10 Farmer’s Walk Alternatives & Variations For Grip Strength
Farmer’s Walk is a highly effective exercise for improving grip strength, core strength and not to mention they will absolutely smoke your traps and shoulders. There are really not many movements that are better to finish off a workout with.
However, if you’re here then you’re looking for an alternative for Farmer’s Walks. Good news, you’re in the right place.
First, I’m going to give you a few different ideas to be able to do Farmer’s Walks even if you don’t have some of those giant cylinders you see on World’s Strongest Man.
Next, I’ll give you a few more exercises that will work grip strength similar to how Farmer’s Walks does.
Farmer’s Walk Variations
You don’t need giant pieces of equipment as you see on TV to do Farmer’s Walks. There are plenty of options already in the weight room that will do the job. Here are a few:
Farmer’s Walk with Dumbbells
This is always my first choice for doing Farmer’s Walks. There’s no elaborate setup needed, just grab two dumbbells and go.
The downside to dumbbells is that many of us working out in a home gym may not have dumbbells heavy enough to get in solid work. If you don’t have heavy dumbbells, there are two tricks you can do to make your Farmer’s Walks more challenging.
Start your walk with a set of shrugs. By starting with a high rep set (20 to 25 reps), you’ll place your traps and grip in a fatigued state before you start walking. This will make a noticeable difference in the walk itself.
The second trick is to thicken the diameter of the dumbbells. I recommend buying a pair of Fat Gripz, but you can also get the job done by wrapping a small towel around the handle of the dumbbell.
Last note when it comes to doing Farmer’s Walks with dumbbells. If you are using adjustable dumbbells, be careful not to drop them.
Oftentimes when doing Farmer’s Walks you’re going to push yourself to the edge of dropping the dumbbells. If you have rubber dumbbells this isn’t usually an issue, but adjustable dumbbells are much more easily broken if they are dropped.
Farmer’s Walk with Kettlebells
Using kettlebells for Farmer’s Walk works essentially the same as using dumbbells. The only advantage to kettlebells is they usually have a thicker handle than dumbbells (ultimately depends on the brands).
Farmer’s Walk with Bumper Plates
One of the most challenging Farmer’s Walk variations is to do them with Bumper Plates. Pinch the sides of two bumper plates, pick them up and start walking.
10 kilo (25-pound) bumpers can provide a challenge for many lifters, but you’ll know you’re grip is becoming formidable when you’re able to grab and walk a good amount of distance with 20 kilo (45-pound) bumper plates.
Note: If you have really thick recycled rubber bumper plates (shown in the pic above) this might not be an option.
Farmer’s Walk with a Trap Bar
Trap Bars (also known as hex bars) have a lot of really cool uses in the weight room and one of those is using them for Farmer’s Walks.
Simply load up the bar with bumper plates (iron plates can get dicey if you end up dropping the bar where you didn’t intend to), stand inside the trap bar, pick it up and walk. Trap bars give you plenty of room inside to walk pretty freely.
Pro Tip: I see Farmer’s Walks with Trap Bars used as a competition quite often. I love this idea, but I would strongly caution against trying to run with the bar. If grip is lost and the bar is dropped while running with it, it can be a dangerous situation.
Alternatives to Farmer’s Walks
If one of the variations above doesn’t work for you or just isn’t what you were looking for, here are some alternatives that will help build grip strength.
Single Arm Farmer’s Walk
Whether Single Arm Farmer’s Walk is a variation or an alternative is debatable, but either way, it’s a great exercise. It demands additional core stabilization being an unbalanced movement and can be perfect if you have a single heavy kettlebell.
- Dumbbell or Kettlebell
- Grab a single kettlebell or dumbbell.
- Brace the core and begin walking in a slow, controlled manner.
- As you walk, focus on keeping the core braced and the shoulders and hips square and level.
- Once you cover the assigned distance (or time), switch hands and repeat on the opposite side.
