Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Suit Case Walk…

Today I’m flying from Newfoundland to California, literally going from the most eastern point of Canada to the most western point of the USA, the whole trip will take about 12 hours, that’s if were lucky and everything is on time. Myself and my girlfriend Patricia are going to LA for an Internet marketing seminar. And we are also going to stay down for a week so we can film a workout video on Muscle Beach in Venice. I’m really looking forward to it.

I’m sitting on the plane right now as I write this. The plane seats actually have power outlets so I can plug in my laptop. That’s a pretty cool feature, I’ve never seen that before on a plane. So I’m taking advantage of it.

Anyway, knowing darn well that there is going to be lots of time to kill today, I packed my bag with lots of reading material. And just before I started writing this I was flipping through this month's issue of Men’s Health and came across a cool exercise called the “suit case walk”. Granted the name caught my attention being that I’m traveling today and lugging around suit cases.

Basically the suit case walk is a variation of the farmers walk. Now if you are not familiar with the farmers walk, it is simply picking up a dumbbell in each hand, holding them by your sides and walking with them. Similar to how a farmer would walk carrying a bucket in each hand. You’ve probably seen the farmers walk done before in strongman competitions on TV as it is a very common event.

The suit case walk is very similar, but you’ll be walking carrying only one dumbbell in one hand, then switching hands half way through, just like you would if you were carrying a suit case for a long time.

The benefits of the farmers walk and the suit case walk is that they help develop real functional strength throughout the entire body. Your grip comes into play big time from holding the weights, in fact this is what will give out first when doing the exercise. You’ll also heavily work your traps, back, mid-section, hips, legs, etc. from walking with heavy weights.

This is one of those exercises that you are probably not doing regularly, but you really should. Simply adding it in as part of your workout routine once a week will make a big difference. If you stick with it consistently you can progress very quickly.

A little over a year ago I was really into a good strength and power training phase that had lots of basic power exercises, including the farmers walk, in my workouts and they helped out tremendously. My strength was at its peak and it had a lot to do with consistently doing the basic movements.

But honestly I’ve gotten a bit slack in my training lately. Not that I haven’t been working out regularly, but I haven’t been focusing on the heavy basics. This is partly due to having suffered a muscle tear earlier this year and having to go through an active recovery phase for several months. Let me tell you, nothing is a bigger kick to the ego then getting out lifted by little old ladies in the gym. For about 8 weeks I was literally just going through the motions with nothing more then the weight of the machine handles.

But now that I’m pretty much all healed up, it’s time to get back to some serious training again. I’m looking forward to adding in the farmers walk and the suit case walk as part of my workouts.

The way I’d suggest including these exercises is to do them once a week after either a leg workout or after a back workout. One workout do the farmers walk, the next workout do the suit case walk. The suit case walk will involve more core and stabilizer muscles because you have to balance and support yourself more so as your body will be off balance from holding only one weight. The farmers walk will allow you to carry more total weight and work more muscle fibers because of the heavier loads. Alternating between the two variations will give you the best of both worlds.

To do the farmers walk grab 2 dumbbells and walk back and forth the gym until your grip fails. Rest 2-3 minutes and then repeat again. You’ll only need to do a few sets (or walks).

For the suit case walk grab 1 dumbbell and walk the length of the gym, switch hands, and then walk back. Keep alternating holding the dumbbell with one hand, and then the other hand with each trip back and forth the gym. Again rest 2-3 minutes between walks to fully recovery your strength so you can give each one 100% effort.

You’ll most likely find that you have one hand that is stronger then the other, so start with your weaker hand first. Then make sure to only walk the same distance when holding the weight with your stronger hand. Over time this will help to balance out the strength of both hands.

A good starting weight for most guys would between 50-80 lbs. dumbbells, and ladies should start with about half of that. Obviously, the actual weights you use will depend on your current strength levels, but this is a rough guideline to start with. Each week add 5 lbs. and strive to walk the same distance. You should be able to make steady progressive strength gains for several weeks in a row.

Give the farmers walk and suit case walk a try in your workouts, it will only take a few minutes once per week and that will be time well spent. As you get stronger with these exercises, you’ll also get stronger with your other exercises as well due to the grip and core strength you’ll be building.


  1. The first time I did this exercise (farmer's walk), I thought it was a waste of time, however, after 3 weeks I really noticed changes, especially when I was doing lateral pull downs. I could increase the weight without exhausting my grip, which was the first muscle to give up. I am going to try this variant and let you know the difference.

  2. What grip do you use for the barbell shrugs? I'm finding that while my traps can handle the greater weight I can't physically hold onto the bar for more than 5 or so reps. Using lifting straps helps a little but I find the bar tends to just spin in my hands and having to hold onto it with my finger tips!

  3. Similar to what Mark said. I was doing 3 main working sets of 10 reps on the trap bar deadlifts, but as I am getting into heavier weights my grip is failing at 7-8 reps. So, I've changed to 5 sets of 6 reps. I'll try the Farmer and Suitcase Walks and hopefully it will help my grip not fail as I keep increasing the weights on these deadlifts. Thanks Lee.

  4. I did this for my last workout and it is a lot harder then you think. This is going to be a regular exercise for me from now on.