The Ultimate in functional
The suitcase carry would have to be one of my favourite exercises. It’s simple, challenging and incredibly diverse making it suitable to anyone trying to promote better movement. Due to it’s jack of all trades nature, the suitcase carry can be applied as an exercise to develop core strength, improve an athlete’s grip, even a mobility exercise for our neck.
The Ultimate in Functional
I love it because it is so simple. Pick up a weight and hold it in one hand, now walk. We are training the bodies ability to keep our torso in a positive position while we walk, I’d argue that every human being on earth requires that skill.
The first thing you will notice, holding the weight in your right hand is your obliques, lower back on the left, your foot, glute and shoulder on your right will all engage. This is completely autonomous. If you want to stay in a nice position through this exercise, these areas must engage and function as a unit to keep you there.
In my very honest, very humble yet very confident opinion, this is what makes an exercise useful and relevant. We are engaging and improving our stabilisers throughout the whole body by simply standing there. You couldn’t relax them if you tried. (try digging your fingers into your midsection on the opposite side)
There’s a massive stability demand from the hips here. From front to back and side to side. I’ll tell you for free that we don’t focus enough on our lateral stability, strength and movement. Make sure your hips on both sides are staying level, along with your shoulders. You might find you’re feeling your calf, ankle and glute working hard to push you along. Perfect, you’re doing it right.
Due to the amount of time you’ll be holding the weight for, you’ll notice your grip working too. Grip strength carries over to so many activities that we do, think pull ups, deadlifts and just holding stuff.
Standing next to your weapon of choice. Hinge down like you’re doing a deadlift. Grab the weight, squeeze your belly and shoulder and stand. Lets walk.
The brace is super important. Squeeze your abs like you’re trying to show them off. This tension will keep your back safe throughout the walk.
Keep your elbow and wrist straight as you walk. Don’t shrug your shoulders towards your ears, let the weight hang.
Standing tall and proud is really important to get the most out of the exercise. Keeping the shoulders level on either side, not falling forward or towards the weight.
As you walk, try to maintain a smooth, flowing gait with your feet facing forward. It shouldn’t be easy, but we don’t want a weight that makes you stutter when you walk.
I’d recommend, if possible, doing this exercise barefoot. I’d recommend doing most exercises barefoot to be honest. By being barefoot here, we’re placing more responsibility on the foot and ankle to provide us with stability and movement. With a shoe, we’re limiting the need for use of lower limb stabilisers. Go barefoot and strengthen up those feet.
Keep calm and Carry on
There’s plenty of different ways you can work this into your life, dependant on what equipment, space, time you have.
My weapon of choice would be the kettlebell. The handle put the wrist in a nice position and helps the arm hang from the shoulder. A dumbbell is fine, I find I end up kicking it with my thigh but it can still work fine.
The barbell is super tough, it tends to put more demand on the grip keeping the bell tipping forward or back. Thicken the grip (wrap the bar in a towel) to further work on your grip.
No weights? Bucket full of water/brick. Shopping bags. Get creative.
The weight you’re holding needs to be a challenge. If it’s too light you won’t have enough load to engage enough of our torso or get a stretch into our wrist. If it’s too heavy, you’ll find it too hard to keep in the ideal positions throughout, which will defeat the purpose exercise.
I usually go with 25-30kg. And I’m fairly lanky.
I love using it in a circuit throughout my workout.
- Arm circuit into the carry. You’re tricep, bicep and deltoid are all engaged on the carrying side. The TUT I mentioned earlier is a huge component of hypertrophy, great news if you’re trying to build your pipes.
- Hip stability drills into the carry. Single leg deadlift, crab walks and clams all work to to create strength into our glute med. The carry applies glute med strength into locomotion. Perfect for runners
- Suitcase carry into a hollow hold, plank or side plank. Your core and torso strength will go through the roof.
Protect your neck
The most common issue we see in Myolab is people with tightness through the neck shoulder elevators. Trapezius, Levator Scap. Usually caused by weakness’ ‘gained’ from sitting, poor breathing patterns, physical and mental stress, average shoulder stability.
By holding a weight in the hand, we pull the shoulder into depression and create some space in the neck, shoulder and chest. So the carry is a great way to restore the motion and suppleness that we lose from sitting and stress.
Whether you’re training for sport, returning from injury or just trying to stay fit and healthy, you should definitely find a place for the suitcase carry. Happy Walking!
-Written By Carson Macartney (Myolab Practitioner)