You do not need to grab the heaviest kettlebell you can find. Find a weight that you can walk with and maintain proper form.
Don’t rush through. Single Arm Farmer’s Walk can be done for time or for distance. If going for distance, it should not be a speed walk to cover the ground as fast as possible. Stay under control and focus on form.
One of the simplest exercises you can do in a weight room is a Bar Hang. It’s exactly what it sounds like, grab a pull-up bar and hang from it.
Don’t let its simplicity fool you though, Bar Hangs are extremely effective at developing grip strength. They can also help improve shoulder stabilization as well, two core components of a Farmer’s Walk.
If your biggest issue is that you don’t have the ability or room to walk around with weights, then Deadlift Holds may serve as a good replacement.
Find a weight that you can hold for about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Load that weight onto the bar, stand tall with it and hold it. You’ll get almost all of the same benefits as a Farmer’s Walk without having to walk anywhere.
Pro Tip: You don’t actually have to deadlift the weight. Use the safety pins in a squat rack to put the bar at about mid-thigh height and pick the bar up from there.
If you want to take your Bar Hangs to the next level, try Towel Pull-ups. In addition to all the great benefits you get from pull-ups, Towel Pull-ups will be extremely challenging to your grip strength.
- Pull Up Bar (Either as part of a rack or a wall-mounted bar)
- Pair of towels
- Wrap two towels about shoulder-width around a pull-up bar.
- Use a bench to get to the bar if it is too high.
- Grab the towels, engage the core muscles and do not cross your legs.
- Engage the upper back and pull up until your chin is over the bar*.
- Pause for 1 second with your chin over the bar.
- Slowly lower yourself back to the starting position.
*When doing Towel Pull-ups, there is a good chance that you’ll be gripping the towels too far below the bar to then be able to get your chin over the bar. In this case, try to pull your chin higher than your hands at the top of the rep.
Make sure to test the integrity of your towels every time before using them. Towels can and will rip, especially if they are cheap and/or older towels. (Which is oftentimes the case for towels that are relegated for the gym)
Reverse Cable Curl
Imagine a situation where you’re equipment options are a cable machine and some light dumbbells. You guessed it, you’re in a hotel gym. Don’t worry, all is not lost, Utilize that cable machine and try Reverse Cable Curls.
- Pulley Machine
- Slide the pin to the bottom of the cable machine.
- Hook a straight bar attachment onto the cable.
- Grab the attachment with an overhand grip (pronated) and stand about a half step away from the machine – just enough room where you won’t hit it as you curl.
- Stand tall with good posture and a slight bend in the knee.
- Flex the biceps and curl the attachment up towards the shoulders, squeezing the biceps at the top of the movement.
- Lower back to the starting position under control.
- Continue until all reps are completed and then gently lower the attachment back down to the floor.
Don’t just let the attachment go at the end of your set and allow the attachment to go flying and slam back into the machine. This will obviously tear the machine up. It astonishes me that people would disrespect equipment like that, but unfortunately, I see it happen all the time.
Using Fat Gripz
My last alternative isn’t an exercise, it’s a product. I mentioned using Fat Gripz at the top of this article for increasing the difficulty of lighter dumbbells. That’s just one example of the versatility of Fat Gripz.
Fat Gripz are, in my opinion, the best investment you can make into improving your grip strength. They’re thick silicone molds that you can easily place onto any barbell, pull-up bar or dumbbell.
This can turn any row or curl into a serious challenge for your grip. At every school I’ve worked at, we would have a bucket of Fat Gripz and would use them quite often in our programming.
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I love Farmer’s Walks both grip development and as a great trap, shoulder and core finisher. However, I understand that sometimes you may need an alternative for Farmer’s Walks.
Maybe you don’t have the ability to go walking around your weight room with weights in hand or maybe you just want to add some variety to your workout.
Hopefully, at least one of the ideas I’ve listed here works as a good alternative exercise for what you were looking for.