SAPT Exercise of the Week

SAPT Exercise of the Week: Double-Arm KB Farmer Walk with Towel

Kent Blackstone 350lbs
Kent Blackstone 350lbs

As soon as I completed my first-ever farmer carry, the exercise was indelibly cemented into my memory as an all-time favorite, and one that I privately vowed to use on a weekly basis both within my own training and in that of our athletes and clients at SAPT.

You'd be hard pressed to find to find a better exercise that simultaneously develops core and hip stability, grip strength, shoulder health, structural soundness of the musculoskeletal system, promotes fat loss and lean body mass gain, gets you "yolked," and takes the cake for overall conditioning.

Not to mention (and stealing a phrase from my friend Tony Gentilcore), a heavy set of farmer carries will make any woman within a two-block radius spontaneously conceive. How about that one, science?

And, with large thanks to Dan John and his article, The Secret of Loaded Carries, the farmer walk has grown in popularity and an increasing number of people are appreciating how valuable they are.

Perhaps my favorite aspect of loaded carries is that they are SCALABLE. You can literally use them with anyone, for virtually any training goal:

  • An overweight client who's brand new to the weight room and seeking fat loss.
  • A football player looking to pancake some unsuspecting soul on the opposing team.
  • Wrestlers and MMA fighters desiring augmented grip strength and cardiovascular fitness.
  • A powerlifter looking to improve his squat, bench, and deadlift.
  • A fitness model preparing for a photo shoot, or college student fancying a sexy bod for the upcoming Beach Week.
  • A mother or father simply preparing for "Life"; wanting to better prepare for the ability to get through a day of yard work without crippling back pain.
  • And, while I have yet to find a specific research study on the matter, I'm convinced that a healthy dose of farmer carries, more than any other exercise modality, improves your sex life, along with making coffee taste even better than it already does.

I'm not kidding, you can use them for a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g. At SAPT we have 11-year olds carry 10lb kettlebells, practicing good posture and walking mechanics; some of our high school athletes carry upwards of 410lbs with the implements. You can see the video below for a boatload of kettlebell (or dumbbell) variations you can use as part of a warm-up or conditioning circuit:

And while I LOVE the farmer walk implements, which allow you to really ramp up the weight (and subsequently, superhero status), I realize that many of you reading train in a commercial gym, and don't have access to the wonderful world of farmer walk handles. Enter....

Double-Arm KB Farmer Walk with Towel

This exercise was invented by your fellow wizards at SAPT, when, upon opening the facility back in 2007, the power racks didn't arrive forfour freaking months due to the company being complete dunderheads delay in shipment. What appeared to be a curse quickly metamorphosed into a blessing, as it forced the coaches to be creative with exercise selection. The KB farmer walk with towel happened to be one of the offspring of this surge in forced creativity.

Here it is in action:

(Note: If your gym doesn't have very heavy kettlebells, you can stack weight plates on top of the KB, as shown in the video.)

I really like this exercise because you can do it nearly any gym, and while it will provide nearly all the benefits of farmer carries (listed in the beginning of this article), this particular variation really, and I mean really, hammers grip strength. You'll literally have to "unpeel" your fingers from your palms when you finish. Not to mention, these really make for fun competitions among the competitive crowd, to see who can go the heaviest and longest before allowing the towel to slip out of the hands.

In fact, even though we now have the luxury of implement handles at SAPT, we still use this variation with near reckless abandon in our athlete's programs.

I like to do these for 2-3 sets of 30-80yds. (If you train in a gym without much walking room, you can just walk back and forth in a 5-10yd square. Who cares if you look funny.)

Give it a shot and hope you enjoy.

Lying Knee-to-Knee Mob on Wall for a Better Squat and Improved Running Mechanics

I was recently reminded of this drill as, last week, I tested my hip internal rotation and found it to be woefully lacking, compared to just twelve months ago (pulling SUMO five days a week, along with already possessing extremely overused and stiff external rotators, will certainly have this effect....) While I've been much more diligent at working on my hip extension patterning, I've admittedly fallen by the wayside when it comes to fighting against the loss of hip internal rotation (IR). As such, I began to toss this drill in at the end of my training sessions again and thought I would share it with those of you who may be interested.

