Pick It Up: Adding Loaded Carries to Your Workout

What does your workout look like? Whether you love to run, bike, lift weights, rock climb, kayak, or even play an organized sport, I hope we all have one similarity in our chosen exercise program, and that is variety. Mixing up your activities and types of exercise programs help to provide different ways of moving and challenging your mind and body to help maximize individual function ability and reduce the risk of injury. There is one exercise that has been gathering steam as a necessity in athletic and functional training over the past several years. It is an exercise that should be supplemented into all programs no matter the goals. I am referring to the Loaded Carry.

Think about it. We carry things all the time—groceries, back packs, brief cases, the trash, etc. So why do most weight lifting and workout sessions only include lifting weights in a stationary set up and do not include holding the lifted weight for any kind of prolonged period of time? We’re missing a component—functional movement. Loaded carries, while they may seem simple, are a basic human movement and are important when conditioning, pre-habbing, and rehabbing.

Here are some of the positives loaded carries can bring to the weight room:

1. Coordination

Carrying exercises come with variety. You can move in all three planes of motion and carry the weight(s) or object(s) in several different combinations. These alterations to a simple task, create a recipe for improving balance, coordination, and overall proprioception. Great focus and attention to form and movement patterns, are required for this activity. Loaded carries force you to be aware of where your body is in space and also anticipate future movements.

2. Endurance

When simply lifting weights, a person is holding the weight for maybe a few seconds, and then releasing it. Carrying exercises require a longer hold on a weight while completing the designated distance or type of movement. This form of exercise allows for proper loading of the rotator cuff in the shoulder as well as all joints in the body. A proper upright posture is ideal for maximizing endurance and coordination during—and even after—the carry. As endurance grows, so does stability. If you can carry a specific weight in a variety of positions for ever changing distances, simply lifting these weights will become easier in the long run.

3. Stability

When carrying a load, the deep stabilizing muscle complex of the core is automatically engaged to provide stability for the body. Loaded carries truly work the body as a whole, increasing muscle mass, motor control, and improving scapular position in the shoulder complex. By improving trunk stability, you will also see improvements in posture, overall movement, and in diaphragmatic breathing patterns.

Where Loaded Carries Lead…

Bottom-up kettlebell carries, farmer’s walks, and suitcase carries, among other variations of loaded carries provide a simple way to make massive changes in the world of coordination, endurance, and stability, when it comes to your daily exercise routines. An exercise that will enhance the way the body’s joints are loaded, deep stabilizing muscles are engaged, and overall balance and coordination, really deserves a regular spot in all programs and shouldn’t be reserved only for unloading groceries from the car.

Until Next Time,

Abby Scheer, DC