We’re big fans of the farm walk at Tom’s Guide, but have you done a farm walk on a treadmill before? If you want to work your muscles more and add cardio interval training to your full body workout, just add a treadmill.
The farmer’s walk workout can work in any strength and conditioning program and simply involves walking with weights. This move could help build endurance, improve your cardiovascular fitness, and strengthen muscle groups.
Below, we’ll cover how to do the farmer’s walk on the treadmill, the benefits, some common mistakes, and variations we recommend you try. For that you only need a set of dumbbells, the best kettlebells or even food.
Farmer’s walk on the treadmill: benefits
The move hits your shoulders (your deltoids), arms, back, chest, core, hip flexors, glutes, and legs. There aren’t many muscles that remain inactive when you’re walking with weights, and you just need to grab a kettlebell (or similar) in each hand and walk.
So what happens when you add a treadmill to the process? The treadmill adds an element of control to the farmer’s walk, allowing you to play with speed, interval training, incline and decline settings. If you have limited space, you can also walk for longer distances or times, which is ideal during home workouts.
The treadmill also allows you to target your muscles differently. On the incline, your hamstrings play a bigger role along with the muscles of the posterior chain such as your lower back, glutes and calves. In the fall, your knee extensors and quads are more dominant, in addition to the stabilizer muscles that help control the descent. Depending on the capabilities of your treadmill, you can pretty much replicate walking while holding weights.
If you haven’t tried the exercise before, drop down to a lighter weight if you’re a beginner or prefer to speed walk to get a cardio workout or lift heavier for strength training.
Treadmill or no treadmill, the farmer’s walk is pretty much the definition of functional training and compound exercise, meaning you’ll hit a ton of muscles at once and strengthen the movement patterns and posture responsible for doing everyday activities like walking while carrying something – and a bag or groceries, for example. And if you enjoy isometric and isotonic exercise, you get both during the farmer’s walk—your shoulders and core are activated without lengthening or shortening (isometric contraction), while your legs drive the physical movement (isotonic contraction).
I recently walked a farmer every day for a week — here’s what happened.
How to do a farmer’s walk on a treadmill
- Stand on your treadmill and hold two kettlebells (or similar) in each hand
- Brace your core and drop both shoulders, creating a strong column with your body
- Hit percentage incline or decline (if you have those settings) depending on your preference
- Aim for 2-4 mph and start walking with control, keeping your stomach tight without rounding your back.
Farmer’s Walk: Common Mistakes
Retraction of the pelvis
Rounding the upper back and tucking the pelvis under are common mistakes when someone struggles with weight bearing. In this case, we recommend that you reduce the weight and focus on keeping your spine long. Imagine someone pulling a string from your scalp while you walk.
The farmer’s walk fires up your shoulder muscles and tests your forearm and grip strength, so when those muscles start to tire, your shoulders can start to round—known as internal rotation. A sedentary lifestyle also contributes to internal rotation, which can cause tight chest muscles and weak back muscles. Keep your shoulders down and your chest open, encouraging good posture as you walk with the weights.
If you enjoy unilateral training (holding weights on one side), the temptation to lean to one side will be hard to resist as you tire. Stabilize the hips and avoid pulling weight on the weight-bearing side by resisting rotation or side bending. Keep your chest up and reduce the weight if necessary.
Farmer’s Walk: Variations to Try
Farmer’s Walk on an Incline Treadmill
Raise the incline on your treadmill and start going uphill. Avoid leaning forward too much and drive through your core as your legs burn. The variation fires up the hamstrings and raises the heart rate while building strength and burning calories.
Turn down the farmer’s walk on the treadmill
Alternatively, opt for a push-up to shift the emphasis to your quads and the front load of your body. Your body has to work hard to control the descent, which activates your stabilizer muscles, including your core, hip flexors, and glutes. Avoid leaning forward and move with control.
Farmer’s walk on the treadmill backwards
For an added challenge, try turning around and walking backwards with the weights. Walking backwards helps activate the glutes and build joint stability, reducing pressure on the knees. You can do this on an incline or decline if you feel confident.
Farmer’s walk on the treadmill with one arm
Unilateral (one-sided) walking with weights helps improve coordination and balance and strengthens both sides of the body independently. Avoid excessive leaning if you choose this method and choose a weight that both sides of your body can handle.
As you age, building strong and healthy bones, joints, and muscles becomes paramount to combating age-related conditions such as osteoporosis and muscle atrophy. Farmer’s walk helps strengthen bones and muscles. When your bones encounter stress, they respond by adding mass—a process called bone loading.
To program a farmer’s walk on the treadmill, decide on a specific number of steps or set a distance or time. Try a few sets, and if your goal is to pick up time or distance, take rest breaks to recover and reset. If you’re working with a partner, do go-and-go, adding farmer’s hold (holding the weights in a stationary standing position) for the non-treadmill person. You can practice moving between isometric (non-moving) and isotonic (moving) exercises while building strength all around.
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