Author, fitness model, and trainer Kirk Charles, NASM-CPT CES, knows that as you get older, life can get more complicated. But that shouldn’t prevent you from being on top of your game. He’ll help to answer the tough training questions that come with age so you too can be Fit Beyond 40.
The farmer’s walkis a great full-body movement that blasts forearms, core, shoulder blades, and teaches great posture too. But it can be more than that as you get older if you really think about how you take each step.
All too often, we take for granted that we’re walking correctly, but as you age, there are serious advantages to patterning proper walking. The farmer’s walk already challenges you to be intentional with core position and with keeping your shoulder blades tight. Now let’s use it to perfect how we walk, too.
That's what I've done in my own training. I inherited flat feet, which have caused me discomfort for most of my life. The condition never stopped me from being active but, as I approached 50 years of age, I started to develop some serious problems due to three major mistakes I've made. I didn’t wear orthotics for arch support, which was recommended to me back in my twenties, until later in life. I also wore my shoes and sneakers too tight until recently—and even worse, my running and walking technique was faulty, with an inefficient heel-to-toe stride and overpronation.
After millions of steps and pounding on my feet over the last 57 years, those three mistakes caused a huge problem. I developed bunions during my forties, which can be very painful on the joint of your big toes. To add insult to injury, surgery was the only solution if it got worse.
Now my focus is to do everything possible to prevent the situation from worsening to avoid surgery. I dialed in my walking and running form to concentrate on a more deliberate stride, striking the ground in the middle of the foot. I also decided to pick up some weights and do farmer’s walks to strengthen my stride and accelerate my progress.
To start, you can use dumbbells (or any type of weight with a handle, like a gallon of water). Pick up the load as if you’re doing a deadlift. Hold the weight with a strong grip, engage your core, and roll your shoulders back. As you’re walking, keep your spine straight up without slumping. Maintain a neutral spine by looking straight ahead the whole time. Use this guide to help fine-tune your form.
To ease the pain from my flat feet and bunions, my main focus is making sure each step lands on the middle of my foot, not the heel. I also make sure my feet point straight ahead with each stride.
Usually, you want to load up the farmer's carry with as much weight as you can handle—but I suggest starting light, maybe 20 pounds in each hand, to get your stride right. Then ramp up the weight to what your grip strength can bear. Start by taking 100 paces, then rest for a one to two minutes. Try four sets of 100 paces three times a week.