It is simple, it is popular, it works, but do we know the whole story?!
That’s right, I am talking about loaded carries. The simple action of carrying weight a variety of ways has gone from odd strongman challenge to popping up in just about every fitness magazines as a means of improving core strength and overall fitness.
Why? A lot of experts will call the loaded carries as “moving planks”. We all know that if we make a plank more unstable or challenging to maintain our plank position, the greater demand we have on the core. In the case of carrying, the walk creates the instability demands on the core. What makes this so special is the impact it has on the entire chains of the body and not just one area.
That means you get work by the foot/ankle, lower leg, hips, all the way up into the shoulders and more! Cool, right?!
If we understand the why’s building progressions will make a lot of sense. I think a lot of these loaded carries are good for some baseline core stability, however, you do have to pay attention to a few things. A common problem with a lot of these loaded carries is discussed by physical therapist, Shon Grosse….
“Placing a heavy load in the hands without regard to cervical/thoracic positioning makes a bad situation worse, as bilateral isometric upper trapezius activity further increases cervical extension force. Weak scapular retractors give way under the (too heavy) load, further rounding the thoracic spine, creating a vicious cycle of lousy posture reinforced by exercise.”
Poor posture while doing ANYTHING is not a good thing or produce good results!
What Mr. Grosse is referring to is the fact that a lot of people start to fall into the trap of more and more load and eventually postures and positions are compromised and the goal becomes just “surviving” the walk. I know this from personal experience. As I competed in Strongman there were many cases where to stay competitive I had to lift loads that really put me in some tough postures. Now, I was smart enough to never get into some of the horrible positions you will see, but just deviating a bit from the RIGHT posture caused me trap, neck, and shoulder issues.
In fact, there is a recommended technique by some Strongman to get into the forward posture Mr. Grosse talks about as a means to balancing heavier weight. It does work, but the impact on the body could make you question the value of doing such a thing outside of the realm of competition!
So, what’s the point? If we are going to use loaded carries, how do we progress it other than just load? One great way is to change load placement or even the paths you follow in carries. I wrote about changing direction in THIS DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training post some time ago. However, my favorite is changing load placement and using the best carrying possible, Up Downs!
Most people don’t know Up Downs, but if I said how do you feel when you go up stairs, most people know what I am talking about. Yet, Up Downs are even better! That is because we get to build better flexibility, core strength, and stability all at the same time. It does require more of all three of those fitness qualities so starting with some loaded carries as a baseline works well. Especially Front Loaded, Bear Hug, and Shoulder carries. Go up a bit heavier, but then start working with some of our DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training Up Down variations. If you can, try to keep up with DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training Master, Larisa Lotz, as she shows where loaded Up Downs can really go to improve your strength and fitness to the next level!