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Mastering the Kettlebell Farmers Walk for Enhanced Strength

By Greg Brookes
kettlebell farmers walk

The kettlebell farmers walk or carry is a powerhouse of an exercise, set to challenge your grip strength, work your major muscle groups, and ramp up your workouts.

Simple yet potent, this multi-functional exercise provides a robust strength-skill-endurance combo. Whether you’re a newbie or an elite athlete, it’s time to experience the comprehensive benefits of this very important exercise.

Benefits of the Farmers Walk

Undertaking the kettlebell farmer’s walk is akin to signing up for an all-in-one workout. This powerful exercise targets a plethora of muscles, giving your strength and conditioning a substantial boost.

The kettlebell farmer’s walk revolves around loaded carries, very functional exercises involving transporting sizable weights over a defined distance, an excellent strategy to improve muscle strength, endurance, balance, and control.

Muscle Activation

The kettlebell farmer’s walk calls into play numerous muscle groups, providing a comprehensive workout.

Here are the key muscles engaged:

  • Grip Strength and Forearm Muscles: Your forearms go into overdrive as you grip the kettlebells, essentially contracting the brachioradialis, the flexor carpi radialis, and the flexor digitorum profundus. Consequently, your grip strength improves as these muscles adapt to handle heavier loads over extended periods.
  • Upper Body and Core Muscles: Your body automatically rises to the balancing challenge as you carry the kettlebells. Your erector spinae, latissimus dorsi, and trapezius muscles work harmoniously with your shoulder structures and abdominal muscles to stabilise your torso, enhancing your posture and core capabilities.
  • Lower Body Muscles: Essentially, a moving plank, that’s how one could potentially describe the kettlebell farmer’s walk. The gluteus maximus, hamstrings, and quads contract to provide the stability necessary to maintain proper form and to support the body’s weight along with the added load.

Metabolic Perks

The kettlebell farmer’s walk goes beyond just engaging your muscles; this distinctive blend of strength and aerobic conditioning also develops your heart health and metabolic conditioning.

Continuous walking with a heavy load effectively spikes your heart rate, stimulating blood circulation and thus ensuring a cardiovascular workout.

dumbbell farmers walk
Dumbbells Farmers Walk

Farmers Walk Technique and Form: A Step-by-Step Guide

To unlock the full spectrum of benefits the kettlebell farmers walk offers, you must ensure your form and technique are on point.

Poor technique will slow your progress and can increase the risk of injury. Here’s a breakdown of the four-stage process of performing a kettlebell farmer’s walk:

1. Positioning

Your setup is the foundation of the entire exercise. Begin by placing two kettlebells on either side of your feet, lined up with your toes.

Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart. A proper stance ensures balance and support when you lift the weights. Prep your body for the exercise by keeping your chest up, shoulders back, and eyes forward.

2. Lifting

Bend your knees and hips simultaneously to achieve a squat-like position, keeping your back straight to protect your spine. Think of it like sitting back into a chair. Engage your core for added stability, then grab the kettlebell handles.

Remember, the movement should come from your lower body, the deadlift. Your arms are hooks here, securing the weight but not lifting it. When grabbing the kettlebells, ensure that your grip is strong and tight, this will also work your forearm muscles.

3. Walking

Stand tall, maintaining a neutral spine, and begin walking. Keep the kettlebells at your sides, not in front or behind you, so your body remains symmetrical and balanced.

Aim for small, quick steps to maintain control, preventing the weights from swinging. A key point is keeping your shoulder blades retracted to stabilize your upper body throughout the walk. Imagine trying to hold a pencil between your shoulder blades.

4. Returning

Once you’ve reached the end of your walking path, it’s time to return the kettlebells to the ground.

Don’t just let the weights drop from your hands. Instead, squat by bending at your hips and knees and carefully place the kettlebells back on the floor.

Common Farmers Walk Mistakes

  • Rounding the Back: This stressful posture can result in back discomfort or injury. Always aim for a straight, neutral back, both when lifting weights and while walking.
  • Allowing Swinging of Weights: Letting the weights swing as you walk can lead to imbalanced muscle load and strain. Keep the kettlebells steady and close to your body.
  • Rushing the Lift and Drop: An abrupt lifting or dropping of weights can jar your body and risk injury. Control is crucial.
  • Overextending the Stride: Long strides can lead to instability and increase the risk of the kettlebells hitting your legs. Short, measured steps are the way to go.
  • Neglecting the Core: A well-engaged core not only improves your posture but also reduces the risk of injuries.

