How Many Farmer’s Walks Should I Do Based On My Fitness Goals?

Our Expert Coach Amber Sayer helps you utilize the Farmer's Walk!

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The farmer’s walk exercise is one of the best functional strength training exercises for improving grip strength and total body strength.

As a coach, it is a great exercise for athletes looking to improve transferable strength for other weightlifting exercises, as well as for regular recreational athletes who want to be fitter, stronger, and healthier for real-life activities outside of the gym.

But how many farmer’s walks should I do? How far should you do farmer’s walks, or how many farmer’s walks steps are good for strength and conditioning? What weight should you use for farmers to carry workouts?

In this guide, we will discuss how to do farmer’s walks, modify farmer’s walk exercises, and determine the number of reps, sets, and weights you should use for farmer’s walks based on your fitness goals, ultimately answering your question, how many farmer’s walks should I do in my workouts?

Let’s dive in! 

Two men performing a farmer's walk exercise, Title: "How Many Farmer's Walks Should I Do"

How Do You Do Farmer’s Walks?

Before we look at how many farmer’s carry reps and sets you should do based on your fitness level and goals, let’s cover how to perform farmer’s walks and what the exercise entails.

The farmer’s walk exercise, also called the farmer’s carry exercise, is an exercise intended to increase strength in most of the major muscles of your body while improving coordination, increasing heart rate, and training functional core strength.

The farmer’s walk exercise has its roots in competitive strongmen and strongwomen competitions, but it is commonly used now in functional training workouts and by recreational weightlifters looking to improve grip strength and full-body strength.

One of the benefits of farmer’s walks for longer sets or with heavier weights is that it builds muscular strength and endurance in the key wrist, hand, and finger flexor muscles for grip strength.

Good grip strength is crucial for pull-ups, deadlifts, and other heavy lifts. Plus, studies have found that poor grip strength may even be a risk factor for decreased mobility later in life. 

There are lots of variations of farmer’s walks in terms of the type of weights that you use and how you perform the exercise.

But the basic bilateral farmer’s walk exercise involves holding a weight (usually a dumbbell or kettlebell) in each hand slowly and deliberately walking forward for a designated distance.

A man wearing a grey vest holds two red dumbbells by his side.

Here are the steps for how to perform farmer’s walks:

  1. Choose an appropriate dumbbell weight and make sure that you have enough clearance in front of you for the distance that you want to walk. A good starting distance for a farmer’s walk would be about 10 m or more.
  2. Stand upright with good posture with a dumbbell situated next to each foot on the outside of the foot. Keep your chest up, shoulders down, core muscles and glutes tight, and feet hip-width apart with your toes pointing forward.
  3. Hinge from your hips to sit your butt back and bend your knees to reach down and deadlift the dumbbells up. Grip each dumbbell with a neutral grip so that your palms are facing inward towards your thighs, and hold on with a firm grip.
  4. Press through your heels to stand up to the erect standing position. Make sure that your spine is neutral, your glutes and core muscles are engaged, your shoulders are relaxed and down away from your ears, and your chest is up and proud.
  5. The dumbbells should be down at your sides with a tight grip on the handle.
  6. Keeping your core tight and your posture tall and strong, initiate the movement by taking a step forward with 1 foot and then continuing to walk normally, in a reciprocal pattern with each foot.
  7. Try not to swing the dumbbells, as you might swing your arms normally. Keep them hanging down at your sides statically by isometrically contracting the muscles in your chest, upper back, and shoulders.
  8. Walk forward for the desired distance.
  9. Turn around and walk back. Keep your eyes forward and your head neutral.
  10. At the end of the farmer’s walk set, perform a deadlift in reverse to lower the dumbbells back down to the ground, meaning that you will sit your hips back, hinge from your hips, and lower the weights down to the ground.

Note that if you have an existing shoulder injury, elbow injury, or injury to the wrist or hands, you should not perform farmer’s walks without first consulting a physical therapist, your doctor, or a certified personal trainer. 

How to Modify Farmer’s Walks

There are a couple of different ways to modify farmer’s walk exercises.

The two most common involve:

  • Changing the type of weight that you use (for example, kettlebell farmer’s walks, dumbbell farmer’s walks, or trap bar farmer’s walks)
  • Shifting the exercise from a bilateral farmer’s walk to a unilateral or single-arm farmer’s walk.

First, changing the type of resistance that you use is helpful when you are primarily interested in doing farmer’s walk workouts for grip strength.

Switching between kettlebells and dumbbells will challenge your grip strength muscles differently.

