercher squats: the internal pressure is building, the breath is choked off by the weight on the chest, and squeezing it hard in order to hold it is adding to all the problems. All in all, just nothing but fun.

Category #3 – Sleds

I also include sleds, pushing cars, going up hills (forward and backward), and all the various new pushing devices available in good gyms these days.

It's simple: Hook up a sled either with a harness or weight belt and tow away!

Ok, thank you. I guess I’ll go pick something up.

Yip get out there and carry something. We will be looking forward to seeing you on May 19th for the Hanuman Carry Challenge. More details linked here.