Every day, you’re probably carrying things, be it your backpack, the groceries, a child, or whatever in between. When executing seemingly easy daily actions, you may be surprised at how much muscular activation and stabilization you require.

However, your shoulders, lower body, and even your back are well aware of how hard they are working. Carrying weight overhead requires more than simply shoulder and trap strength.

You also need a lot of shoulder and core stability and appropriate thoracic mobility to be able to lock your arms out above. This workout can help you build all of these qualities as you improve your overall strength, stability, and mobility with this guide.

This Ultimate Gude Will Cover:

  • How To Barbell Overhead Carry
  • Benefits of Doing Overhead Carry
  • Common Overhead Carry Mistakes To Avoid
  • Overhead Carry Muscles Worked
  • Overhead Carry vs. Farmer’s Walk
  • Our Trainer’s Suggested Reps, Sets, & Programs
  • Overhead Carry Variations
  • Overhead Carry Alternative Exercises
  • FAQs About Overhead Carry

How To Barbell Overhead Carry

What You’ll Need:

  • Barbell – The barbell allows you to load and carry heavier loads. A barbell is one of your best choices for increasing the amount of load you’re stabilizing overhead.

Alternative Equipment:

  • Dumbbells – A great substitute especially if your aiming to correct muscle imbalance and asymmetry.
  • Kettlebells – This could be a bit more challenging to stabilize while overhead. Practice with lighter weights to avoid it from falling laterally from your balance.

Step 1: Set Up Your Weights and Starting Position

Place a Barbell in the Rack and add your desired weighted plates to it, depending on how heavy you can hold.  For beginners, start with 10-20 pounds and gradually increase the weight as you get stronger and more accustomed to the correct form. Then, position yourself and stand in front of the rack.

Step 2: Lift The Barbell

When you’re ready, raise the barbell up to your shoulders, and then do an overhead press, push press, or use momentum to move the barbell from your shoulders to the overhead position.

Step 3: Bring the Weights Overhead

You must actively engage the upper back and shoulder stability now that the weight is above and in the proper posture.

Consider stretching upwards against the downward force of the weight. Establish a stacked position: you should have your elbows completely extended over your shoulders,  your wrists straight, the core tight, and feet shoulder-width apart for a stable stance.

Step 4: Control The Weight and Walk

Move forward by placing one foot in front of the other, and as you start walking with the barbell overhead, you must actively support the weight without buckling backward.

Begin with tiny steps, at your own tempo to get familiar with the weight above your head. Pay attention to the stacked position as you move with control. Keep your back from hyperextending or overarching, thus focus on the upper back tension.

Step 5: Slowly Drop The Barbell to Finish A Set

After you’ve completed walking with the weight at your set distance, carefully lower the bar back to the front rack, which would count as one rep.

5 Overhead Carry Benefits

1. Having A Better Lockout Performance

The lockout phase refers to the portion of the lift in which your joints are fully extended. If you’ve ever tried to pull or push maximum weight, you know that this might be one of your weakest points.

To hold weight overhead in a locked-out posture, such as overhead carries, improves triceps strength and results in a superior lockout.

2. Improved Overhead Stability and Core Strength

Your abdominal muscles are essential for maintaining a stable posture and pain-free daily function. Carrying weight overhead requires stability overhead and your whole body to move forward.

Your obliques must be engaged to keep your entire upper body from swaying back and forth under the substantial weight.

3. Increase Wrist Strength

If your wrists cannot maintain the difficult overhead and rack positions required, they could become the real limitation in your lifting.

The workout enables you to use several kinds of equipment, such as barbells or kettlebells, to engage and increase strength in your wrists in various ways.

Strong wrists are associated with strong grip strength, which can differ based on how you position your wrists.

4. Shoulders & Upper Trap Hypertrophy

Holding weight overhead for an extended period of time or distance enhances the amount of strain on your muscles.

That’s great news if you want to bulk up your upper body. Overhead carries are a movement that keeps your muscles engaged at all times. When performing the exercise, you use your upper trap and scapular muscles more when you hold a load above.

Because of this stimulation, holding weights over your head is an excellent technique to promote muscular growth in your shoulders and upper back.

5. Enhances Your Overall Balance

Training the stability of your core is a crucial aspect of strengthening weightlifters’ balance and general performance while also lowering their risk of injury.

This workout tests your balance and abdominal strength as it challenges you to maintain your body steady to raise the mass overhead.

Then you boost the tempo by moving forward with control. That will immediately test and improve your balance.

Common Overhead Carry Mistakes To Avoid

Bending the Wrists Too Much

When gripping the bar, make sure you have a full, solid grip on it. Squeezing the bar works the biceps, forearms, and back muscles, assisting in the engagement of motor units required for the workout.

Furthermore, keeping the wrists stacked forces the lifter to move the elbows slightly forward, producing a secure ledge for the bar to sit on rather than sliding down onto the upper chest.

Heavily Arching Your Lower Back

Excessive lumbar and thoracic spine hyperextension is rarely a desirable thing. However, lifters frequently find themselves overly arched in the overhead carries during the movement, leading to serious injuries.

