3 Loaded Carry Variations to Build Total Body Muscle

Loaded carries are some of the most versatile exercise variations and can be used to help you accomplish a number of fitness goals. Read on to learn more!

If you’re not incorporating loaded carries into your training, you’re missing out.

The quest for packing on size and building strength is a long road and learning how to make the most out of your time in the gym can help speed up that process.

One way to maximize your gym time is by getting better with your exercise selection.

Enter the loaded carry.

You’ll often read that you need to be performing big compound, bang-for-your-buck exercises like deadlifts, squats, and the bench press to maximize strength and hypertrophy.

This will almost always hold true because those exercises involve multiple joints, can be easily loaded, and, in return, elicit a large hormonal response. But, do you know what other exercise fits that criteria?

You got it: The loaded carry.

In the article below, we’re going to cover what exactly loaded carries are, how they can benefit you, how to program them, and three variations you can start incorporating into your training today.

What are Loaded Carries?

A loaded carry involves using an implement in the gym— a dumbbell, kettlebell, yoke, trap bar, or handles—and carrying them for a specific distance or time.

Related: Top 10 Mass Building Movements of All Time

Loaded carries were first seen in the sport of strongman where competitors are required to race against each other carrying these heavy implements. Since then, they’ve been brought into the mainstream world of strength and conditioning by biomechanics researcher Dr. Stuart McGill and strength coach Dan John, who have both continually proven the exercise’s benefits for health and performance.

Loaded carries are here to stay, and it’s because of their simplicity and versatility; there are many ways to alter the exercise to suit it towards your specific body and goals.

What Are the Benefits of Loaded Carries?

As mentioned before, the loaded carry gives you a lot of bang for your buck. The benefit of performing loaded carries runs the gamut from rotator cuff health and hip stability to upper back size and grip strength. But the biggest benefit of them all is increasing your core strength—and not in the same way a plank or sit-up does.

In the gym, your core muscles need to be strong enough to take stress off your spine when squatting or deadlifting. In sport, your core must be strong enough to help you transfer energy from your lower body through your upper body when cutting and changing direction without having any energy leaks.

Due to its ability to train the core three-dimensionally, the loaded carry is a great way to prevent these energy leaks. When you train the core three-dimensionally, you’re not only training the muscles on the front side of your body, like your rectus abdominis (six-pack muscles), but also the muscles on your side and in your back, like your obliques and quadratus lumborum, which help stabilize your spine when it encounters external forces.

Other Benefits of Loaded Carries:

  • Increase lateral hip stability
  • Increased shoulder stability
  • Increase lower body strength
  • Increase upper back size and strength
  • Increase grip strength
  • Improved conditioning (Aerobic or Anaerobic depending on how they’re programmed)
  • Teach good old-fashioned hard work

Athlete Performing Set of Loaded Carries

How to Program Loaded Carries

Loaded carries are one of the most versatile exercises in the gym. There are many different variations and they can be programmed differently to help you reach your specific goals. To give yourself a better idea of how to program loaded carries into your workout, ask yourself these three questions:

  • Do you want to get bigger, get stronger, or lose fat?
  • Are you an overhead athlete?
  • What equipment is available to you?

Your answers to these questions will help determine which loaded carry variation is best for you and where in the workout you can place it. I’ll say it one more time: loaded carries are extremely versatile.

A strongman competitor may have the carry be his main lift for the day, thus being the first exercise he does.

A baseball athlete may use it as an accessory exercise and place the carry in their second superset of the day.

A person who is looking to lose twenty pounds may put their loaded carries as part of a finisher to help elevate their heart rate and burn more calories at the end of their workout.

To make this simpler, you can break down loaded carry variations into four different categories:

Heavy Implement

  • Handles
  • Trap Bar
  • Yoke
  • Sandbag

2-Arm

  • Farmer’s Walk
  • KB Front Rack
  • Goblet

1-Arm

  • Suitcase
  • 1-Arm Front Rack

Overhead

  • Carry at 90 Degrees
  • Bottom’s Up KB Carry at 90 Degrees
  • Waiters Walk (1-Arm & 2-Arm)
  • Crosswalk (Regular or Bottom’s Up)

Where and how you program loaded carries is completely up to you. However, make sure it lines up with your goals. An overhead athlete with shoulder pain may not want to be performing a heavy farmer’s carry with handles, just as a powerlifter approaching their meet isn’t going to want to perform trap bar carries as part of a finisher.

3 Loaded Carry Variations to Build Total Body Muscle

Below, we’ll leave you with three loaded carry variations to help you get strong, pack on size, and burn more calories during your workout.

Related: 6 Exercises Beginners Should Focus On in the Gym

Incorporating loaded carries into your training should be a fun way to mix things up while still staying on track toward increasing your strength and putting on muscle. Their versatility will also allow most anyone to train with them, given the numerous ways you can change the variation and their place in your workout.

Most importantly, their lengthy list of benefits will give you a big return on your investment and help you maximize your time spent in the gym.

1. Farmers Walk (2-Arm)

Perform 3-4 sets as heavy as possible for 40 yards.

2. Trap Bar Deadlift + Trap Bar Carry Combo (Heavy Implement)

Perform 3-4 sets of 3 Deadlifts + 10 Yard Carry (x2).

3. 1-Arm Waiters Walk (Overhead)

Perform 3-4 sets for 20 Yards/Side.

Loaded Carry Review

Even though they began as solely a strongman competition lift, loaded carries are a versatile exercise that can be added to almost anyone’s workout program.

And with so many different variations of loaded carries out there, it’s not hard to find the perfect option to help you meet your goals.

Add in one of the three loaded carries mentioned above into your program today and start to experience the many benefits loaded carries have to offer!