Strongman/Strongwoman Training Series: Farmers Walk
The Farmers Walk was first seen at World’s Strongest Man in 1983 but was known as the Fergus Walk. The weight in 1983 was an unbalanced 80kg and with thick handles causing all kinds of embarrassing drops. This was an endurance event for sure with distance being the goal rather than speed.
The tradition of holding a piece of equipment can perhaps go back to rotavators...
But more likely invokes experiences of this:
The farmers walk would appear to require high anteroposterior as well as vertical force production and may involve periods of unilateral and bilateral ground contact (https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/aba1/09a6eb3f5fd9f3feaa7e339a05d04bfd28af.pdf). Or in other words, you pick it up like a side handled deadlift, walk and then try not to drop it.
Often the strength level of the athlete is limited by their grip strength. You genuinely have to train this event cleverly to be “good” at it. You might be interested to know the World Record is 150kg for 6.71seconds along a 20m course by Laurence Shahlei if you want a guide on where you are.
Not the WR but an example of how brutal this event can be...
Variations and what to expect at a comp
In a comp you can expect to see these variations:
- 20m drop & turn (run 20m to a line and then pick up to complete the return leg
- 10-20m dash (no drop, just go for it)
- 10-20m into Yoke or a Carry (a medley of sorts and crowd pleaser - tests two different types of strength and can make or break a placing)
- Hold for time (rarely seen these days and inconsistent to score) and sort of a cheap deadlift variation
- You will be given a line to reach; ensure you listen to the the ref who will tell you whether you need to go all the way over the line or just "break" it with either your feet or the front of the tip of the implement. Too many competitors fail to listen and lose time/points/placing
Here are some general rules for the event:
- Do not slide the Farmers over the finish line. This will cost you points as you can be deducted time for doing it (penalty of 5 seconds is normal).
- Limited pick ups; some comps only allow one pickup. Number of reasons for this (exposure of kit to repeated drops at a heavy weight, damage potential to floor, speeding up comps). So check first if you're not told.
- Dragging the farmers throughout the event; the implement should clear the ground completely when you are in motion.
Tips and Tricks
- Take a deep breath and "chuff" like a train; this will help maintain your core stability
- Try and over exaggerate your hip gait and this will get your feet shuffling
- Pick a point on the floor 5-6 metres in front and set little goals if you find the weight ridiculous - each step is a potential PB and a massive achievement
- Practice the drop and turn like an OIympic Swimmer would practice their underwater turn. They do this over and over as seconds can make the difference when two people are equally matched with running speed
You do not see many ideas for programming the Farmers Walk. I've heard everything... "just something we mess around with", "we go heavy as we can each session" and "I don't really practice it"
At Old Time Strength we do event days on a Saturday and we will sometimes add a yoke and farmers in the week alternating between speed and endurance work. Whatever we did in the week, we'll do the opposite on the event day.
I think this is a good way to build up the Farmers Walk skillset:
Max Farmers 125kg (% work rounded up to nearest 5kg)
Endurance session: Try and do 5 sets of 60m-90m (could be 2-3 lengths of 20m or 6-9 lengths of 10m if you want to practice drop and turn). Start at 50% for week 1 and then do this for 5 weeks adding 5% each week. Walk or run... doesn't matter as this is building up confidence and posterior chain strength.
Speed session: Try and do 3 sets of 20m timing each run (10m drop & turn) and replicate comp conditions if you can. Start at 70% and run it for 4 weeks alongside your endurance sessions (do endurance in week and speed on weekend).
Take the speed session off for week 5 just do the endurance session. Then the week after set a new PB. You'll feel refreshed for taking the load out of your hands.
This is just one way we train and practice the farmers walk. You can train with or without a belt but I try and do the endurance sessions without a belt.
Don't be worried about the weights "seeming" low; the Farmers Walk is about building strength... once built you can show it off later.
Periodise the Farmers Walk over time and remember that recovery from the exercise is a challenge. Going to max weights on an irregular basis with this piece of kit can be draining and affect you for 1-3 weeks meaning your other sessions have less productive outcome.
Lots of time under tension with the endurance work is extremely effective for posterior chain development and of course building skill on an exercise which is often overlooked as a "main" exercise.
The Farmers Walk is probably one of the only events that doesn’t need much messing around with. You don’t need to mess around with chains/bands and no fancy routines are needed; just brutal hard work which many people refuse to do. Ego can take over with people shuffling with 180kg+ but you rarely see more than 160kg at a comp at World level let along in a pub car park.
Check the ego at the door and take your time building this over time to really profit from the amazing gains this exercise can offer.