Progressions in the loaded carries: improving symmetry

Carrying “odd” objects around: dragging limbs fallen from a tree, carrying water softener salt or dog food from the car to the house, lugging luggage through the airport, etc., are inevitable demands of life.  

Few things are as disempowering as not having the ability to navigate those types of tasks.

Here’s the great news: training in the fitness club for those moments in life offers some of the biggest “bang for your buck” ways to cultivate your fitness capacity.

These carries develop terrific core strength, and can improve balance and posture. Additionally, they burn a ton of calories and are great for fat loss and general conditioning!

Practicing these physical skills in the gym affords a safer and more controllable opportunity to get or keep yourself ready for those moments in life that require us to wrestle our way through the tasks that involve us hauling things around. 

In our introduction to the loaded carries, we picked our favorite four loaded carries to start with. 

Although the obvious (and awesome) way to progress those loaded carries is simply by adding weight, there are more subtle ways of progressing as well.  

In this case, we’ll use some progressions for improving symmetry in the body, boosting a very specific type of core strength.

We humans are more or less a symmetrical creature when split side to side.  Lots of evidence is out there supporting the notion that asymmetry in movement is a predictor for injury.  Shoring up asymmetrical strength and movement capacity helps our bodies become more resilient and resistant to injury.

Unilateral loaded carries

These carries are where it’s at for helping hash out side to side asymmetries of strength and function. 

The single side carries all create a challenge to the maintenance of a neutral spine in a different way than squatting and deadlifting.

Within these carries, we must resist “lateral flexion” of the spine and rotation of the spine.  Doing so develops a very specific, useful and practical type of core strength.  

The key is to select a sufficient load.  If you don’t have to “work” to hold good posture, the load simply isn’t high enough to do anything!  

Suitcase carry: 

The suitcase carry is the easiest asymmetrical carry to execute.  Simply pick up a kettlebell, dumbbell or plate and take it for a walk.  This one is fantastic for lumbar spine and pelvic stability.  Go heavy enough to have to work to resist the downward pull of one side of the body.  

Here’s a handy chart for selecting appropriate STARTING load in the suitcase carry: 

One shoulder sandbag carry:

This one really lights up the core.  Staying in good position will make your obliques and lats work like crazy (need help adding some tone to the back fat and love handle area anyone?).  Load it up with whatever you can get into position and hang on for the ride.  We like working up to bodyweight, but hitting half of that would be awesome for just about anyone.

Single kettlebell rack walk: 

The kettlebell rack walk is terrific for improving posture and core stability and is typically easier to get into than the sandbag carry.

Here’s a good idea about where to start loading the single rack walk and sandbag shoulder carry:


So, there’s our next couple of progressions for the family of loaded carries!

Try ’em out and send me a pic or a video!

~Mark Reinke

They’ve given me the title Personal Training Director, but I really just love to help acac members and give my team the tools they need to do the same.  I graduated with a B.S. in Human Physiology and Biology from the University of Oregon and M.A. in teaching from Willamette University. I have over 15 years experience personal training and have also taught anatomy, physiology and biology. I love spending time outdoors with my family and growing, cooking, serving and eating great food.  Learn more about me and read more of my blogs on our website

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About Mark

I am a busy guy; husband, father, coach, mentor, gardener, outdoors man and cook are the primary hats I wear. To be the best of these I can be, I stay physically prepared for all those pursuits, and feed myself in a way that allows me to keep up the pace. I can help you to take the next manageable step in fitness and wellness to get you closer to your ideal self.