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Carry heavy things = better you

Halfway through the warrior adrenaline obstacle race last year, my spirits were high. I’d smashed all the obstacles and for once didn’t feel like baby elephant trudging round a circus tent. We came to clearing and some guy dressed in camouflage handed me a rucksack and said:

“Right mate, quick 800m up to the tree line, around the posts and back”

I could see the tree line. Didn’t look that far. So I grabbed the bag and ran off. It was easily the hardest 800m of the whole entire race. It felt super heavy. It was a strain on my legs and back. The weight seemed to sap the energy out of me. The ‘bergen’ (the name of the bag) I was carrying was approximately 20kg. Pretty light. I later found out that my brother-in-law used to carry these with equipment weighing up to 34kg. In the heat of Afghanistan while on tour with the royal signals. HOW!? was my first thought. I had jogged 800m carrying this thing and it had sapped all my energy.

Later I got thinking – There has to be a reason that the army use running and running with the bergen as a true test of fitness. I guess its the tactical aspect of having to carry kit, but the general fitness this type of constant training can’t be underestimated.

After reading some more and listening to some great coaches I came up with the following conclusion: Carrying loads is one of the best ways to improve strength AND conditioning. Farmers walks, loaded carries and other odd object carrying will crank up your heart rate as well as challenging all your big muscle groups. It will strengthen your ‘inner tube’ otherwise known as your intra-abdominal pressure – the thing that stabilised you when you are lifting or moving under significant tension. (Think how you hold your breath when you move a heavy piece of furniture..) and in most cases, increase grip strength – a must for all you weightlifters and more serious trainers out there.

So how do you fit them into your training? Well there are many way s actually.

Timed carries: Simply set the watch and see how far you can carry the load for.

Carry for distance: Could be 10 meters if a particularly heavy load (atlas stone perhaps?) or for marathon distance (probably a bag or sled) In fact a couple of our clients dragged tyres and weighted sleds for miles while training for a polar trek.

Carry relay: Carry several objects. Often differing in weight and shape. You can even combine the different styles of loaded carries.

Farmers walks: Hold two weights in each hand (don’t have to be even weights by the way and start walking. Not sure where this exercise got its name? I assume when farmers would carry hay bails or something. Either way, pop to the gym and its likely you’ll see one of our clients doing a kettlebell farmer walk. An excellent conditioning and strengthening exercise.

Sled drags/pushes: Get yourself a prowler (around £150-500) or simply tie a rope around some old tyres and drag them around a field (£0 if you go to an old tyre yard). I personally like doing car or van pushes with my clients. If there is two of you its a bit of fun and makes you feel like a real strongman. Just remember to take the handbrake off.

Weighted Bag/Vest: Probably designed for longer distances. This is the type of carry that killed me in the obstacle race I mentioned earlier. Don’t go too heavy too soon. Plenty of time to train for the SAS so start light and add loads over time. Running off with a 40kg backpack is probably going do more harm than good.

Odd object carrying: The only restriction here is your imagination or whatever you have lying around the house. My personal favourites are sandbags, atlas stones, other people (yes you read that right).

Program these into your training NOW. You will see huge carry-over (no pun intended) benefits from this style of training. It will beef up your standard strength training and improve your CV fitness. Plus, visits to tesco become a challenge, and you’ll be the hero when someones car needs a jump start.

Now, carry on…

Brett

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