Dan John knows about carrying around heavy things. He loves carrying heavy things so much that he slapped a picture of him doing it on his first book. In the snow. With a smile on his face. But the praises for the loaded carry is not limited to strongmen and throwers. Mike Boyle recently talked on T-Nation about “[drinking] the loaded carry Kool-Aid” and adding them into the programming for his athletes. With over 12,000 years of combined coaching experience with different philosophies, backgrounds and populations, when Mike and Dan agree on something, it’s generally a good idea to listen. But even if that argumentum ad verecundiam isn’t enough to convince you, check out McGill, S.M., McDermott, A., Fenwick, C. (2008). Loaded carries light up the muscles of the trunk like that cop’s maglite lit up the fogged up windows of your ‘89 Camry on prom night.
But loaded carries can be limiting. The common variations, farmer walks, rack carries, duffel carries, and sled pulls, all require equipment, lots of space and grip strength endurance. What if you do not have the stuff, space, or grip strength (yet) to see the benefits of this class of human movement? Break the movement down into what it’s actually doing. Stu McGill calls loaded carries “moving planks.” You are just moving a load from one side of your body to the other, usually above your center of gravity, while maintaining a rigid body position through the trunk, hips and shoulders. With that in mind, take a look at the inchworm.
Start from a standing position. Place your hands on the ground and walk them out as far as you can while maintaining the “plank” position through your trunk, glutes, and packed shoulders. Now walk your hands back towards your feet and keep your butt high until you can stand back up. Alternatively, you can walk your hands back towards your feet which will result in forward progress.
What did you just do? A moving plank! The similarities to a farmer carry are subtle in appearance but obvious in impact. Don’t believe me? Do ten.
How should you start using the power of the inchworm in your program? Well, doing them would be a start. Add them to your warm up. Or add them as a kicker at the end. Or do them when you’re bored at work. Just start playing around with the movement and see what you like about it. I teach a class of female middle-aged casual exercisers in a commercial gym. Convincing them to pick up 1/2 their bodyweight in iron is like convincing my dogs that the vet is going to make them feel better. So I just started having them do inchworms in between sets of strength exercises. No special equipment, no turf needed, everyone of them loved it, no one got hurt, and they all started looking and feeling a lot better. I’m no scientician, but I’m pretty sure that’s progress.