As I mentioned in 5 Best Movements for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, loaded carries are the unsung heroes of sports performance not only because it provides constant tension, but it also builds unbreakable mental strength. This is why the loaded carry is the military’s favorite tool for exercise and discipline.
Constant tension is a large component to gaining quality muscle. ( for more on this see King T.U.T. - The Only Lifting Principle You Need to Build Quality Muscle) It builds mental strength because it's so easy to drop the weight and call it quits. Just set it down right here and take an extra break. But what about one more step? Pushing through the “want” to quit and finding the will to finish. The difference between want and need should be clearly defined when setting goals. How bad do you “want” to be better? This is where you have to tell your body that you're not done.
This comes up a lot in Jiu-Jitsu, as well as all areas of life. One of my favorite ways to tap people in Jiu-Jitsu is to break them mentally. Once they get tired all you have to do is put them in a bad position, cook 'em for a little bit, and wait for them to give up. Sometimes you don't even have to threaten with a submission, just maintain a tight control. This may sound mean spirited and cold, but it helps them to build the will to survive and teaches them the difference between discomfort and pain. This can also come up throughout any endeavor in life. Many individuals begin working out only to realize that their chosen journey, (whether it's weight loss, weight gain, etc) is a long hard road and the short cuts may come with side effects. Few have the mindset to become a success story, but that is why everyone loves success stories. “If it was easy, everyone would do it.”
Loaded carries are a great way to break through the plateau and add some variation to any program. The key to programming carries lies heavily on variation. There are many different variations, but some of the more popular ones are the farmer carries, overhead carries, single shoulder carries, and firemen carries.
Farmer Carry - The farmer carry is performed by carrying weights in each hand at the waist like carrying buckets. I prefer using kettlebells because of the thicker handles to add tension to the grip.
Overhead Carry - This can be used together with a barbell or sandbag or independently with kettlebells or dumbbells. This will add tension to the midsection and shoulders.
Single Shoulder Carry - This should be performed with a sandbag or punching bag (something soft). This exercise loads the weight onto one shoulder for half of the walk and weight must be switched to opposite shoulder to even the workload. *Use proper technique to load weight and use a weight that you can keep your shoulders somewhat level.*
Firemen Carry - The firemen carry is a great exercise for group training. One partner drapes across the others shoulders and holds on. The carrier must balance and control the weight as they walk. The load is somewhat uneven, so it's best to switch sides halfway through the walk before switching partners.*Use proper technique to load partner and ensure that the partner being carried balances their weight keep the carriers shoulders somewhat level.*
Loaded carries can be performed two ways: light for long distance or heavy for short distance. I prefer the latter; I'm not a huge fan of Long, Slow, Distance (LSD) training. I'd much rather pick up the heaviest thing I can and get a couple hundred feet in than load up a 60 lbs rucksack for a hike.