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How To Become Great At Carries

Updated: 2 days ago

Whether you are an OCR, Hybrid, or Tactical athlete, all 3 categories of competition require the athlete to carry weights over distance; as such, you need to become great at carries. In Spartan Race it's typically a bucket and sandbag, in events like Deka Fit/Strong/Mile it's dumbbells, and for Hyrox you have kettlebells and sandbags. Tactical competitions will use anything and everything depending on the event: sandbags, kettlebells, dumbbells, weighted dummies, buddy carries, yoke carries, and so on.

heavy carries

In order to do well at any of these events, you need to be able to carry the weight and move quickly. This requires strength and conditioning. Conditioning can come through the use of so many different tools, so we'll focus on talking about strength and training specificity.

It should go without saying that in order to be good at carrying heavy objects, you need to practice carrying heavy objects. They vary in size and shape. Sandbags and buckets can be somewhat awkward to carry. If you've never carried a Yoke and you try it for the first time in competition, it's going to throw you way off. Your carry technique will make a big difference, so practice techniques. Look up how other athletes are carrying their sandbags and buckets and different methods to find which is best for you. Carrying dumbbells is different than carrying kettlebells. Yes, they are very similar, but they aren't the same. It would be somewhat silly for a Deka athlete to train only with kettlebells when Deka uses dumbbells. If that's all you have, fine, but do your best to be as specific as possible with your carry training.

deka farmers carry

For tactical athletes, just carrying a sandbag on your shoulder is good training, but it's not the same as carrying the sandbag with a rifle slung and potentially a helmet on. Be as specific as possible in your training, and you will do much better on race day. If Hyrox, train with Kettlebells. If Deka, train with dumbbells. If Spartan, Train with sandbags and buckets.

Train the distance. For Deka and Hyrox, the carry distance is known. In Obstacle Course Racing (OCR), it varies. As best as possible, train for the distance that you know you will need to carry an item. A basic rule of thumb for OCR would be to train to carry a bucket or sandbag for 1/4 mile.

sandbag carry

Train the correct weight. Weights are generally known for most of the sports we've talked about. Google the weights and train with those weights, or begin working your way up to those weights if you are not yet strong enough.

Finally, speaking of strength, you need to be strong. The amount of strength you need will vary depending on the weight you'll need to move. HOWEVER. For any athlete struggling with the strength portion of a carry, I highly recommend compound strength movements. Barbell Squats, Deadlifts, Bench Press, Rows, Pullups, Pushups, Shoulder Presses...all of those basic foundational lifts will help you build strength. Which exercises you choose will depend on you and your specific strengths and weaknesses, but it's hard to go wrong with any of them.

ram burpees

Coaches Luke & Joel have competed in dozens of Hybrid competitions over the past few years. They also have dozens of podiums at Deka events and Coach Luke is a 2x Camp Gladiator Games Team Champion. Luke also competed in his age group at the Deka World Championships in 2022 and took 5th place in both Deka Strong and Deka Mile.

We offer custom programs for Hybrid competitions. All of the programming is geared toward your goals, availability, fitness level, equipment and gym access, and so on.

To summarize:

  • Train with the specific equipment you need to move (Ex. dumbbells, sandbags, buckets, etc.)

  • Train the specific weight you need to move (Ex. Deka dumbbells 60lbs men, 40lbs women)

  • Train the specific distance you need to move with the weight (Ex. Spartan bucket carry for roughly 1/4 mile)

  • Use compound exercises to get stronger (Ex. Barbell Squat, Pullups, Deadlifts, etc.)

Even 1 session per week of working toward better carry performance can be very helpful. That said, if it's an area where you can make a lot of progress, I'd recommend 2 sessions per week. Thanks for reading, and happy training!

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