Why Young Athletes Should Use Loaded Carries—and 3 Safe Ways To Do So

Athletes of all ages and skill levels can benefit from loaded carries.

The loaded carry has been helping athletes of all ages and skill levels improve their performance for decades.

By simply going for a stroll while carrying a significant load, you can maximize your performance, strength, speed, posture and more.

The basic nature of loaded carries makes them a great choice for a wide-range of athletes. We've written in depth on the benefits of loaded carries before, but as great of an exercise as they are, some variations are still smarter than others.

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The loaded carry has been helping athletes of all ages and skill levels improve their performance for decades.

By simply going for a stroll while carrying a significant load, you can maximize your performance, strength, speed, posture and more.

The basic nature of loaded carries makes them a great choice for a wide-range of athletes. We've written in depth on the benefits of loaded carries before, but as great of an exercise as they are, some variations are still smarter than others.

For example, when working with young athletes, you may want to stay away from having them carry the weight on a bar across their shoulders. This can compress the spine and take a toll on their lower back.

However, there are plenty of other ways to integrate loaded carries into a routine. As long as they're performed with reasonable weight in a safe fashion, the following variations can help almost any athlete improve. Remember, the total weight carried shouldn't be the top priority here. The distance and number of carries can fluctuate with the weight that's being used. As long as the load is simply workable and challenging enough to increase strength and performance, you're ready to rock.

Farmer's Walk

*Video Example*

Ever see how many grocery bags you can carry from the car into the house in one trip? That's basically the same idea behind Farmer's Walks.

You might have also seen them in strongman competitions. The competitor often holds two long, heavy objects and tries to carry them either for distance or for time. You might not have the exact apparatus that you see on TV, but a pair of dumbbells, kettlebells or plates will certainly do the trick.

They can either try to walk while holding the dumbbells for a pre-determined distance for time, or they can use a weight that they'll carry until failure (meaning once they lose their grip and have to drop the weight). If they can hold it for longer than 1 minute while walking, they can likely go up in weight.

Zercher Carry

*Video Example*

The Zercher hold calls for the athlete to hold a bar in the fold of their elbows at chest height while performing the exercise. Having the weight in front of you means your core will be working harder to maintain stability. This will also challenge your shoulders and arms.

A barbell can be used here (you can use a foam pad if you like), or you can use a plate. Any object you can hold in the bend of your arms will work as long as you can maintain control of it while you're walking. You might find that breathing is a bit more challenging, but fight the urge to hold your breath, because that will only result in you failing sooner.

Bear Hug

*Video Example*

This version would be for larger objects that you have to hug tightly while moving. Think of a heavy medicine ball or sandbag. You can also do this with a weight plate if you don't have any other object that would serve the purpose.

Make sure the object is secure and you don't have to worry about losing control of it. You may have one hand grasping the forearm/wrist of the other hand depending on the diameter/weight of the object. While you'll be "hugging" the object inward, you want to fight the urge to lean back too far as you walk. Try to keep a straight, neutral spine for the most part. You also want to be sure you can see and that there is nothing in your path if the object is large enough or held high enough to potentially obstruct your view. If it interferes with your sight, use something smaller, or re-think your form.

Photo Credit: baona/iStock, SPARC Athens on YouTube

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Topics: BUILD MUSCLE | DUMBBELLS | BARBELL | KETTLEBELL | YOUTH SPORTS | PLATE | LOADED CARRIES