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Full-Body “Farmhand Fitness”

When IDEA presenter Michol Dalcourt was coaching young ice-hockey players, he discovered that athletes from rural areas tended to perform better on the ice than youth 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. This workout (which I designed) builds on 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)

Additional notes:

  • 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 people 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.
  • 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 based on 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.

Sandbag Shouldering

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.

Barbell Landmine Rotations

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.

Sandbag “Hay Bale” Toss

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.

For more exercises, please see “Sample Class: Farmhand Fitness” in the online IDEA Library or in the April 2015 print issue of IDEA Fitness Journal. If you cannot access the full article and would like to, please contact the IDEA Inspired Service Team at (800) 999-4332, ext. 7.

If you’d like to see some of these moves in action, visit “Farmhand Fitness”.


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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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