"Strength Class: What are those?!"

The cool thing about these types of carries is that we are not limited to one object. There are a number of different implements that we can use for carrying and to create a different stimulus for each
Photo Courtesy of: Samantha Chin 

Photo Courtesy of: Samantha Chin 

If you have ever had to move to another house, apartment, or helped someone else move, chances are you probably had to carry something that was a little awkward.  That is exactly what "odd object carrying" is like. The cool thing about these types of carries is that we are not limited to one object. There are a number of different implements that we can use for carrying and to create a different stimulus for each. There are four different types of carrying that we are going to talk about today: Overhead Carry, Farmer Carry, Yoke Carry, and Sandbag Carry.

1. Overhead Carry:
There are a number of ways to perform overhead carries (the most common variation is single arm). The reason, is because this exercise is used to help build stability on each side for an athlete’s overhead position.

It is common to see some imbalances when athletes go overhead whether it be a snatch, a jerk, or any kind of pressing. When you isolate to one side, it becomes clear which side lacks the stability to hold the weight OH in the correct position. The best way to have these overhead carries translate into strongman is to perform them with a weight that will allow you to keep your arm as straight as possible and carry for a distance of about 80-100 meters.

These can be used as a warm-up or a primary exercise for days when carrying is programmed.  

2. Farmer Carry:
If you want to look really jacked, farmer carries are for you! As a beginner, I would recommend doing these with a kettlebell and start with single armed variations.  This way, you can get a good feel for how your grip strength is and the position you should be in.  When we perform farmer carries, we want the weight slightly away from the body (not touching/rubbing our leg).

For one, it is kind of annoying when the weight keeps bumping into your leg. Two, it really forces you to keep tension in your lats/shoulders to maintain a good upper body position.  Once you have gotten comfortable and a little more advanced with the single arm farmer carry, the real fun begins. We can start to add in standard farmer carries (double arm) with either suitcase handles or a hex bar.  Performing farmer carries with suitcase handles come with a little more difficulties than with a hex bar. The hex bar is one solid piece of equipment that has arms (sleeves for the weights) on each side.

Suitcase handles however, are two separate pieces of equipment that require more strength/control from the athlete (both are great to use). Typically, strongman competitions will have farmer carries with a piece of equipment similar to a hex bar. If you can master performing farmer carries with suitcase handles, you will be just fine carrying one piece of equipment compared to two.

I like to program farmer carries a couple of different ways for our athletes. When using one arm, I believe the goal should be for distance and not so much about load. Even if the load is below 50% of your bodyweight and you are carrying for 100 meters, you will be feeling your grip start to go. With double arm carries, I believe the goal should be more about load. This is where we can really get after it and carry some heavy weights.  

3. Yoke Carry:
In my opinion, the yoke carry is the most fun!  The yoke is a piece of equipment that looks like a skinny field goal post with a moveable bar in the middle.  Some yokes are only made to fit one size but a lot of them come with an adjustable bar that is similar to an axle bar. If you buy a yoke, they do weigh differently (there are some that weigh 155# and range up to 205#). The heavier the yoke, the more weight it can support.  

Just like the farmer carries, there are different variations that can be used by the yoke. Two of the common variations we use are front rack yoke carries and standard yoke carries.  With the front rack yoke carry, you will not be able to do more weight than if the yoke was on your back. Sound familiar? The front rack yoke carry is more of a positional exercise.  This type of carrying really forces the athlete to brace through their midline and keep their elbows in front of the bar. We typically use these when someone is experiencing some wrist issues when they have a regular bar in the front rack position or when an athlete needs to build more stability in their midline to allow for better bracing.

The standard yoke carry (placed on your back like a back squat) is more of a strength exercise. The athlete will still have to keep their midline braced but having the yoke on their back will allow them to carry more weight compared to the front rack carry. The reason behind this is because when the bar is placed on the back, we are using larger muscle groups to support the weight.

Another benefit of both the front rack carry and back rack carry is that they are both great conditioning exercises, and can be performed for distance or for speed.

4. Sandbag Carry:
Sandbags are a great piece of equipment to have a large group of people participate and all feel the same thing (they will experience a lack of oxygen and a lot of butt cheeks).

When we perform sandbag carries, there are a few steps we need to take to make sure we carry it in the right position. When we are picking up a sandbag from the ground, we want to think about getting our hands as far under the bag as possible to ensure we have a good grip and the bag won’t tip forward or backward.  

Once we have a good grip, we want to think about having our hips a little higher so we can create a good position to go into a hinge movement. When the bag gets to about the knee level, we want to think about stepping our feet closer and “lap” the bag on our legs. This position is very important and we do not want to rush through this.  This will give us the time to ensure we have an even better grip on the bag before we stand up. If your arms are long enough to grip one of your wrists, I would recommend doing that. If your arms are a little shorter, try your best to interlock your fingers together. Once we have a strong bear hug-like grip on the bag, we just stand up with the bag against our torso.  

This is where the lack of oxygen comes into play. The bag should be pressed against our diaphragm when we are in the standing position. That is OK if it is difficult to breathe. The best way to stay calm is to breathe in and out their your nose. If you ever done a really tough workout in CrossFit, you will notice that you start to do “shoulder breathing” when you start to feel some panic sink in.  This usually happens when we start to try and inhale too deeply through our mouth in an attempt to take in more oxygen. When you do this with a 180 pound pressed against your diaphragm, you will just allow the bag to press into your diaphragm even more. Stay calm and breathe in and out through your nose.

As we start to carry, we want to think about squeezing our butt each step we take and not lean back with our lumbar spine.  Your lower back will get fatigued too quickly (really try to use your glutes) and it will not feel comfortable to do much else afterwards.

These are four of the types of carrying you can expect when you take strength class.  All of these carries are great for conditioning and building strength. Another bonus: carries are low skill so just about everyone can do them!

- Coach Josh