12 Loaded Carries With Kettlebells

Strong Made Simple personal trainer demonstrating a mixed kettlebells carry exercise in San Diego, CA

Strong Made Simple personal trainer demonstrating a mixed kettlebells carry exercise in San Diego, CA

In an effort to not get overly repetitive throughout the post I’ll say this once. Loaded carries are great training movements that are underutilized by many. They help build grip strength, upper back strength, and strong midsections. Yeah, abs! They’re also what you’d call self limiting exercises. When you get too tired to do it well, you are generally too fatigued to do it at all and the exercise stops. And you don't need special strongman equipment to do them either. These carries are all done with kettlebells, so just about anyone can begin incorporating some of them into a workout program and begin reaping benefits like increased strength and work capacity.

The Basic Carrying Exercises

1. )Farmers Walk

Take a pair of, kettlebells, and set yourself up as you would for a deadlift. Pick the implements from the floor and pinch your shoulders down and back, giving yourself a broad chest. Continue to brace through your midsection and begin walking. The farmer’s walk is a great way to utilized heavier loads to really stress your upper back, grip, and core. If you have multiple kettlebells you can even double them up in each hand to get bigger weights to challenge yourself.


2.) Suitcase Carry

he suitcase carry is simply a one handed farmers walk. The one-sided load may require a reduced weight, so that you can keep the load from deforming your posture to one side. Much like the rack carry, the side of the core opposite the load will have to work overtime. Take extra care to brace well when you deadlift the kettlebell off the ground and place it back down. Do not let the load bend you to one side or the other. Focus on bracing well so that you remain vertical in your torso.


3.) Goblet Carry

Set up just as you would for a goblet squat. Now walk, keeping a couple of inches between your chest and the kettlebell. If you can no longer keep the weight from resting on your chest, set it down and rest. This a great option for individuals to simply learn bracing and tension, but with very little complexity. Additionally, the goblet carry is simple enough to add into very high intensity conditioning drills and still be performed well under fatigued conditions.


4.) Rack Carry

Clean a single kettlebell, up to the rack position. Maintain a vertical torso and don’t allow the weight to deform your posture. Walk along now. Your obliques opposite the load will have to work especially hard, but the respiratory challenge won’t be as great as it is with the double kettlebell rack carry. You can also use two hands to bring the kettlebell from the ground to the rack position if you are not particularly adept at cleans or if you’re too tired to do anything else well.


5.) Double Kettlebell Rack Carry

Clean two kettlebells to a rack position as if you intended to front squat with them. Keep the rack position of the kettlebells tight and stable by flexing through your lats and upper back muscles. The additional load directly on your chest will create a respiratory challenge as well so do you best to stay calm and breath while walking and bracing. Again you can bring the first kettlebell up with two hands if needed, and then have a training partner help you place the other kettlebell into a strong rack position.

Lighter But Challenging Kettlebell Carrying Exercises


6.) Waiter’s Walk

Begin the waiter’s walk by pressing a kettlebell overhead with one arm. Make sure the elbow is locked out and the shoulder blade is packed. You should not be shrugging your shoulder up by your ear. Once you are comfortable with your packed shoulder position and upright in your posture, begin to walk. The opposite side of your midsection will again be working overtime to avoid a side-bent posture. Keep the other hand free, on the hip, or flat against the stomach to remind yourself to breath and maintain abdominal bracing. The waiters walk is a great to develop scapular stability for overhead pressing and strong obliques.

7.) Bottoms up carry

A staple in the training programs of Dr. Stuart McGill, the bottoms up carry is incredibly challenging for your grip and shoulder girdle. The position of the kettlebell demands a tight grip, stable shoulder and midsection. You cannot keep the bell balanced in this position without a well braced midsection and strong scapular control. Start by swinging the bell with a tight grip so you balance it with the bottom pointed up. You can use your other hand to stabilize the kettlebell at the top before you start walking. Make sure that are keeping your abs tight and your shoulder blade packed by squeezing down through your armpit and lats. Continue to crush the grip of the kettlebell and walk smoothly. You can make this exercise more difficult by extending the kettlebell forward while keeping your upper back tight.


Carrying Exercises in Different Directions

8.) Goblet Shuffle

Occasionally, we need to move away from our simple forward movements in the sagital plane. The goblet shuffle is a great way to start changing up the direction we move with loaded carries. Simply set up as you would for a goblet carry, drop the hips into a quarter or half squat position and begin shuffling slowly to the left or the right. Keep your toes pointed straight ahead to really stress your glutes. The forward position of the load helps reinforce an athletic hinged position at the hips while shuffling, by giving you a counterbalance. The load also helps to overload the abductors and adductors used in the lateral movement.


9.) Goblet Carioca

The goblet carioca is also a great way to start utilizing loaded carries in multiple directions. Loading a carioca at a slower speed will stress any small muscles through your legs and hips you’ve ever neglected and provides a lot of great movement in the transverse plane. Hat tip to Rudy Thomas for suggesting this movement. Set up with the weight out in front as you would any goblet carry. Begin by stepping with the trail leg across and in front of the other. Next step with the back leg out to your initial stance. Then bring the trailing leg over and behind the lead leg. And then step back out with the front leg to a shoulder width stance. Repeat these actions slowly, crossing the trail leg in front and then in back. Take your time with this movement and don’t try to get in a hurry as might with a traditional carioca.

Mixing Up Your Loaded Carries

10.) Rack and Suitcase Carry

The rack and suitcase carry is a combination of those two positions. Begin by racking the first kettlebell with a clean. Then squat down to grab the other kettlebell with your free hand. Brace your midsection, stand tall, and walk. When you get a set distance hinge down to set the suitcase down first then bring the racked kettlebell to ground and switch sides.


11.) Rack and Waiter’s Carry

The rack and waiter’s carry begins by cleaning two kettlebells up to a rack position. Then simply press one overhead and keep the shoulders packed. Walk your set distance with your abs braced, lower the overhead kettlebell, switch sides and repeat.

12.) Suitcase and Waiter’s Carry

Start this carry by cleaning a kettlebell to the rack position and picking up the other kettlebell to a suitcase carry position. Then simply press the racked kettlebell overhead before beginning your walk. Bring the overhead bell down to a racked position before setting the other kettlebell down and finally bringing the racked kettlebell to the ground. Turn around, switch sides and repeat.

That’s Not All

All of these kettlebell carries are great additions to your training program. Keep them light to moderate for warm ups and activation drills, or work with more challenging loads for building serious strength and work capacity. You can mix and match the various positions in more ways than I’ve shown here to continue to create more varied challenges for your core, upper back and grip. What are your favorite carries to include in your training programs? Which ones do you find the most beneficial and why? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below or share your own carrying videos on the Strong Made Simple Facebook page.