The Farmers Walk is a traditional strongman event that requires a strong back and plenty of grip strength.
The Farmers Walk is done by grasping the handles of the weights in each hand, standing up with them, and walking. In professional competition, the weights vary from around 265 pounds per hand to almost 400 pounds per hand! The contest can be to walk as far as you can with the weights with a pre-set number of set downs allowed, or to walk/run a set distance for the fastest time. Most of the time the event is done over a set distance for time, and set up for two or more contestants to go side by side in a race.
Build Your Farmers Walk Strength!
The first time I competed in a Farmers Walk event was in the Highland Games in 1997. In this contest, we carried 175 pounds in each hand for distance. I finished in third place behind two guys who were not very strong, but I learned that my grip needed improvement.
In 2001, I was preparing for a Strongman contest and the Farmers Walk was to be the first event. I knew I wanted to do well, so I obtained a set of 260 pound Farmers Walk weights. They were not adjustable, but the weight was just right for training, because the weight in the contest was going to be 282 per hand. I was able to practice a few times before the contest, and it made a difference. This time my grip was just fine, and I picked up those weights and was almost running. What I had not prepared for was turning. I hit the turnaround at almost full speed and tried to turn quickly and keep going at the same pace. As soon as I rounded the turn, the long implements began to swing violently across my legs and tripped me up. I dropped the weights, so I had to get them back next to each other, pick them up and continue. By this time the lactic acid was kicking in and I was wobbling down the course with no sign of the power and speed I had before the drop. I ended up falling down two or three feet before the finish line at 200 feet, and placing third behind Jesse Marunde and Corey St. Clair. Now both of these guys are professional Strongmen, and both of them are very good at the Farmers Walk, but on that day I believe I could have beaten them if I had prepared properly for the turn.
So here is what I have learned about the Farmers Walk and how to prepare properly for it. First you have to have the BACK STRENGTH to lift the weights and support them throughout the event. The best exercise to develop this strength is Deadlifts. You should train this just like you do for Powerlifting to help with your maximal strength, and also train it with higher reps to help with your strength endurance so that you can last the whole event. You should also include Good Mornings, Shrugs for your traps, and some heavy abdominal exercises to strengthen your core. Squats are a must to strengthen your legs, back and your core so that you can handle heavy weights easily.
Once you have the back strength you can pick up the weights, right? Only if your grip strength is up to par. I have seen many strong men fail to pick up the weights in the Farmers Walk because their grip strength was lacking. No straps will be allowed, so you must work your grip. The Deadlifts will help, but you may need to include some thick bar lifting, gripper training, wrist rollers and anything else you can find that will strenghen the muscles in your hand and fingers. Another factor to consider is that your skin needs to be tough as well. The knurling of the handles on a heavy weight can rip the skin right off your hand if it is not tough enough. Make sure to practice hanging onto heavy weights on bars with knurling to prepare your hands for the assault.
The third thing you need to prepare for is walking with the weights. Even if you can pick up and hang onto a weight with no problem, walking or running with it is another thing entirely. While Squats will help your legs to be prepared for the weight, the coordination of that strength cannot happen without specific training. What this means in simple terms is that if you want to be good at the Farmers Walk, you must practice the Farmers Walk. I especially believe you need to practice turning, since most people struggle with that aspect. You should practice with heavy weights for distance, light weights for distance, and medium weights for speed over a set distance. You may include more variety as you deem appropriate, but at least do these three.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention that success in any strength sport is reliant on more than the strength training aspect. You must follow a good nutrition plan, take effective supplements, and get plenty of rest if you want to maximize your success. I suggest using a good protien powder, creatine, and GAKIC, which will allow you to train harder and longer. You may also want to include a pre-workout energizer for maximum results.
Train hard and be consistent, and you can reach your goals!