Pick Up Heavy Stuff, Walk Around
Loaded carries simply means transporting weights various ways. It could be:
- Walking with weights in your hands (farmer's walk)
- Carrying a load in the crook of your elbows (Zercher carry, see video below)
- Holding a bar, dumbbells, or kettlebells overhead and walking with the load (overhead carry)
Loaded carries make the body work in a way that's not found in any other exercise: they combine a strong need to stabilize the trunk, dynamic movement, isometric tension in key muscles, as well as the need to fight "micro-oscillation," a minuscule but constant change in position that forces the body to recruit muscles to stabilize the load.
- Decrease body fat: Carries burn calories, promote an optimal hormonal milieu, and improve insulin sensitivity in the muscles.
- Increase muscle mass: Carries keep the muscles under tension for a fairly long time, initiate muscular contraction to fight micro-oscillation, and provide loaded stretching of muscles.
- Improve hardness: The whole body has to work in maintaining rigidity to stay stable and fight micro-oscillation.
- Boost the big lifts: Carries can have a profound impact on performance on the big lifts by making your core bulletproof.
Do sets of a loaded carry movement just as if you were doing a regular exercise. Every type of loading/length will have positive impact on body composition, but you should choose the method that best applies to your goals.
If body composition is your goal, either of the last three categories would be effective. If your main goal is to add muscle with some fat loss, sets of 50-80m with 90-120 seconds of rest is best. This will have the maximum impact on muscle mass while also burning some fat.
If you're after more fat loss, then either of the last two can be used interchangeably. The only difference is the mindset you have when doing them. Regardless, you work for about a minute (up to 90 seconds) with a similar rest period. You'll still get some muscle growth out of it, but fat loss will be maximal.
Combine 2 or 3 different loaded carries in a circuit or use loaded carries with other metabolic exercises (rowing ergometer, sprinting, rope skipping, mountain climber, etc.) This approach allows you to keep a higher training density – you can basically go non-stop for 10-15 minutes – especially if you pick exercises using different body parts.
For example, you can do 5 circuits of sled pushing (40m), battle ropes (30 seconds), farmer's walks (40m), and Swiss ball crunches (10-12 reps).
Another effective one: 50m with the Prowler, 50m of sprints, 50m of farmer's walks, and 50m of walking (the rest period) for 6 rounds.