Loaded Carries For Athletic Development?

Who would of thought carrying heavy stuff around will actually make you better at sports??

Think how often in a day you have to pick up something and move it around. Whether it’s groceries, a child, or even job related labor. This is real life application, so why not train to be proficient at carrying heavy things? Regarding High School athletic performance, I have a different approach for why I have my athletes incorporate loaded carries. I am a true believer that developing overall strength carries over into every aspect of sports. All athletes want to be faster, jump higher, and move quicker? Well, It all starts with strength training.   When coaching an athlete, a big teaching point is to have my athletes learn how to use their entire body while lifting. What a better way to teach body awareness, then to have my athletes carry heavy objects in there training sessions. Some benefits the athletes will receive from loaded carries is understanding the concept of time under tension, strengthening of the postural muscles, and overall strength (especially grip/forearm strength).

Time under tension refers to the amount of time a load is placed on the musculature system. For example, I’ll pick a distance and ask my athletes to pick up two kettle bells and walk with them by their sides. During their walk, a great deal of stress is placed on the entire body and this can be described as time under tension. This is perfect for body awareness because I know the athlete can feel muscles working from all angles.

Another benefit of loaded carries is the development of postural muscles. I take into account that a normal high school athlete has been sitting most the day at school. When they come in to train, they understand that maintaining correct posture while lifting is crucial. When an athlete becomes tired, first thing I see that goes is form. What helps us maintain form? The postural muscles, which can be described as endurance muscles. What a better way to train those muscles than loaded carries for an extended amount of time. In this case, I will ask the athletes to walk a farther distance with a lighter load. The moment I see posture become compromised, I ask them to set the weights down, reset, and get back at it.

Overall strength can be a huge benefit for high school athletes, so in this case I may ask them to pick up something heavier. I usually shorten the distance, just because the load has become more difficult. This proves to be more challenging, not just to pick up, but to hold onto. Grip strength is a good correlation to upper body strength, why? Well I believe, the more force you can generate through your grip, the more weight you can hold. The more weight you can hold usually means you can lift heavier things.

I like to mix up the carries and offer different ways to make them challenging, overall it’s a great way to get my athletes moving and picking up heavy weights.

Here are some different loaded carries that I utilize. You can be creative, lots of options besides the ones I have listed. (I will follow up with some videos/pictures to show each one)

  • 2-Handed Farmers Carry
  • 1-Handed Farmers Carry
  • 2KB Rack Carry
  • 1KB Rack Carry
  • OH Plate Carry
  • SA-Waiters Carry (add KB bottoms up for increased intensity)
  • Offset Weighted Carry (different size weights and positions)

Strength Coach,

Silas Perreault, BS, CSCS, USAW