Do you care about sound positioning in the bottom of your squat (this = pwnage of heavy weights, by the way), improved running mechanics, or lessened risk of back pain? Do this:

What's it for?

To improve hip IR.  Specifically: a loss of hip IR caused by muscular restrictions (as opposed to passive restrictions such as labrums, minisci, bone, etc.). A couple notes

  1. I'd recommend doing this after you've already pulverized your external rotators with a lacrosse ball or other means of soft tissue work.
  2. Don't force range-of-motion here, just gently mobilize the knees in and out. You shouldn't feel any sensation of impingement and stop if something feels "off."
  3. If you're a female, I wouldn't jump the gun on this one.  A lot of females already tend to have a fair amount of hip internal rotation, due to their hip structure (wider hip bones and thus larger knee valgus at rest).
  4. This can be performed before a training session (especially if you're squatting that day, as you'll notice significantly improved hip mobility as you descend into the bottom).  It can also be used at the end of a lifting session or athletic event (especially if you're a baseball pitcher, or partake in a rotational sport) or training session.  This will help loosen up the external rotators of the hip that tend to tighten up over time.
  5. This drill can also be done with the feet on the floor (a valid option), but I personally prefer to have the feet on the wall as it tends to be a bit more low-back friendly.

Incorporate this into your routine for improved squatting and running mechanics.

SAPT Exercise of the Week: One Arm Pushup, Band-Assisted

I'm pretty crunched for time this morning as Kelsey and I need to head to a doctor's appointment in a minute, so I need to make this brief. Strength coach Shon Grosse recently came up with a pretty brilliant way to do the one-arm pushup. I'll admit, when I first saw it I thought it was a little "foo-foo," but after trying it a few times myself, I'm sold.

It's much safer on the shoulders than the traditional one-arm pushup, and it's a tremendous challenge for the chest, shoulders, triceps, and core. This is a great option stronger individuals that train with minimal equipment (ex. at home), and/or have exhausted most other pushup variations and are looking for a new challenge:

You can raise/lower the difficulty by adjusting how high the band sits, and by toying with how you hang the band (ex. just one end or both ends hanging from an attachment). For those of you who train at home and have an Iron Gym, that's a perfect place to put the band. Here's mine at home, using a "micro" band from EliteFTS:

Shon gives a fantastic write-up on the entire exercise HERE, so I encourage you to read it if you're looking to give this a shot.

Hope you enjoy!

SAPT Exercise of the Week: Sample Warm-Up Series

Here's a quick warm-up that won't take more than 5-10 minutes to complete, but will hit practically every joint in the body and prep you to effectively smash some weight around. These are a few of my favorite moves that I've found to personally be some of the best "bang for your buck" drills.

Note: When you perform the prone plank portion, try doing it "RKC style" as demonstrated in the video below. It really does make a big difference in terms of how much benefit you receive from the seemingly simple exercise.

While, yes, warming up can be an annoyance for some people, I find three reasons that simply won't allow me to skip it before my own training sessions:

1) It gives me a "feel" for how my body and nervous system and faring during a particular day. As I run through the various movement patterns, I have a chance to sense what areas may be sore/testy, and also if I'm feeling "on" or not. This can then help me further autoregulate my training session and decide how hard I'll push it based off what my body is telling me.

This takes some experience and practice, yes. But the rewards can't be overstated.

2) Warming up is going to help you run faster, move more weight, and reduce the likelihood of injury during your training session. 'Nuff said there.

3) It gives me a chance to "bridge the gap" between the workday and my training session. During the warmup I have a chance to clear my mind and leave any troubles/worries at the front door, so to speak. Then, by the time I've moved on to the main lifts for the day, I have all my focus in check.

While some of the drills in the video above may be old news to many of you, I'm still shocked to find how many people tend to spin their wheels when it comes to preparing for their training session. Hopefully some of you can glean a few things from the video and add them into your own repertoire.

SAPT Exercise of the Week: Standing Rollout to Wall

While I'd argue you'd be hard-pressed to find a better exercise for the anterior core than the standing rollout, the fact of the matter is that the exercise is way, WAY too advanced for most people. For example, when I watch someone do a standing rollout for the first time, one of three things happens: 1) They fall flat on their face. 2) Their lower back quickly falls into hyperextension (excessive arching, or "bowing"), thus defeating the entire purpose of the exercise and putting their spine in danger. 3) Their spleen shoots out of their midsection, splattering the wall beside them.

