True farmer's walk handles are tough to come by. While most gyms utilise a trap bar to carry out this exercise, it doesn't exactly provide the same benefits as the original implement. Those who are familiar with strongmen training will recall the long metal slat with a raised handle, along with two poles on each end on which weight plates are stacked. Despite its place in strength-training tradition, it remains an exotic piece of equipment that is rarely found in modern gyms. However, one can easily replicate its design with a regular barbell and a cable machine handle.
The farmer's walk is widely regarded as being one of the simplest yet effective training movements out there. In essence, it's all about picking up something heavy and walking with it for either time or a certain distance. However, it can be used to improve metabolic conditioning, grip strength, core strength and overall work capacity. It also boasts one of the most obvious and functional carry-over to everyday life (heavy grocery bags, anyone?).
(Performed in a “suitcase carry” variation)
Location and equipment courtesy of TripleFit
The difference between performing the farmer's walk with a trap bar and a farmer's walk bar lies in the placement of the load. As the latter utilises a greater displacement of load (front and back), the demand on stability, strength and control is significantly greater. As a result, it's not uncommon to see an immediate reduction in loading when switching over from the former for the first time.
By looping the cable machine handle (a longer one is preferred) through itself and cinching it tight, you can create the effect of a raised handle. For this to be truly effective however, you will need to ensure that the balance point is dead-centre on the barbell. It might take a few trial lifts (just pick it up and hold it) to find the sweet spot.
Another tip for keeping the barbell balanced as you walk is securing your shoulder joint. This may not be as crucial for control with the trap bar carry but it is very a much a game-changer with this variation. A “floating” shoulder will allow the barbell to bob and sway as you walk, which may cause the balance point to shift and result in the barbell up-ending itself. To prevent this, depress your shoulders before the initial pick-up. Stand tall and ensure that your shoulders are secure before stepping off. Squeezing your hands as hard as you can promotes innervation and can also help with overall control.
This variation of the farmer's walk allows you to perform it either unilaterally or bilaterally. While the latter is great for overall strength and conditioning, performing the movement one side at a time really allows you to work on the core's ability to resist rotation while also addressing bilateral deficits (i.e. muscle imbalances on the left VS right side of the body). Whichever one you decide to go with, you can bet your bottom dollar that you'll see the farmer's walk in a whole new light!