Getting Carried Away
by Steven M. Ledbetter
7 minute read
A few weeks ago when I was at Discus Camp, I got a chance to hang out with some great coaches. I met Chip Morton last year and he surprised me by telling me how much he likes by blog and had been reading it for a while. This year we talked for a good bit about how easy programming is when you use Dan John’s Five Fundamental Human Movements. Then he called me out for not posting more workouts. Thanks for keeping me honest, Chip. This one’s for you. The (any) Five
After I got home from traveling, I got a chance to think about the great conversations I had with Dan and Chip. Chip’s great point about the 5 Movements is how “if you hit them all in a workout, you know you’re not leaving anything out.” And it’s true, once I started thinking about simplifying and adding lightness, I was shocked how much I could get done and how much I could improve a client with very little work. Push, pull, hinge, squat, loaded carries, then some other stuff if we have time. I’m convinced the focus is what yields the results. I train some of my athletes for only two, thirty minute sessions a week and they have gone from struggling to squat 16kg to double front squatting 2x24kg for three sets of 5-8 reps, then sprinting. I’m also convinced that the Dan’s Five Fundamental Movements aren’t magic. Pick ANY five, full body movements. Do them consistently with some progression and a lot of recovery and you’ll get stronger. The RKC and SFG has their “fundamental movements.” Mike Boyle has his. Mark Rippetoe has his. And they’re all right because they stay focused. Who’s more right? Why don’t you pick five movements, do them (and only them) for a year then get back to me.
After these great conversations, I went back to the drawing board to sketch out some new workouts that incorporated all Five Fundamental Human Movements plus some correctives that most people need. I hate thinking about programming when I’m coaching (I prefer to think about coaching), so I wanted to get it all in there and in the right priority. For most of my clients (and as Dan points out in Intervention, just about everyone), this order of priority is loaded carries, hinges, squats, pulls and pushes. So I looked at a bunch of the programming I’ve been doing and decided that there was just not nearly enough loaded carries. How does one add a bunch of carries to a program while doing the least possible thinking? Most people are familiar with “station” workouts. When you’re at position A, you do squats, position B you do push ups, etc. Well a great way to add loaded carries to an already familiar station workout is to pick up a weight and carry it with you to all the stations. I call these workouts “ABC workouts” because you are moving from Point A to Point B to Point C. Sometimes you use the weight for the station, and sometimes you don’t, but you never leave your heavy buddy behind!
Here is a simple “ABC” workout:
Station A: Goat Bags then One Arm Rack Carry to... > > > > Station B: Goblet Squats then Suitcase Carry to… > > > > Station C: Push ups. > > > > You can repeat ABC or go ABCBA and switch arms after the push ups. > >
My favorite ABC workout so far is a great Dan John workout I call “Fibonacci’s Gun Show” but with the added carries I call it, “Fibonacci’s Traveling Gun Show”
8 Cleans Left > > > > Rack Carry Left > > > > 5 One Arm Front Squats Left > > > > Suitcase Carry Left > > > > 3 Push ups > > > > 8 Cleans Right > > > > Rack Carry Right > > > > 5 One Arm Front Squats Right > > > > Suitcase Carry Right > > > > 3 Push ups > > > > Then repeat with 5 cleans, 3 one arm front squats, and 2 push ups. > > > > And finally 3 cleans, 2 one arm front squats, and 1 push up. > >
That’s all five human movements (cleans are a hinge and a pull) and a hell of a lot of rotary stability training. ABC workouts can be expanded to ABCDEF workouts, or however many stations you want to insert. The stations can be weighted movements, correctives, or designated rest stops. You can do them for time, for distance, or just for fun. ABCs work great alone with a single bell, but ABCs are just the beginning of weighted carry based workouts. They really shine with a group.
The Buddy System
If you have a bunch of weights, everyone gets a buddy. Mark stations off and when people arrive at a station, they do the movements either with the bell they are carrying or one that is placed there for that purpose (or a TRX if you’re doing pulls at that station). This works really well if you have a a broad range of strength levels and a lot of equipment.
Squatty, Hingey, and Pressy
If you have a bunch of people and not a lot of weights, you can have people carry a weight between each other while they do a default exercise like planks or correctives. For example, name one kettlebell “Squatty,” another one “Hingey,” and another one, “Pressy.” Person A squats with Squatty then carries it to Person B, who then squats and carries it to Person C. Everyone just keeps passing the bells to each other and doing the exercise assigned to the bell until everyone is done. You can train a lot of people with very little actual equipment, but people have to be able to handle the same loads. Pressy weighs the same for everyone, but you can scale reps and do more sets. One person might do two sets of 5 with a 24kg Pressy, and another person might do 6 singles with it.
If you have a wide range of abilities and not a lot of weights, you can assign people individual programs and use the weights as markers. Everyone spreads out in a field with 10-20m between them. Everyone knows (or is told) a movement, sets and reps they can do with each weight, even if the movement they can do is simply carrying the weight. Person A grabs the 24kg to do their Goblet Squats and carries it Person B. Person B needs to do presses with the 24kg then carries the 24kg to Person C. The 24kg is too much for Person C to squat or press, so they they carry it back to Person A. In the mean time, Person A is using a 16kg for cleans and presses and when Person C hands then the 24kg, they pass Person C the 16kg who carries it back to do Goblet Squats. It works a lot like Hot Potato. Get a weight, use it, then get rid of it by carrying to someone. If they had you a weight that you need, go back to where you were and use it. Then carry it to someone else to get rid of it. If you are waiting for a weight, you can rest or do prescribed correctives. The workout is over when everyone has done their full program.
Some Practical Tips
Mix rack carries and suitcase/farmer carries. These workouts have lots of carries and it’s easy to smoke the grip too quickly.
However far you think you should walk in your workout, cut it in half. Nothing accumulates quite like distance under load.
When you do groups (of adults) playing “Hot Potato” or “Squatty, Hingey, Pressy,” try to let them figure out how best to organize it. It keeps them involved, autonomous, and even though they’ll be frustrated at first, they’ll get it. You stay focused on making sure people are moving well.