Not to fear! There is still a way to receive the benefits of rollouts without your form looking like poo. Enter the standing rollout to wall; a fantastic variation for those who have mastered plank and stability ball rollout variations:

How to do it: First, be honest with yourself.  Only go as far away from the wall as you can without your low back sinking, or "bowing" toward the floor. Otherwise your time will be just as well spent doing something equally productive, such as throwing your intervertebral discs into a blender.

SQUEEZE your glutes hard, and posteriorly tilt your pelivs - aka, the humping motion....I apologize as that's not the most G-rated way to describe it but it seems to help the majority of people conceptualize it. Also, do your best not to fall into forward head posture, as people (myself included) tend to "reach" with their head on these more than any other trunk exercise.

Do 2-3 sets of 5-8 reps, beginning on the low end of the spectrum. No need to rush things here.

For the strength coaches in the crowd: Standing rollouts help with anti-extension of the trunk and assist in taking those who live in extension (primarily athletes) and drawing them out of that extended, anteriorly-tilted posture.

For the gym-rats out there: Nothing will get those abz a-blazin' (or sore) like standing rollouts will. Just be sure you've spent ample time mastering planks, fallouts, stir-the-pots, and the drills I outlined in this video:

SAPT Exercise of the Week: Zelda Plate Carry

I realize that many of our readers don't have access to special equipment such as prowlers, ropes, farmer walk implements, etc. so I've been doing my best to be cognizant this fact during these little "Exercise of the Week" bits. For example, while an alligator crawl with a prowler attached to you is certainly challenging, looks awesome, and will make your abdominals rip into two pieces....

it's most likely NOT the most practical option the majority of you due to equipment limitations.

This being the case, I hope you find many of the ones I do feature on here requiring minimal equipment (things like turtle rolls, bodysaw pushups, stir the pot alphabets, goblet squat to stepback lunges, etc.) useful for your individual scenarios.

Anyway, on to this week's featured movement:

Zelda Plate Carry

Why is it called the Zelda Plate Carry: If you don't know the answer to this, shame on you. Whenever Link (hero in the The Legend of Zelda series) picks something up, he holds it over his head and walks with it in a similar manner to the demonstration video. I suppose, technically speaking, this should be called the "Link Plate Carry," but more people are familiar with the name Zelda so I went with that one.

Giving full disclosure, this entire blog post may or may not be an excuse for me to somehow include my love for all things Zelda into a strength and conditioning website. I mean, come on, if you had played through Ocarina of Time six times in your youth, and eventually beat the game in under 24-hours in one sitting, wouldn't you want to find a way to incorporate it into your lifting routines?

Not that I did that, or anything, but just hypothetically speaking.


Okay, I might have totally done that. I'm not judging you though, okay?

Why I like it: See above. It resembles how Link carries heavy stuff around. Okay, just kidding (but not really). I like it because:

1. You can do it in virtually any gym. Heck, even if you live in the middle of nowhere you can perform it. Just pick up something heavy (a rock, backpack, whatever) and go with it. 2. It hammers scapular stability and shoulder mobility, along with providing a slight "cardiovascular" training effect. 3. You're practically forced to hold the plate in a neutral grip, which tends to be more "shoulder friendly" as it opens up the subacromial space within the glenoid.

How to do it: "Pack" the shoulder down and back, and don't allow your arms to drift forward or backward (think "keep them next to your ears) and keep the elbows locked. I also like to use this cue from Kelsey for overhead carries: "Think about shoving your shoulder down while simultaneously pressing your hand up through the weight. Like you’re trying to lengthen your arm." Brace your entire midsection, making a cognizant effort not to hyperextend ("over arch") your low back as you hold the plate overhead.

I would go for time ( beginning with :60-:90), or for a total number of steps (ex. 100 steps), and toss this in at the end of a workout for 3-4 rounds. You can increase the difficulty by adding the amount of time or steps you need to complete before setting the weight down. It's a great variation to toss in alongside other farmer walk exercises (dumbbells held at the side, in the goblet position, etc.), or in the middle of a conditioning circuit. You're only limited by your imagination in its application.