Keep'er Fit

Gary Wallace

You can lift heavy, but can you carry heavy?

At my Friday morning 6am Boot Camp class we took advantage of the fantastic weather and finished our session outside. Not only is it great for the soul, but there are about 100 other reasons why you should train outside.

One thing in particular it gives you, is the space to lift heavy stuff and carry it.

Why is carrying heavy stuff such a good idea?


Have you ever lifted something and at the beginning it feels light enough until you have to start moving? You may have the strength to overcome gravity and inertia to lift the object, but carrying it is a whole new challenge.  Not only are you recruiting and firing different muscle groups you are also having to stabilise and brace the body as it moves.

If we think about it, the art of carrying has been lost for some of us.

I remember carrying the weekly shop from the car to the house, trying to see how many bags I could carry as I rushed into the house before they dropped. Now people can have their groceries delivered straight to their house. Some providers will even pack it away for you.

School bags are getting lighter because kids are using more technology to learn, which means less books to carry.

Manual labour is being replaced every day with machinery, while the laws on how much you can lift in work means there is less carrying to be done. The reduction and the reasons why we carry less will have a positive effect on other parts of our lives, but we need to consider safe alternatives to carrying heavy items. There is no better place to do this than in the gym or anywhere for that matter.

Before we look at ways we can add carrier exercises into our life, let’s look at the benefits of loaded carries.

They develop multiple parts of the body in one exercise.


Carrying a heavy object especially in a variety of different ways will help engage multiple muscle groups with every step you take.

A huge advocate of carries is world renowned strength and condition coach Dan John. He says that loaded carries develops grip strength which is an over-looked area when you are lifting heavy loads.

Have you ever performed heavy deadlifts and think you could lift more, but didn’t have the grip strength? Then start griping and carrying heavy stuff.

Its fully functional to everyday life. On a daily basis you are more likely to lift something heavy and carry it somewhere, than repeatedly lifting something setting it down and repeating for a number of reps.

Building strength through compound exercises like deadlifts, squats, bench presses and pulls for me are a must, but add the additional carry to help you become functionally strong.

It helps increase overall work capacity. Dan John has highlighted that he’s noticed that when his athletes start doing loaded carries, their work capacity, or conditioning, goes up.

In other words, their overall fitness and game based work capacity increases.

It’s fun. Whenever you start to add carries into your workout routine you’ll enjoy it. Sometimes I find standing in one spot and repeating a movement like a squat can be mentally tough.

But when you are carrying heavy objects from one place to the next you have an extra determination to hold on, grip a bit harder and take a few more steps before you drop whatever you are carrying to the floor.

One thing I would advise before you start carrying heavy is start lifting heavy.

You can’t get away from the advantages of developing strength especially through the compound movements which I mentioned before. Once you are stronger then you can lift and carry more.

The more you lift and carry safely the better it is for your body.

Also, as long as you are lifting safely and not putting yourself at risk, then you can carry whatever you want, any way you want, for any distance you want.

If you wish to know which exercises you can add into your workout routine then look up farmers walks, loaded carries, overhead carries, suitcase carries, waiter carriers, sandbag carries and fireman’s lift (you’ll need two people for this one).

You can also vary the objects you carry. My personal favourite are kettlebells but you can also have dumbbells, loaded hex bars, sandbags, medicine balls, school bags, rucksacks or anything heavy you can grip and lift.

Remember get strong, lift safely, lift heavy and carry. Oh and distance wise, go as far, there and back, as you can.

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