Single-Arm Farmer’s Walks

The single-arm farmer’s carry is one of the best functional core exercises.

This is because the single-arm farmer walk is a unilateral and anti-rotational core exercise.

It is performed on one side of the body and requires your core muscles to stabilize and resist the tendency to twist or bend due to having a load on only one side of the body.

Again, this is highly “functional” because such moves closely mimic many of your core’s real-life demands. 

To maximize these strengthening benefits for the core muscles, choose the heaviest weight you can manage with proper form.

Two people hold on to red dumbbells standing with a dark background.

How Many Farmer’s Walks Should I Do Based On My Fitness Goals?

Programming farmer’s walks can be a little more complicated than with some traditional strength training exercises like dumbbell curls or squats.

This is because it can sometimes be easier to determine a certain distance you will walk or a certain number of walk steps rather than farmer’s walk reps.

Depending on your primary training goal1Schoenfeld, B. J., Grgic, J., Van Every, D. W., & Plotkin, D. L. (2021). Loading Recommendations for Muscle Strength, Hypertrophy, and Local Endurance: A Re-Examination of the Repetition Continuum. Sports9(2), 32. https://doi.org/10.3390/sports9020032 with your farmer’s walks workouts, you might prefer to take longer steps or faster and shorter farmer’s walk steps.

This is why choosing a distance for farmer’s carry workouts can help you be more consistent with how much training volume you are doing.

That said, I usually suggest counting the number of farmer’s carry steps per leg for beginners and not worrying about keeping track of distance.

When structuring a strength training workout, the number of reps of an exercise that you do is only one part of the programming of the exercise into the workout.

The other components of training volume to consider are the number of sets and the weight that you are lifting, also known as the load.

Your primary training goal ultimately affects how many farmer’s walks you should do as well as how much weight you should use for farmer’s walk workouts.

A man wearing a black vest deadlifts two red dumbbells before performing a famer's walk.

The following table provides recommendations for how many reps to do and how much weight to lift for different strength training goals based on the average guidelines from the American Council on Exercise (ACE)2How Many Reps Should You Be Doing? (n.d.). Www.acefitness.org. https://www.acefitness.org/resources/everyone/blog/5867/how-many-reps-should-you-be-doing/ and the National Strength and Conditioning Association.3Sands, W., Wurth, J., & Hewit, J. (2012). The National Strength and Conditioning Association’s (NSCA) BASICS OF STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING MANUAL. https://www.nsca.com/contentassets/116c55d64e1343d2b264e05aaf158a91/basics_of_strength_and_conditioning_manual.pdf

So, how many farmer’s walks should I do? 

Training GoalSetsRepsRest PeriodIntensity
General Fitness1-3 12-15 30 to 90 secondsVaries on exercise and ability level
Muscular Endurance3-4 >15 Up to 30 seconds<67% of 1RM
Hypertrophy (building muscle mass)3-6 8-12 30 to 90 seconds67% to 85% of 1RM
Muscle strength4-6 3-62 to 5 minutes>85% of 1RM
Power3-51-52 to 5 minutes85%–100% of 1RM 

How Many Farmer’s Carries Should I Do To See Good Results?

Modifying the recommendations above for farmer’s walks, here are some suggestions for how many farmer’s carries to do: 

  • A good starting place for beginners is two sets of 12 steps per leg. Build up to three sets. You can increase the weight once you can do 12 steps per leg.
  • If your goal is to increase strength with farmer’s walks, use a weight that corresponds to at least 85% of your 1 rep max, or a weight that you could manage for just 4 to 6 steps per leg with proper form. Aim for 4 to 6 sets with at least 90 seconds of rest in between sets.
  • If you are doing farmer’s walks to build muscle, strive for 3 to 4 sets of 10 to 15 steps per leg. Use enough weight that you can manage but that you feel fatigued by the last few steps.
  • To increase muscular endurance with farmer’s walks, perform at least three sets of at least 20 steps per leg with no more than 60 seconds of rest in between each set.
Two men stand next to red dumbbells, about to perform farmer's walks.

To learn more about the number of reps and sets you should do to build muscle, check out our guide to hypertrophy reps and sets here.

Summary

The farmer’s walk is a highly effective exercise for enhancing grip strength and overall body strength. Hopefully, you have found this guide’s essential techniques, variations, and recommendations helpful.

Whether aiming for general fitness, strength, muscle building, or endurance, the farmer’s walk proves to be a versatile and valuable addition to any workout routine.

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References

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Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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