Paleo Fitness: How to Master the Art of the Loaded Carry

By Kellyann Petrucci, Melissa Joulwan, Patrick Flynn, Adriana Harlan

Loaded carries are an essential element of Paleo fitness. Carrying is far from a fine art. It’s an art of the simplest nature, really, kind of like finger painting. Out of most Paleo movements, loaded carries are probably the quickest skill to acquire. In fact, they’re very hard to do wrong, but don’t think this makes them easy. Although the skill is low, the effort often climbs to a very high altitude.

How a movement looks and how it feels are often two different things. Just because a movement or an exercise looks easy doesn’t mean it will be easy to perform. Often, the very fine nuances are imperceptible to the untrained eye. A gymnast makes his routine on the rings look easy, but it’d be foolish to assume anything about the movements of a high-level gymnast are easy to perform.

Focusing on an everyday activity

Try to get through a day without carrying something. If you’re an able-bodied individual, not carrying something at some point in the day would be a difficult task. Whether it’s a baby, a bag of groceries, or a backpack, people carry on almost all occasions, so you may as well do it right.

Every now and then you run into the mom (or dad) who tells the story of how carrying her baby — for all those very long years — ruined her back. The truth is that the baby was never at fault for any back injury or pain. In fact, it’s very unlikely that any baby ever had any intentions of purposefully wrecking his or her parent’s back. It wasn’t the carrying of the baby that led to back problems; it was how the parent carried the baby.

Lifting doesn’t cause injury; how you lift causes injury.

Carrying heavy things for strength and fitness

Loaded carries strengthen the grip, improve posture, and peel away body fat. You can perform loaded carries anywhere and with just about anything — dumbbells, kettlebells, sandbags, logs, boulders, or even a small child, so long as the tyke is permitting.

The carryover from loaded carries into real life is likely higher than that of any other Paleo exercise and is as equally beneficial to the layperson as it is to the elite athlete. Loaded carries show you how to safely lift and transport heavy objects. If you’ve ever thrown out your back or tweaked this or strained that from lifting furniture, luggage, or whatever, then you can immediately see why carrying is a valuable skill to master.

From here on out, be conscious of how you lift and carry things. Whether it be as light as a notebook or as heavy as a couch, you should get into the habit of lifting and carrying it all in the same manner — with good form and proper body alignment. This is how you develop the habit of a safe lifting and carrying technique.