“Heavy carries” are the surefire way to get stronger without lifting weights


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Photo: Getty Images/ BJI / Blue Jean Images

You’ll be hard-pressed to see me schlepping around with less than two bags at any given time. (Gym bag, purse, laptop bag… the list of bags really goes on and on.) But I tend to view this as an annoyance—I’ve grown to hate carrying things. Sometimes I’ll knock out some bicep curls with my heavy bags, sure—but I don’t really think of carrying stuff as a workout. Fitness trainers beg to differ.

“There’s nothing better than wrapping your hands around some heavy bells and just holding, marching, or walking,” says Samantha Ciaccia, a New York City-based trainer. Exercises involving these “holds” include the popular farmer’s walk exercise, which involves simply walking in a straight line while holding heavy weights in your hands. (Sometimes people do single-arm farmer’s walks for more of a focus on the obliques.)

This is functional fitness at its best, because while you can use kettlebells at your gym or weights at home, things like groceries and giant bags work just as well. “Farmer’s walks are beneficial because they’re simple and efficient, but help with core strength and total body coordination,” says celebrity trainer Paolo Mascitti. To do them properly, he says to make sure your core is tight, and shoulders are back and down away from your ears. “Keep awareness of your posture, and make sure you’re comfortable with the weight so it doesn’t compromise your form.”

As for what weights to carry, Ciaccia says to “go as heavy as you can hold.” Just make sure the weights aren’t pulling you down. So do as farmers do (but with kettlebells or dumbbells) and walk it out—and you’ll reap a load of benefits. “Farmer walks activate nearly every muscle group in the body,” says Mascitti. “They use your lats, core, arms, and legs—great for a full-body workout.” I can attest that I’ve tried the exercise before, and it’s sneakily harder than it looks. So maybe I have a newfound appreciation for my ability to carry heavy bags all of the time.

BTW, these are all of the surprising strength training benefits you didn’t even realize. And this is what fitness pros say about whether you should do strength training or cardio first when you hit the gym.

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