Corrective Carries: Farmer’s Walk and Suitcase Carry

Strongman training has become more popular and more prominent in many strength and conditioning programs at all levels of training.

At IFAST, we use Farmer’s Walks and Suitcase Carries in programs for a full spectrum of clients from our athletes to even our fat loss clients.  While we may utilize them for their potential in improving overall strength or as conditioning, many times we’ll use them as corrective exercises.

Balancing Stiffness

If you or your clients present with that oh-so-common rib flare associated with abberant breathing patterns and extension dominant postures like a classic Janda lower crossed syndrome, at some point you’ll need to develop some abdominal muscle stiffness to off-set the extensor-based stiffness.  Carries provide high levels of abdominal and hip muscle activity that will reinforce your corrective programming.

We’ll also see similar effects in the shoulder girdle

Scapular Positioning/Stability Correction

Oftentimes we’ll have clients present with poor scapular positioning and poor motor control that can result in scapular instability and various rotator cuff or shoulder problems.  The most common presentation we’ll see is the classic anteriorly tilted, abducted, internally and downwardly rotated scapula more on the right that the left.

Before beginning any form of carry, it’s best to establish a more ideal shoulder girdle posture.  This can be done via verbal and tactile cuing as needed.

Here’s a couple videos showing the scapular correction into posterior tilt, adduction, external and upward rotation.  This position should be maintained throughout the carry.  Also remember to “pack your neck.”  Activation of the deep cervical flexors is a component of the deep stabilizing system and a key to improving overall stability.

“Maximal” Weights

If you want to make a correction, you MUST use maximal loads, but much like we talk about maximal resistance in PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation), we must define maximal in this case.

Maximal load for corrective carries refers to the maximum weight that allows you or your client to complete the desired task with optimal technique.

For instance, if you’re unable to maintain the optimal shoulder girdle posture throughout the duration of the carry, the load is to great (or the carry too long).  If you must compensate the load with an extreme lean away in the case of a suitcase carry, then the load is too heavy.

If you cannot maintain proper breathing technique, then the weight is too heavy.

Corrective Carry Breathing 

Take advantage of the assistance that the load provides in optimizing the zone of apposition.  Carrying the load increases abdominal activation and reduces rib flare to improve diaphragm position.   Ribs will approximate a more “exhaled” position.

Breathe in through the nose and exhale strongly through pursed lips to maximize the effect on the abdominals.

Symmetrical or Asymmetrical Loading

So which is better?  farmer’s walks or the suitcase carry?

Both will provide great corrective effects but consider emphasizing the suitcase carry for correcting asymmtries in the trunk, hip and shoulder girdle.

In cases of bilateral rib flares or bilateral shoulder or hip issues, either carry may be utilized effectively with balance of load for suitcase carries determined by need.

Here’s a couple video examples.

Oh, and here’s a little Sammy Hagar to get your weekend started!



Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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  • Matt

    Hi, I’m matt. What should I do to reduce my flared ribs? I’m sorry but all that above sounds kind of confusing. Just a summary, perhaps?

  • Tom Graham-Watson

    Hi Bill,
    With unilateral/suitcase carries, I noticed in the video above his/your legs are vertical and parallel all the time – when I go heavy (35kg or so), I can only do them with the opposite leg from the hand carrying the weight adducting (ie carrying the weight in my R hand, my L leg adducts)? Is this bad – it seems to me like it’s compensating for the hip abductors not working…
    Thanks so much, I really appreciate it!