Boost Your Loaded Carries With Lateral Movement

You probably spend a lot of time moving sideways when you play your sport, so why not add Lateral Loaded Carries to your training?

"I pick things up and put them down."

It's one of the most quotable lines from a certain gym's series of commercials, and it's also a simple way to explain many strength exercises. Loaded Carries simply added in a walk for distance or time between the picking up and the putting down.

Loaded Carries should be a fundamental part of any athlete's program, as they are applicable to a multitude of goals, whether it's building muscle, increasing work capacity or rehabbing injury. However, when you see athletes perform Loaded Carries and their variations, you almost always see them walking forward. But in most sports, moving laterally is also essential to success. That's why it makes sense to add Lateral Loaded Carries to your program.

Lateral Loaded Carries challenge the core in a unique way when compared to their forward counterpart. During a lateral carry, you want to keep your core braced as much as possible, so you don't wobble as you step. To keep that wobble to a minimum, you're also forced to keep your steps small and measured. The result is a unique type of anti-lateral flexion exercise that translates well to improve sports performance.

The Set-Up

For any variation of a carry, it is vital to master the set-up and own the right position. Without this step, you likely won't get all you can out of the exercise. Even worse, you may end up overcompensating in another area of the body.

  • 1. Pick up the weight.
  • 2. Align your shoulders, ribs and hips.
  • 3. Brace your core.
  • 4. Take small lateral steps, striving to move purely laterally and not forward or backward (this will help keep your body in alignment.)
  • 5. Go the programmed distance or time for the carry.
  • 6. Repeat.

Once you have gotten a handle on the basics of loaded lateral carries, it's time to try a few different variations.

Lateral Farmer's Carry

These are the most basic of the bunch. Pick up two heavy dumbbells, squeeze your armpits to lock in the shoulder complex, and walk laterally. Keep that alignment checklist in the back of your head as you move. As you move laterally, you'll notice that the weights will want to swing back and forth. If this is happening a lot, either find a weight that you can control, or take even smaller steps.

Lateral Front Rack Carry

This alternative can be accomplished with dumbbells, kettlebells or a barbell. For the dumbbells or kettlebells, pick the weights up and hold them in front of your shoulders, much like you would if you were doing an Overhead Press or Front Squat. Similarly, if you are going to do this with a barbell, you would be in the same position as a Front Squat. For even more of a variation, you can do these front rack carries with just one dumbbell or kettlebell. This will put an even greater demand on your core.

Lateral Offset Carry

The Lateral Offset Carry requires holding one heavy dumbbell at your side and a lighter weight either above the head or in that front rack position we discussed previously. If you are going to go overhead, make sure to lock in the overhead arm and shoulder and make sure the weight is in line with your shoulder, hip and knee before you start moving. Due to the positioning of the dumbbells, there is an increased demand on the core musculature and the shoulder to maintain lateral stability. Moving laterally will further increase those demands.

Lateral Goblet Carry or Lateral Med Ball Carry

These two are somewhat similar to the Lateral Front Rack Carry in terms of where the muscular demands will be focused, though each has its own uniqueness.

Grab a heavy dumbbell and hold it in the same fashion you would for a Goblet Squat. As for the med ball, scoop it up and give it a hug. Then go for that lateral walk. Not only will you get the side to side demands, but each will place a huge demand on your anterior core. Make sure the weight is not resting on your chest and that there is a slight separation between the weight and the body.

Lateral Trap Bar Carry

The trap bar is a slight alteration to the Lateral Farmer's Carry mentioned above, but you can load it with significantly more weight than just using heavy dumbbells. With this carry, load it as heavy as you want and can handle with good form. Then go to work. One bonus to this is that you can't step wider than the actual bar itself. Just be wary of the wobble.

Lateral Suitcase Carry

Similar to the Lateral Farmer's Walk, pick up one dumbbell and hold it at your side. It is going to be more of a challenge to maintain a neutral posture as the body tends to adjust to weight on one side with a hip shift. Try to stay as neutral as possible, and go for a walk. The Lateral Suitcase Carry is a great anti-lateral flexion core exercise, as well.

Programming Notes

Lateral loaded carries are simple to implement. You can carry for time, for distance, even for the number of steps you take. Additionally, you could create a circuit where you utilize different variations and different directions within one workout. The key is to make sure you travel both left and right in equal amounts for every exercise, lest you develop imbalances.

When it comes to loading or intensity, it comes down to what the intent of the exercise is. If you are looking for strength or size, you may want to load the carry heavy. If you're taking a more rehab or recovery approach, lighter loads will work just fine.