Outdoor Strength: The Most Effective Exercise You’re Not Doing


By Christian Williams

In the woods or on the farm, physical preparedness is king. When you’re presented with a physical task, will you have the fitness to complete it? Dragging your archery buck on a November morning, throwing hay bales into the loft for a local farmer, or trying to keep up with your bird dog all have one thing in common… work capacity. Work capacity is defined by performing the most work in the least amount of time, making you more effective in life and in the outdoors. In my opinion, true fitness lies in this definition.

Maximizing your fitness and reaching your highest physical potential is determined by how much work you can do. Work capacity is trained by moving a load or producing force across a distance. The best movements will require you to utilize multiple joints or your entire body to move a load in ways that are congruent to life’s demands. Real-world movements powered by functional strength will best prepare you for your time outdoors.


One exercise stands at the top of the list to build the outdoor athlete: the Farmers Carry. Massively simple and effective, move quickly while holding two heavy weights at your sides. That’s it. What makes the farmers carry such a valuable tool is the immense demand to support a heavy load that wants to crush you, while moving the load with a powerful foundation. Your shoulder girdle and core must hold tension to keep the weight from pulling your arms off and breaking your torso. The musculature of the hips and legs power your loaded frame across terrain. Lastly, your grip strength works overtime to hold on as long as you can.

 I encourage you to hit some carries in your backyard, at a park, or even in the woods. You can get creative with the weights you use, such as water jugs or concrete blocks. As you’re racking up meters under the sun, don’t forget to use the opportunity to have a conversation with our Lord.

Three Farmers Carry Workouts:

For Time:

With two dumbbells totaling 50% of your bodyweight, carry 400 meters (1/4 mile). Move quickly, resting as little as possible. Be sure to note your time for future reference.

10 rounds:

20 second carry; 40 second rest. Make an aggressive choice for two dumbbells that you think will barely allow you to finish the 10 rounds. Try to survive for all 10.

 Single Arm Farmers Carry

Try not to set the dumbbell down at any point…60 second carry LEFT arm; 60 second carry RIGHT arm; 45 second carry each arm; 30 second carry each arm; 15 second carry each arm.

***Use a dumbbell approximately 1/3 bodyweight

Four rules to the farmers carry:

  1. Don’t shrug your shoulders up towards your ears
  2. Keep your shoulder blades squeezed back
  3. Keep your core braced and tight
  4. Don’t arch your lower back

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