Do you remember doing wheelbarrows in elementary school gym class? I do. They were lots of fun.
I also remember how they made the muscles of my upper body burn and got my heart racing as if I’d just run a race. They really challenged my strength and endurance capabilities. Unfortunately, I stopped doing them once I no longer had lunchtime recess or gym class to wheelbarrow race against my classmates.
This is a shame since wheelbarrows are great for building every muscle in your upper body and increasing your endurance to elite levels. These benefits make them one of the few body weight exercises that will give you a cardio-strength workout.
In this article I’ll teach you everything there is to know about wheelbarrow walks and show you how to make them part of your workout routine. While you may curse me after doing a couple of sets I promise that you’ll thank me after your strength and fitness levels skyrocket. I think you’ll have a lot of fun too.
What Are Wheelbarrow Walks?
They are done the way their name implies. When you do them you become a human wheelbarrow. Your hands are the wheels, upper body the barrow, and legs the handles which are held by a training partner.
You perform them by walking forward with your hands as your partner holds each leg by the ankles. Your legs should remain full extended at a height that keeps them parallel to the ground while you walk.
Here are a few tips for performing perfect wheelbarrow walks.
1. Have your partner hold onto your ankles instead of your feet. This makes the exercise more comfortable for you both.
2. Squeeze your abs and glutes as you walk forward. This will keep your upper body moving straight and parallel to the ground as you perform the exercise. It also helps to reduce wasted effort which means you’ll be able to walk further and get a better workout.
3. Keep your head up as you walk. Looking forward and focusing on the finish line ahead will help distract you from the pain your muscles may feel.
4. Don’t over or under-stride. You want the distance you move your hands forward while walking to be neither too short or long. Moving in short, stutter steps makes the workout too easy while stretching as far as possible increases the risk of injury.
5. Make sure you set the pace when doing wheelbarrow walks. This keeps the exercise safe and prevents the person ‘carrying’ you (the wheelbarrow) from making you do a face plant into the ground.
Wheelbarrow Exercise Video
Which Muscles Are Trained Doing Wheelbarrow Walks?
You will build and strengthen nearly every muscle from your waist up. They especially target your chest, triceps, and shoulders. Your ‘core’ (abs and lower back) gets a good workout too since their called upon to keep you upright and stable as you move forward.
How Should I Add Wheelbarrow Walks To My Workout?
Since it’s an exercise that will really kick your butt, I like to do wheelbarrows early in the workout. This ensures that I’m fresh and able to put 100% into every ‘step’ I take with my hands.
A good way to get started is by first doing wheelbarrows for 10-30 yards. The fitter and stronger you are, the longer you should walk. Start with 3-5 sets. Make it your goal to do 10 walks for 50 yards each.
Make it your goal to increase the distance you walk by 5-10 yards every workout. Once you can do wheelbarrows for 50 yards it’s time to move onto the more advanced variations provided below.
Do not do wheelbarrows for more than 50 yards. Going further increases the risk of your technique being compromised due to fatigue. This may in turn increase your risk of injury. You should instead make them more challenging by following my advanced wheelbarrow walks tips below.
How Can I Make Wheelbarrow Walks More Difficult?
1. Add weight to your upper body. This can be done by wearing a weighted vest or placing heavy chains over your shoulders. Start with an extra 5-10 pounds and increase as you get stronger.
2. Add push ups to the exercise. Here you perform push ups after every 6-10 ‘steps’ you take. I’ve added a video below to show you how this is done.
Where Can I Do Wheelbarrows?
Wheelbarrows can be done anywhere there is 10-30 yards of unobstructed, level ground. I like to do them outside at park or on the beach.
Can I Do Wheelbarrow Walks Without A Partner?
Yes you can. The best way to perform wheelbarrows without a workout partner is by using a piece of workout equipment called the Power Wheel. It’s essentially a wheel with straps and footrests for your feet. Once your feet are strapped in you can walk with your hands.
Here’s a video of an athlete doing wheelbarrow walks with a Power Wheel.
Wheelbarrow Walk Workouts
The workouts below demonstrate a couple of ways to get in a total body workout that includes wheelbarrows. Both train almost every muscle in your body with no more than 2 exercises.
1. Wheelbarrow Walks And Walking Lunges
This workout alternates between doing a set of wheelbarrows and walking lunges over the same distance. After performing a single set of wheelbarrows, you reverse direction and do a set of walking lunges back to your starting line. After you finish the set of lunges, rest and then repeat for 3-5 total sets.
Start with a distance of 10-30 yards and increase how far you walk as you become fitter.
2. Wheelbarrows And Squats
Your heart will really be pumping after you do this workout. Here you do a set of squats after every set of wheelbarrows. Start with 10 body weight squats.
Once you can do 5 sets of wheelbarrows with 10 body weight squats you should add weight to both exercises to increase their difficulty.
Put 100% Into Every Set & Rep
Wheelbarrow walks require lots of energy, focus, and endurance. That’s why you need to make sure you’ll have plenty of each before you do your first rep. The right sports nutrition supplements can make sure are able to give 100%.
Below are a few of my favorite workout supplements that will help you workout harder, longer.
You now know one of the best bodyweight exercises their is for your upper body. Try them yourself and you’ll see how great they are for improving your upper body strength and endurance. You’ll also see how much fun they add to your workouts.
If you’d like to learn more great exercises for building your best body I recommend subscribing to the free Stayfitcentral email newsletter. Each issue is packed with the best exercises, workouts, and diet information for losing fat, building muscle, and achieving optimal health.