Several years ago, I attended an IDEA World Fitness Convention™ session led by Michol Dalcourt, director of the Institute of Motion. During that presentation, he discussed hockey camps he used to lead and described the differences in capabilities among the young athletes. He remarked that athletes from rural areas tended to perform better on the ice than those from cities and towns. His assertion: The rural hockey players’ advantage was due to full-body training using low-tech “tools” like heavy logs or hay bales. Since that session, I’ve developed a fascination with the concept of what Dalcourt calls “Farmhand Fitness.” This workout is my interpretation of that concept.

Farmhand Fitness Details

GOAL/EMPHASIS: full-body, multiplanar strength, stability and power training

TIME: 30–45 minutes

EQUIPMENT NEEDED: sandbags, barbells, ropes

MUSIC: high-energy music as background only (beats per minute at instructor’s discretion)


  • Set up the equipment and space in a 5-station circuit-style format.
  • Cue participants to stabilize the trunk as much as possible throughout the workout.
  • Encourage participants to rest whenever necessary, for as long as necessary.

Warm-Up (5 Minutes)

The warm-up includes basic movements that increase heart rate and body temperature and that serve as a precursor to those featured in the workout. Perform each exercise for 30–45 seconds.

  • Jogging in place.
  • Slow squats.
  • participants to rest whenever necessary, for as long as necessary.
  • Alternating lunges with torso rotation: Step R foot forward into lunge position, stabilizing body. Gently rotate torso R through thoracic spine. Return to center and repeat L.
  • Walk-out burpees: Squat, and plant hands on ground. Walk feet back to push-up position. Walk feet back up between hands, lift chest and return to standing position.

Work Phase (30 minutes)

This is a timed workout. Each station/ interval lasts 60 seconds, with a 30-second rest. Adjust the ratios to fit the fitness levels in your class. In this scenario, the official rest interval is shorter than the work interval because participants are encouraged to rest as needed throughout the work sequence. Perform the circuit three times.


This move trains participants in optimal mechanics as they lift an object from the ground. The exercise also teaches people how to stabilize the body when carrying a unilateral load.

  • Stand with feet at least shoulder-width apart, sandbag situated evenly between them.
  • Keeping chest up and posterior-chain muscles engaged, slowly lower body into squat position without rounding spine.
  • Scoop hands underneath bag to obtain firm grip.
  • In one motion, stand up from ground and bring bag to L shoulder. Avoid lateral torso or hip shift.
  • Slowly squat back to ground and return bag.
  • Repeat movement, R side/shoulder.
  • Progression: Perform second squat with bag resting on shoulder.
  • Regression: If hip mobility is an issue, place sandbag on elevated surface to decrease squat depth.


Because of the highly dynamic nature of landmine rotations, explain to participants that the magic of this movement comes from resisting the momentum.

  • Place one end of bar in a corner or in center of weight plate or bumper plate to keep it secure (make sure bar is safely anchored).
  • Stand with free end of bar evenly spaced between feet.
  • Squat down, grab bar and bring it to chest height.
  • Use neutral grip on bar (thumbs at top).
  • Press bar away from body until arms are extended, elbows slightly bent (start position).
  • Stabilize trunk and slowly move bar R until it is even with hips.
  • Bring bar back to start position and repeat L.
  • Progression: Add weight plate for more resistance.
  • Regression: Keep hands closer to body throughout movement.


You can’t work on a farm without tossing some hay. One of the most important aspects of this exercise is that it is hip-driven; keep torso rotation to a minimum. The move requires a bit of space.

  • Face sideways to direction of throw.
  • Grip sandbag handles; shoulders are relaxed, feet hip-width apart.
  • Stabilize trunk and gently swing bag away from direction of throw as you pivot feet and turn entire body with the swing.
  • Swing bag back toward direction of throw, and release; entire body should now face sandbag.
  • Repeat on opposite side.
  • Progression: Aim for more powerful toss.
  • Regression: Eliminate release, and focus on smaller side-to-side swings to emphasize hip drive and trunk stability.


Setup is the same as for landmine rotations.

  • Face landmine anchor point, feet about hip-width apart.
  • Start with free end of bar in R hand, neutral grip at R shoulder.
  • Press bar away from shoulder in slight arch shape until arm reaches near-full extension at center of body.
  • Reach L arm up to grab bar, then bring it to rest on L shoulder.
  • Progression: Perform lunge prior to each press.
  • Regression: Hold bar with both hands.


A well-rounded workout should always involve some sort of pulling movement. This exercise again requires significant trunk stability to avoid overrotation.

  • Affix heavy rope (or something similar) to sandbag and fully lengthen rope.
  • Start with free end of bar in R hand, neutral grip at R shoulder.
  • Grip free end of rope and stand with feet either squared at hip-width apart or in staggered stance.
  • With hand-over-hand motion, pull rope until bag has been dragged to body.
  • Return bag to start position and repeat.
  • Progression: Increase bag weight.
  • Regression: Pull rope with both hands simultaneously (instead of hand-over-hand).

Cool-Down and Stretch (5 minutes)

Perform the following stretches for about 30 seconds each:

  • Standing quadriceps stretch: Balance on R leg and reach for L ankle; switch sides.
  • Standing calf stretch: With staggered stance, bend front knee and push rear heel down; switch sides.
  • Hip flexor stretch: From staggered stance, tuck hips under torso; switch sides.
  • Chest stretch: Reach hands behind body and interlace fingers. Gently squeeze shoulder blades together and relax shoulders.

Video Web Extra

Watch this video to see some of these moves in action.

Ryan Halvorson

Ryan Halvorson is an award-winning writer and editor. He is a long-time author and presenter for IDEA Health & Fitness Association, fitness industry consultant and former director of group training for Bird Rock Fit. He is also a Master Trainer for TriggerPoint.

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