Mastering the form and technique of the kettlebell farmer’s walk is a process. Patient practice yields perfect performance.

Safeguard against common mistakes to ensure maximum efficiency, and look forward to getting a step closer to your fitness goals with each walk.

Hex or trap bar farmers walk
Hex or Trap Bar Farmers Walk

Exploring Farmers Carry Variations

The versatility of the kettlebell farmer’s walk exercise allows for variations to suit different fitness levels and goals.

By swapping the type of equipment or altering the weight distribution, you can shift the workout’s focus and challenge yourself in unique ways.

1. Lighter Weights

Beginners or those seeking a lower-intensity movement for active recovery days can opt for lighter weights during a kettlebell farmer’s walk.

Though less demanding, lighter weights still help strengthen and tone muscles, improve grip strength, and work on cardiovascular conditioning.

Keep the walking distance consistent, focusing on maintaining stable weights and perfecting your form. This deceptively simple variation allows your body to recover and provides the added benefit of working on your technique.

2. Dumbbells

Accessible and efficient, dumbbells serve as an excellent alternative to kettlebells. As explained previously, the technique remains unchanged, simply substitute the kettlebells with dumbbells and follow the lifting, walking, and returning steps.

Dumbbell farmer’s walks retain all the muscle-activating and heart health benefits of the original exercise, making them a fantastic option when kettlebells are unavailable.

3. Hex Bar and Trap Bar

Initially intended for deadlifts and shoulder shrugs, hex bars or trap bars provide a new challenge for advanced lifters capable of handling a heavier load.

The hexagonal frame and two-level handle design enable lifters to manage heavier weights with a neutral grip and a balanced, centred load.

To perform a farmer’s walk with a hex bar, step inside the frame, grasp the handles, lift, and walk the prescribed distance. This variation can improve overall muscle strength, grip endurance, and balance.

4. Unilateral

The unilateral variation of the farmer’s walk introduces an off-centre load, demanding deeper core engagement and enhanced balance.

With a kettlebell or dumbbell in one hand, walk as you would in a traditional farmer’s walk—however, the uneven weight distribution requires your body to resist lateral forces.

This resistance activates your oblique abdominal muscles for increased core stability. As you advance, switch between holding the weight in your right and left hands, performing equal sets on each side.

Kettlebell Farmers Carry
Unilateral Kettlebell Farmers Carry

Farmers Walk Progressions and Incorporating into Your Routine

Incorporating the kettlebell farmers carry into your regular workout regimen requires careful planning, respect for your current fitness level, and a clear understanding of progression principles.

Remember, gradual increases garner the best results when working on progression, fostering strength, muscle mass, and overall endurance.

Here are some suggestions on how you could safely and effectively factor in this exercise into your workout routine:

1. Weight

When starting with the kettlebell farmers walk, choose kettlebells you can comfortably carry for at least 30 seconds without your form faltering.

This usually equates to a weight that’s lighter than what you may initially perceive as manageable.

Gradual weight increases as your strength improves will help ensure continuous muscle adaptation and growth.

For instance, you could plan for a weight increase every two weeks, observing how your body reacts, and then adjust your progression speed accordingly.

2. Distance or Duration

The distance or duration you intend to perform the kettlebell farmers walk should align with your current endurance capacity.

Start with a shorter distance, this could be around 10-20 metres initially or 20-30 seconds. As your endurance levels increase, gradually extend the walking distance or time.

This progressive overload aids in enhancing both cardiovascular and muscular endurance.

3. Frequency

For rookies to the kettlebell farmer’s walk, consider incorporating this exercise into your workouts 1-2 times per week.

This frequency allows your body ample time to adapt to the new movement and build the necessary strength and endurance.

As you grow more comfortable and your body acclimatises to this exercise, you may increase the frequency up to 3-4 times per week, depending on your individual recovery ability and overall training volume.


The kettlebell farmers’ walk is a remarkable exercise that improves your strength and conditioning.

It is a testament to the fact that sometimes, the most straightforward moves deliver the most formidable results.

By investing a small amount of time into this exercise, you can gain muscle mass, improve your posture, and skyrocket your heart health, the benefits are genuinely multifaceted.

So, pick up a pair of kettlebells or dumbbells and start reaping the rewards of the mighty kettlebell farmer’s walk today!

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    1. Al Avatar

      What about 1 handed farmer walk stair climbs as a progression?

      1. Greg Brookes Avatar

        Yes, great porgression Al.