Marta Montenegro: Get “Farm Strong” with this Workout

I grew up spending every spring vacation at my family’s farm -- chasing pigs, hand picking crops, milking cows, riding horses and doing other ranch activities that left me exhausted without ever touching a dumbbell.

Men in their 50s who looked like they were in their 30s were a common site on the the farm. The women were toned because they worked just as hard as the men. Dieting or weight loss was never part of a discussion. It was more common to take someone to the hospital because of an incident with an animal – hardly ever because someone was sick. The truth is, most of these people I knew on the farm died from natural causes.

If you need evidence from the athletic world, at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, U.S. wrestler Rulon Gardner, a Wyoming farm boy, made a name for himself by defeating a much-favored Russian wrestler Aleksandr Karelin, who had never lost a match in over a decade before meeting Gardner in that gold medal contest. Karelin, of course, had access to the most state-of-the-art training facilities and advice in the world.

Vigorous job

It makes sense. Farmers are generally physically active at least six hours a day. They eat grass-fed meat, free-range chicken and eggs, beans and lentils, fresh milk, and vegetables and fruits from their home. Talk about eating local.

A recent study published by The Journal of Physical Activity & Health examined the relationship between the heavy carrying and lifting that farmers do and their overall physical condition. The majority of the sample studied exceeded the national physical activity guidelines for vigorous and muscle-strengthening exercise.

Activities considered ones of vigorous intensity by the American College of Sports Medicine are greater than six METs (Metabolic Equivalent) which is a reflection of how much energy is being expended, meaning that you’re working out at six times your resting metabolic rate – the energy expended at rest.

We can get the benefits of a farm workout

Even though the agricultural lifestyle is less common these days, we can mimic the farmer’s moves without much equipment. A barbell and/or dumbbells will be all what you need to train your whole body and tackle both the cardiovascular and neuro-muscular system, a combination that helps increase lean body mass and reduce body fat.

Sweat hard!

There are 3 super-set: two exercises performed one after another.

Rest at the end of each super-set for 60-90s.

Repeat each super-set 2-3 times.

Do the number of reps indicated in each exercise.

Some of the exercises are more power moves, which means that force and speed apply. Perform them smoothly and in control.

Exercises can be done with barbell, dumbbells and a pulley machine/or tubing.

Make sure that the last two reps are really hard to perform.

Do a general warm-up and an overall stretch at the end.

Marta Montenegro is an exercise physiologist, certified strength and conditioning coach and master trainer, who teaches as an adjunct professor at Florida International University. Marta has developed her own system of exercises used by professional athletes. Her personal website,, combines fitness, nutrition and health tips, exercise routines, recipes and the latest news to help you change your life but not your lifestyle. She was the founder of nationally awarded SOBeFiT magazine and the fitness DVD series Montenegro Method.

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