Loaded Spine Farmer’s Walk

Improve your bone health with this easy exercise!
CAUTION: Your greatest risk of injury is while picking up weights and setting them down, not during the walking portion of this exercise. Use proper form to pick up weights from the floor or low rack, never flex (round) your spine as you pick them up and avoid twisting at the same time. At a gym, many plates are stored at waist height at the squat racks. These would be a convenient option for grabbing weights with good form. Tighten your core muscles as well.
A great exercise to promote stronger bones, the farmer’s walk is about as easy in terms of technique as it gets! Simply hold a heavy weight in each hand and walk slowly around your house or the gym for a few laps. In the video, we used dumbbells but if you have access to barbell plates that have hand holds cut into them, they’ll lay flat against the outsides of your legs and not restrict your gait or bump your thigh muscles. I’ve always imagined the farmer’s walk gets it’s name from carrying two heavy buckets of milk at a time – definitely a walk you’d want to take slow so as not to spill any!
By loading the spine with weight, we cause a little bit of stress to be placed on all of your bones. If the body has sufficient nutrient stores and hormone levels, it responds to these small stresses by remodeling bone which includes removal of old and compromised bone cells and creating new, stronger cells.
Below you’ll find supporting evidence for this from Bone Health and Osteoporosis: A Report of the Surgeon General (2004)

“Since remodeling serves both the structural and metabolic functions of the skeleton, it can be stimulated both by the hormones that regulate mineral metabolism and by mechanical loads and local damage acting through local factors. Repair of local damage is an important function of remodeling. Over time repeated small stresses on the skeleton can produce areas of defective bone, termed micro-damage. Replacement of that damaged bone by remodeling restores bone strength. Signals for these responses are probably developed by the network of osteocytes and osteoblasts, which, through their multiple connections, can detect changes in the stress placed upon bone and in the health of the small areas of micro-damage.”

“External factors, such as diet and physical activity, are critically important to bone health throughout life and can be modified. As noted above, the mechanical loading of the skeleton is essential for maintenance of normal bone mass and architecture. In addition, the skeleton needs certain nutritional elements to build tissue. Not only does the skeleton require the same nutritional elements as the rest of the body, but it also has a special requirement for large amounts of calcium and phosphorus.”

Office of the Surgeon General (US). Bone Health and Osteoporosis: A Report of the Surgeon General. Rockville (MD): Office of the Surgeon General (US); 2004. 2, The Basics of Bone in Health and Disease. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK45504/
See our video for how to do the farmer’s walk exercise!

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Addie Kelzer is a certified personal trainer and nutrition consultant. She believes that by making fitness and good food practical, her clients will hold the power to positively change their health and the health of those closest to them.