Tip: One Exercise to Fix Strength Leaks

Are you leaking strength because of a lagging muscle, or a muscle group that can't stay tight? Probably. Here's how to plug the leak.

Plug Your Strength Leaks

Are you aware of the "strength leaks" phenomenon? If not, imagine that your body is a tube and water is being poured into it. The water going in is the force your muscles are producing (e.g., feet pushing on the floor in a squat) and the water coming out is the amount of force that makes it to the barbell you're trying to lift.

If the tube has no holes, the same amount of water that gets poured in comes out on the other end. The force transfer is 100%. But if you have "holes" in your body, water/strength leaks out. And it doesn't matter where that leak is, the result is the same.

A lagging muscle could be a strength leak, but most likely the leak is a muscle you have trouble keeping tight while you're lifting. The most common of these strength leaks are the core (abs and lower back), the hands, and the upper back.

One exercise that works great at improving the capacity to keep things tight is the farmer's walk.

The Farmer's Walk

Now, it's important to understand the difference between using the farmer's walk for strongman performances (where the goal is to carry big weights as fast as possible) and doing it to build muscle, strength, and a more stable body.

The main difference is in the role of the upper back. In strongman, you increase speed by letting the upper back round and the shoulders move forward, thus stretching the traps. The strongman will also grab the handles slightly off-center, holding them more forward. This allows them to keep the implements more parallel to the floor, even as they lean forward.

But you're doing it to improve not only your grip and core, but the upper back, too. So you need to do it slightly differently:

  • Grab the handles in the middle.
  • Do not lean forward. Stay upright.
  • Keep your upper back tight. Bring your shoulder blades together, externally rotate your shoulders (trying to show off your chest), and make an effort to keep your stomach tight at all times as you walk. Imagine that your upper body is one big block of iron!
  • Don't go as fast as possible. What we want is time under tension while moving a heavy load and keeping everything tight.
  • Carry the load for 10 to 50 meters, with 30 meters (about 33 yards) probably being ideal.
Christian Thibaudeau specializes in building bodies that perform as well as they look. He is one of the most sought-after coaches by the world's top athletes and bodybuilders. Check out the Christian Thibaudeau Coaching Forum.