Loaded carries are the exercise we do the most in our day to day lives and train probably the least. It's really ridiculous when you think about it.
How often do you show up someone carrying a bag, purse, backpack, or something to lug all your stuff around? It happens all the time, so when you think about it, this should be a priority in our training programs
What Makes An Effective Loaded Carry?
There should be a few key concepts to take into consideration when it comes to loaded carries:
1) Spinal Positioning - This should be the #1 consideration with any loaded carry movement. How well can you stabilize and in which ways relate to the demands of your normal activities. FYI - Every other principle will branch off of this one!
2) Load Positioning - Where you hold the weight plays a different role in how it challenges your body. The higher you hold the weight, generally, the more demand your midsection has to take in order to stabilize your body.
3) Gait Patterning - How you walk without weight should be a pre-requisite to walking with weight. Don't load up someone with weight who clearly has issues walking with just bodyweight on their own.
4) Load Stability - The stability of the weight you are holding plays a key role in your loaded carries. Dumbbells add more demand to the shoulder girdle through stabilization than walking with a trap bar would. Choose the right piece of equipment accordingly when thinking of the goal of the movement.
If you take these into consideration you can find a nice mix of exercises with varying demands on what you are looking to accomplish in your training.
Trap Bar Carry
Duration - Carries should range between the 15-45 second range. This is as much a grip exercise as it is a core stability exercise.
Weight - Use a weight at about 1/3 of your Trap Bar Deadlift weight to start and adjust from there.
Frequency - Plan to train this at least 2x per week to maintain progress.
Vertical Grip Carry
The Vertical Grip is a much different demand on the grip. With weight loaded in the front and back, managing the weight to balance along with the thinner handles makes this a much more challenging move. Instead of 1/3 of your Trap Bar Deadlift, use 25% of your Trap Bar Deadlift weight and adjust as needed.
Double Rack Carry
The front load challenges the frontside abdominals much more than you would imagine. The rack position allows the shoulder to stay in a stable position while keeping the core at task. Begin with a light enough weight to keep spinal position in good standing, ribcage level with the pelvis, and a normal gait pattern.
I like to call this the "New Parent Carry". Find out varying demands across your sling lines to challenge your reciprocal gait patterning. The offsetting weight doesn't put too much demand on the ribcage or lateral flexion. Its a good mix to add in. Make sure to adjust programming accordingly level out demand from side to side.
The traditional approach to loaded carries. Individual weights are in each hand and force the shoulder to stabilize via the rotator cuff. Walking with the weight is only one aspect of the exercise. How well you can control the weight in each hand is another layer that makes the exercise so damn important.
Add in loaded carries to your program 2x per week and adjust as needed. I would begin with Farmer's Carry and Trap Bar Farmer's Carry to begin and progress from there. Don't get carried away (for lack of a better choice of words) with starting at the top of the difficulty pyramid.
Ease into your programming and don't miss out on using these exercises.