Core instability and weak movement in overhead carries can be caused by a lack of abdominal strength, weak glutes, or a lack of awareness of what appropriate spinal alignment feels like under load.

The Grip With is Incorrect

One of the essential parts of a powerful and steady overhead carry is the set-up. A lack of stiffness in the legs, core, and upper body might jeopardize overall performance. 

When entering a powerful set-up position, you must tightly grasp the bar, ensuring that your hands are in the optimal overhead position to launch the mass squarely overhead while also allowing other components to remain locked in throughout the workout.

Overhead Carry Muscles Worked

  • Forearms
  • Abs
  • Hamstrings
  • Lower Back
  • Quads
  • Shoulders
  • Traps
  • Upper Back

This workout is a shoulder, back, and scapular stabilizer muscles strengthening exercise. This exercise may also be practiced with heavier weights, resulting in greater abdominal strength.

Furthermore, overhead carries are an excellent strengthening exercise for muscular endurance, overall fitness, and everyday living.

Overhead Carry vs Farmer’s Walk

Overhead carries strengthen your rotator cuff, upper back, grip, and abdominal muscles while also strengthening your posture. They’re also ideal for conditioning activities as the movement doesn’t need a lot of high-impact forces and will get your heart rate up dramatically!

On the other hand, the Farmer’s Walk lets you move forward while holding the weight in your hands, similar to the overhead carry. In this form, though, you retain your arms at your sides. 

The farmer’s walk works on your posture and grip strength and your upper and lower body. Simply take the equipment in each hand, hold them down at your sides, move a certain distance, and return while carrying the weights.

Our Trainer’s Suggested Reps, Sets, & Programs

For Strength Training

Begin with 3–4 sets of carries for 30 seconds while resting for 2–3 minutes between sets to allow full recovery when doing sessions that focus on building strength.

You must train heavily to exercise for overhead strength, as measuring your capacity to stabilize a little stack is pointless.

To concentrate on strength above all else, consider not moving and simply standing there with the largest weight locked out overhead.

For Increased Athletic Performance and Improved Stability

Perform  2 – 4 sets with pauses for 10 – 15 seconds with lighter weights, taking your time to walk slowly and calmly, controlling and managing the weights above.

If you want to improve your overhead posture to reduce injury risk and promote performance, you should first ensure that you have sufficient control to stabilize any heavyweights you have over your head before you train.

Overhead Carry Variations

Kettlebell Overhead Carry

One of the best variations is utilizing the kettlebell, and it could be performed unilaterally with a single-arm, which improves shoulder stability and strength on one side to avoid and counter imbalances.

Kettlebells also require you to maintain your wrist firm, which allows for better vertical alignment of the scapulae, shoulder joints, elbows, and wrists.

Dumbbells Overhead Carry 

The dumbbell assists in preventing one side of the body from adjusting for the other, as a barbell would. The dumbbells do not have the off-balance form of kettlebells and will not strain your wrist more than kettlebells will.

The idea is to keep your wrists from expanding by staying focused on your objective. This will improve your ability to keep your upper traps and back active.

Barbell Overhead Carry

You can add a heavier load and carry a bigger weight with the barbell. While walking overhead is not required for overhead-oriented activities such as weightlifting, you should nonetheless practice creating stability under big loads in dynamic conditions.

The overhead barbell carry is one of the must-try variations that can maximize your muscle’s development fully.

Overhead Yoke Carry

The yoke walk is famous in strongman contests because it allows you to pack large weights. And because the yoke rests on both sides of the body instead of simply above you, it adds significant stability challenges to the workout.

The overhead yoke carry will also exhaust you over other overhead carry varieties, making it an excellent conditioning exercise.

Overhead Carry Alternative Exercises

Landmine Press

Landmine Press is one of many people’s go-to overhead exercises when their shoulders are bothering them. It’s convenient since the fixed point implies that you’re not sustaining much load and are simply pressing it.

Because the movement is completely in front of the lifter, it is not also moving directly overhead, engaging the traps.

Push Press

The Push Press may be used as an alternative since it does not require as much pushing, and the legs make a lot of effort. The legs produce upward momentum in the bar, allowing you to do less pressing.

Alternating Dumbbells Power Snatches

This is the most versatile exercise on this list since it may be done with a heavy load for strength increases.

You can hold moderate weights for muscle growth or use them in a conditioning workout. Although it is an overhead exercise, the legs generate momentum, making it not a pressing exercise.

Shoulder Push-Ups

The shoulder push-up is an excellent ‘gateway’ workout to develop your body and shoulder’s stability and strength. 

It is similar to an overhead press, but the range of motion and load is limited, making it gentler on fragile shoulders.

Frequently Asked Questions

Overhead carry develops your back, knees, shoulders, and the abdominal’s deep stabilizing muscles.

Most amateurs lack the shoulder strength and mobility to do efficient overhead carries, so it’s advisable to start on weights that are light enough to put a good workout on your body. Start with 10-20 lbs. of weight and gradually increase as you get stronger and more accustomed to the correct form.

  • Forearms
  • Abs
  • Hamstrings
  • Lower Back
  • Quads
  • Shoulders
  • Traps
  • Upper Back

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