I love working Friday nights at the gym. For an enthusiastic people-watcher like myself, it’s the ideal time to observe male human behaviour in all of its unfettered glory. Bros being bros, yeah. Getting their pump on before hittin’ da club, all crazed on a heady mix of testosterone and Axe. Their rituals are fascinating to behold.
(A quick word: I’m not excluded from this group — who among us hasn’t fired off a few sets of push-ups and dips before hitting the beach??)
My favourite Friday Night observation occurred late last summer, when a young regular strutted into the weight room in full-on club gear. I’m talking slicked hair, studded Parasuco jeans, black dress shirt unbuttoned to the tits, popped collar, pointy brown boots. Dude was ready…but not quite READY.
After admiring his profile in the mirrors for a few minutes, our young Casanova did what all hot-blooded sex machines do when they encounter a rack full of dumbbells: he grabbed the heaviest pair he could manage and proceed to shred his biceps with 3 sets of horribly executed curls. Next, he loaded the EZ-Curl bar and hit the tri’s with some skullcrushers. Having achieved a satisfactory pump, he then flexed both arms in the classic double biceps pose and walked away, leaving all of his weights on the floor for this old chump to put away. Mission Accomplished.
I think of this fellow and his 2 minute Ron Burgundy-inspired gun-scultping routine often. What if I — or a particularly time-strapped client who thought nothing of paying for a 5 minute session — only had a limited window of time in which to get my muscle on? Which exercise would I perform or prescribe? Which exercise offers the most bang for the least buck; is safe and easy to perform; takes little effort to set-up; and, most importantly, can be cleaned up quickly so that the lowly gym attendant — my brother-in-arms — isn’t inconvenienced?
The answer is easy.
My first thought was deadlifts. Deadlifts hit all the major muscles and leave you feeling jacked and shredded, but they can also be a pain in the ass to set-up. How’re you supposed to bend over to load the barbell in your jeans, brah?? Also, a lot of people deadlift terribly. You don’t want to risk pulling your low back or tweaking a hamstring on a Friday night. Also, if you’re using chalk (always recommended when lifting heavy), you’ll mess-up your clothes. Chicks don’t dig chalky bros like bros dig chalky bros.
The Farmer’s Walk is probably the simplest exercises there is in terms of execution. I’ve never had a client who couldn’t perform them, and I’ve trained seniors in their 70’s. You simply grab a set of heavy-ish dumbbells, stand tall with your chest high and shoulder back, and then you march. Sometimes you march quickly, sometimes a little less so. It all depends on what you’re looking to get out of the exercise. Slow sets take a greater toll on your grip; fast sets leave you sweaty and out of breath. I like to use heavy weight at a fast pace for around 25-30 seconds per set, with minimal rest between sets. 4 sets usually does it. By the end, the veins in my arms are popping, my traps are feeling swole (traps are the new abs, FYI).
Aside from providing the aforementioned superficial benefits, the Farmer’s Walk (or “loaded carries”, if you’re sensitive to othering beleaguered rural workers) is one of the, if not thee, best exercise for improving posture. They strengthen the low back, the upper back, the rhomboids, the traps — all muscles that help support proper spinal alignment. Not only that, they do a bang-up job on the glutes and hamstrings, two areas that everyone needs to work on.
The only caveat: you need space to perform the Farmer’s Walk, otherwise it becomes the Farmer’s Standstill or the Farmer’s Lollygag, and those exercises aren’t badass at all. If you train at a big-box facility that focuses more on cramming machines and benches on to the floor than providing its member with ample space to perform awesome feats of strength, well, find a new gym. Those places are awful.