These exercises present a serious challenge for the core muscles, according to research by Stuart McGill, Ph.D., of the University of Waterloo.
A stronger, tighter core gives your arms and legs a more powerful base for running fast, throwing hard, and performing heavy lifts. The moves also rock your lats while improving your grip strength and shoulder stability.
The benefits aren’t limited to individual muscles. “Loaded carries build work capacity,” John says, so you can do more gym work and do it better.
There are plenty of ways to build capacity, but you won’t find one that’s safer. “It’s really hard to hurt yourself when you’re walking around,” he says.
Do carries at any point in your workout—they’re especially great at the end, when you’re fatigued and your balance and coordination are hindered.
But no matter when you do them, the payoff is the same: a bigger, stronger body that’s better at anything you ask it to do.
“Pack” Your Shoulders
Whether you’re holding the weight at your sides, overhead, or anywhere in between, keep your shoulders as tight as possible to improve joint stability.
Straighten Your Back
Think of carries as walking planks: Keep your lower back and pelvis aligned throughout the exercise.
A tight grip increases tension in your core muscles.
A shorter stride—your feet less than 12 inches apart—gives you a stronger support base.
Tuck Your Chin
Don’t crane your neck! Keep your ears directly over your shoulders and hips. This aligns your spine, keeping it injury-free.
Keep Your Ribs Flat
If they flare out, you’re putting undue stress on your back. Breathe in through your nose and then forcefully out through your mouth. That helps push your ribs down and keep your core engaged.
Carries are self-limiting exercises. That means any weight that you can hold for the recommended distance or duration is safe to use.