Loaded Carries and Walks: Why Every Athlete Should Do Them

Stable movement.

Ignited central nervous system.


In the world of strength, power, and athleticism, coaches and athletes have a plethora of exercises, reps schemes, and methodologies to choose from.


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Loaded carries (and the unlimited variations) are among the best total body strength, core stabilization, and “Game-Changing” movements you can do to gain muscle, get stronger, and move better.

Here’s why.

Why Do Loaded Carries?

Load carries offer us a great deal of benefits, specifically to further develop strength, athleticism, and injury prevention.

Increase Muscle Mass

Loaded carries can stress muscular hypertrophy and hormonal adaptations due to increased time spent under load, also know as Time Under Tension (TUT). Loaded carries allow us the opportunity to stress the entire body as a whole, while either carrying heavier loads briefly, or moderate loads for prolonged periods of time, both of which can induce structural loading and stressors for growth.

Ignite the Central Nervous System

The ability to train the central nervous system (CNS) while using loaded walks and carries can pay huge dividends when training maximal strength and power. By developing one’s capacity to not overshoot their nervous system when they may step under a heavy load, they will be more apt to fire and recruit more muscle fibers at once, increasing force output. The ability to train the CNS will not only increase strength and power at near maximal loads, but will also allow lifters to gain needed experience bracing, breathing, and developing tension under progressively heavier loads as they progress in their development.

Develop Stronger Stabilizers

Core, hip, and spinal stability play a large role in movement efficiency, strength performance, and injury prevention. Loaded carries and walks help to develop thick core musculature, increased awareness and stabilization of the spine and supporting muscles and tissues, and allow coaches and athletes to teach strong, stable open-chained (as opposed to closed-chain, open-chain simulates more athletics and life) movement.

Serious Grip, Back, and Core Strength

Grip, back, and core strength can all be expected to blossom when you take heavy loads for a walk. Increasing grip and back strength will allow you to train harder, heavier, and more often, all recipes for maximal strength, power, and muscular growth.

7 Loaded Variations to Try

The seven loaded carries and walks below can be performed by nearly every level athlete. Coaches and athletes are urged to continually build timed sets, heavy walks, and breathing carries (focus on bracing and breathing under loads) regularly.

Suitcase Carry


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This unilateral variation can improve core stabilization, hip stability, and force athletes to become more aware of lateral flexion, which can be very detrimental in power and strength lifts, such as the squat, single-arm snatch, and deadlift.

Farmers Walk


A video posted by Mike Dewar (@mikejdewar) on

The farmers walk (or in the video, the timber carry, which in theory is very similiar) can be performed for time, distance, or any variation. Light, moderate, and heavy walks can be done to stimulate strength, stability, and mass development.

Zercher Carry

Loaded in the exact way one would perform a Zercher Squat, this loaded carry variation shifts the load towards the front of the body, stressing the erectors, lats, and core, similar to that of a front squat.

Overhead Walks

Core and shoulder stability are key to nearly every overhead movement (snatching, pressing, squatting, etc), making this overhead walk a challenging and highly rewarding exercise. By miminimizing excessive lumbar extension, athletes can create stronger core musculature, shoulder stability, and learn to handle heavier loads overhead. These can be performed with nearly any object, and atheltes can use one or both hands to focus on bilateral and unilateral stability.

Yoke Walk

This strongman walk allows you to maximally load the spine, walk out a load, and gain valuable experience under supra-maximal weights. Increasing confidence, core stabilization, and the CNS performance can help lifters move stronger and healthier.

Kettlebell Rack Carry

Similar to the Zercher Carry, this exercise employs two independent moving kettlebells, creating additional unilateral stress upon each of the scapulae. The control and stability needed to rack each of the kettlebells can improve awareness, scapular and core stabilization, and front rack performance.

Stone/Ball Walk

Simply pick a heavy ball/stone up and walk around. This front loaded exercise can be done with any object (uniform or nonuniform in size), making this a great exercise to further develop pure, raw, and untouched strength capacities.

Final Thoughts

Strongman, powerlifters, functional fitness competitors, and Highland Games athletes have been performing heavy and timed loaded walks and carries for years. Coaches and athletes should take the time to build these simple and highly beneficial movements with randomized objects and loads throughout warm-ups, work sets, and/or varied training days to stimulate new growth and development.

Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.

Featured Image: @_ime.prezime on Instagram