It’s not very often a single exercise can be its own standalone workout for both the upper and lower body.
It’s also not very often that this very same exercise helps you build muscle, drop body fat, and improve your athletic performance all at the same time.
For baseball players, the missing ingredient in their programming is almost always incorporating a healthy dose of weighted carries.
Weighted carries for baseball players can improve their agility, conditioning, total body strength, and ability to express force in weird/awkward angles that are tough to create in the gym but are the same angles you need to be strong in to be a great athlete.
Here’s the thing, there can sometimes be a large potential gap between how strong you are in the gym vs. how strong you are in your sport.
We’ve all seen it before, the strongest guys in the gym aren’t always the fastest runners, hardest throwers, or even the biggest hitters. They have gym strength, but it hasn’t yet carried over into the sport of baseball.
This is where the majority of strongman movements come into play. Strongman movements do an excellent job of converting gym strength into athletic strength by forcing you to move heavy objects in weird angles/positions.
Some examples include tire flips, sled pushes/pulls, Atlas stone work, log presses, fat handled barbell work, and yes, weighted carry variations.
Strongman work increases your cardiovascular conditioning very quickly, it has an amazing impact on improving your core strength, and it does a fantastic job of magnifying your weaknesses. For example, if you’re doing log presses and your lower back can’t handle to load/time under tensions – it will become immediately obvious that it was your lower back that limited you.
From there, we strengthen the lower back and you become a more complete athlete.
Although strongman work may sound awesome at this point, don’t misrepresent me just yet. You still need to follow a baseball-specific program, it’s just wise you use the correct strongman movements at the correct time within your periodization in order to maximally transfer that gym strength over to athletic strength.
I’ve had some of the strongest athletes I’ve ever seen in the gym completely fall to pieces during strongman work – they just aren’t conditioned to move this type of force around in so many angles.
If you’ve never done a weighted carry before, it’s highly likely that even if you’re a strong buck that you’re going to fumble around like a drunk if I put a pair of 90lb DB’s in your hand and ask you to walk 30yds.
This forces a high degree of stability, cross body strength, lung capacity, and heavy muscular endurance to complete this task.
In a short time period (less than 4 weeks) of incorporating weighted carries into your program 2x per week, you will see an increase in muscle, a decrease in fat, and an increase in total body strength that will translate to the baseball field, but also translate to your other gym lifts as well.
For example, the grip strength you achieve with weighted carries has had an immeasurable positive impact on all of my athletes deadlifting capability.
It’s gotten to the point where it doesn’t surprise me at all anymore. If you put weighted carry variations in your plan a couple times per week, you’re going to see some serious benefits.
You can break weighted carries into four primary categories:
- Even carries
- Uneven carries
- Sled carries
- Combo carries
Even carries are the recommended first place to start if you have never done this before. Simply pick up a couple dumbbells or kettlebells and start walking.
Some variations of even carries include DB/KB farmers walks, the press walk, the double rack walk, or the cross walk.
Uneven carries start getting a lot tougher as you only load one side of your body instead of both. When you load both sides of your body, they balance themselves out. When you load only one side of your body, you’re forced to use a lot of core and cross body strength in order to maintain your posture.
Some variations of uneven carries include the Waiter’s walk, Suitcase walk, and Rack walk.
Sleds are the most common use of the weighted carry; many coaches and athletes will incorporate prowlers and/or sleds into their programming to gain a total body strength and intense conditioning benefit.
The variations here are simple, hook yourself up to a prowler, sled, or car, and push/pull away!
Once you start getting very strong, one of the best (and I really mean best) ways to keep gaining ridiculous strength is to combine weighted carry methods. For example, strap yourself to a weighted sled and walk forward while doing a DB farmers walk with your two free hands.
Another example, strap yourself to a sled and carry a backpack full of weights in your arms in the goblet position. If you can accomplish this with a respectable amount of weight over a respectable distance, this will be one of the hardest things you ever do in your life. Period.
How Often Should I Carry Heavy Stuff?
This kind of depends on what your starting point is, but it’s generally smartest to begin with waiter’s walks, cross walks, and DB farmers walks.
Don’t go to far and don’t hold too much weight in the beginning, we can always increase the weight if we need to. A good guideline for you to follow would be to choose one of those exercises for the beginning of the week and do 2-3 sets of 20-30secs of walking non-stop. Then, choose another one of those three example beginner exercises and repeat that same set/time outline later in the week.
How Heavy Should I Lift?
This will humble you, that I can promise you.
When I first started out, way back in the day of my parent’s backyard – I just carried around a 50lb bag of salt that I bought at a local home hardware supply place. Fifty pounds might not sound like much, but it was an eye-opener for me and I bet it will be for you too.
That being said, most high school athletes can start in the 40-60lb range. Then, if you’re getting stronger, I see most advanced athletes get to a point where they can carry 100+ pounds per hand.
But, don’t start here. Start light, and get a sense of how this is going to feel. Then, contact me in 4-weeks and let me know what kind of progress you made.