Carrying around heavy weights doesn't seem to have any value at face value except to strengthen your grip. But when you do a move like the overhead barbell carry exercise and pick up the weights and walk around, you'll realize there's so much more to carrying than meets the eye.
Your shoulders and lungs will burn with every step, and every deviation in walking will be felt twice over. Also, the voices in your head will tell you to stop because you are feeling very uncomfortable. Then you will find that there is much more to wear than meets the eye. But with a simple tweak, you can take your carry game to a whole new level. What is it? It carries a barbell over itself.
Here we explain what overhead carries are, the benefits of overhead carry, how to perform an overhead carry, programming suggestions, and overhead carry variations if the barbell overhead carry isn't for you.
What is the barbell overhead carry?
There is no doubt that carrying it (on your side, frame, case or goblet) regularly is difficult. But walking with a barbell overhead takes this to another level due to the increased leverage. The farther the weight is from your working muscles, in this case your legs, the harder it is to carry. Carrying a barbell overhead puts tension on your entire body, and each step is a test of your one-legged balance. This means starting out on the lighter side with overhead carries, anywhere from 60-80% of your overhead press 1RM works best.
How to carry a barbell overhead
- You have two options for bringing the barbell into the overhead position. First, and the most preferred option, is to press it overhead from the squat rack. The second is a clean and press from the floor. A wider than shoulder-width grip works well here.
- Once the barbell is pushed overhead, make sure your wrists are in a neutral position, elbows are extended, and your biceps are straight or behind your ears.
- Take small, slow steps forward, paying attention to your gait and barbell position. Walk 20 to 40 meters.
- Gently return the barbell to the squat rack or floor.
The overhead barbell carry is a full-body exercise due to the overhead position and its dynamic nature. Here are the main muscles worked by carrying the barbell overhead.
- upper back
- rotator cuff
- All three deltoids
- Front and rear core
Barbell overhead carry benefits
When performed in good form, overhead carries will improve yours
- Better Posture: Anything less than good overhead carry posture is a surefire way to lose your balance and injure yourself. Carrying weights overhead strengthens good posture and strengthens the muscles needed for better posture.
- Promotes Proper Breathing Patterns: Chest breathing is great when you need to breathe quickly when being chased by a wild animal. But most of your breathing has to come from your diaphragm. When carried overhead, it is difficult to be a chest breather when carrying heavy weights overhead and therefore encourages better breathing patterns.
- Shoulder Stability: Your rotator cuffs are working like crazy to keep your shoulders in your sockets, and all three deltoids are on fire to keep the barbell in the overhead position. Carrying weights overhead improves your shoulder stability due to increased time under tension for the entire shoulder girdle.
- Better balance: Each step with the barbell overhead is a one-legged stance. Any loss of balance will be amplified here, so use caution. The last thing you want is to end up in a workout fail video.
- Condition and mental strength: All of the loaded ways, and overhead carry in particular, will teach you how to manage discomfort and how to walk with a load. This has fantastic transmission in and out of the gym.
Here's how to add it to your routine
There are several ways to program the overhead barbell transport. The first option is part of your strength program, or the second option is part of your core routine before you hit the weights. Whichever one you choose, do it early as it is a physically demanding exercise that requires your full attention.
Here are a few examples.
1A Bench Press Variation
1B. Barbell Overhead Carry - 40 yards
1A Barbell Overhead Carry - 40 yards
1B. Stability Ball Plank - 30 seconds
1C Half-Kneeling Pallof Press - 12 reps on each side.
Weight, set and rep suggestions
Below are guidelines for programming the barbell overhead for strength and hypertrophy. These are guidelines only and can be adjusted to suit your personal goals.
Hypertrophy: Time under tension and volume are keys to building muscle in any exercise, including overhead carrying. Performing 3-4 sets, walking 130+ yards with 60-80% of your overhead 1RM press is a good place to start.
Strength: As you increase the weight and decrease your walk distance, your strength in the overhead position will increase. 3 sets of 20 yard walks with 80-90% of your overhead 1RM press will challenge you.
Barbell overhead carry variations
The overhead barbell carry is an advanced variation and may not be for everyone, especially those who have shoulder mobility issues or suffer from shoulder pain. In these cases, incorporating an overhead carry variant can provide the same benefits as a barbell carry. in your routine is key. Here are three overhead variations to spice up your carry game.