The farmers walk is a frequently performed event in strongman competitions [1
]. It involves picking up and carrying heavy loads in each hand a set distance of between 20–50 m as quickly as possible. Kinesiological analysis would indicate that the farmers walk requires great dynamic balance, grip and core strength and utilises forceful ankle, knee, hip and back extension to pick the bars off the ground (like a deadlift) and to cover the set distance as quickly as possible. As strongman competitions become increasingly popular internationally through their signature event the World’s Strongest Man and the qualifying series such as Giants Live and Strongman Champions League, many strength and conditioning coaches are including strongman exercises like the farmers walk, zercher carries, sled pushing/pulling and the tire flip in their athletes conditioning programs [2
At this stage, relatively little biomechanical research has examined any of the strongman events. Frost et al
] and West et al
] have both examined some of the biomechanical aspects of a number of versions of the sled drag with loads that while quite heavy, have not approached what would be used in strongman competitions. Keogh and colleagues [6
] have conducted 2-dimensional, sagittal plane kinematic analyses of the tire flip and heavy, sprint-style sled pull with loads similar to that used in strongman competitions. Observation of the video files led Keogh, Payne et al
] to categorise the tire flip as a four-part movement comprising the first pull, second pull, transition and push phases. Based on the between- and within-athlete comparisons of the fastest and slowest flips, it appeared that the strongest determinant of tire flip performance was the second pull duration. Keogh, Newlands et al
] examined the differences in the kinematics at three phases of a 20 m sled pull. Similar to findings for unresisted sprinting [11
], Keogh, Newlands et al
] reported that the maximum velocity phase had greater stride lengths and stride rates as well as reduced ground contact times than the acceleration phase. Further, the fastest sled pull trials were generally characterised by significantly greater stride lengths, stride rates and shorter ground contact times than the slower trials. The most comprehensive study of any strongman events was conducted by McGill et al
] who examined the lower back and hip abductor joint loads of a variety of strongman exercises including the farmers walk, yoke walk, tire flip, log press and stone lifts. High to very high (but somewhat event-specific) spinal compression and shear forces, joint torques and hip and trunk muscle activity were observed in all three participants across these exercises. McGill et al
] therefore proposed that some of these exercises could form the final part of lower back rehabilitation and be important specific core stability exercises for athletic populations as long as appropriate technique and gradual progressions in load are incorporated.
Since the farmers walk is a timed event, the characteristics and determinants of its performance may be best demonstrated by common gait analysis variables such as average velocity, stride rate, stride length, ground contact time and swing time. A basic analysis of the angular kinematics of the relevant lower body joint and segments was also performed, although such data was of secondary importance due to issues associated with the placement of markers on clothing and shoes. This study was therefore conducted to: (1) obtain some preliminary kinematic characteristics of the farmers walk at various stages of the 20 m event (e.g., initial, middle and latter stages); and (2) compare the kinematics of the within- and between-subject fastest and slowest walks so to gain further insight into the kinematic determinants of performance. It was hypothesised that a significantly greater stride length and stride rate and reduced ground contact time would characterise the: (1) middle and latter stages of the farmers walk compared to the initial stage; and (2) the fastest compared to the slowest trials.