Strength Training Workouts: What is the Suitcase Carry?

Learn how to challenge and tone your core with the suitcase carry using these Pro Tips.

Don’t worry about hauling your luggage to the gym. Despite what the name suggests, the suitcase carry doesn’t require an actual suitcase.

Instead, this strength training exercise replaces the “suitcase” with a dumbbell or kettlebell. According to Jowan Ortega, a performance enhancement specialist, the suitcase carry focuses on anti-lateral flexion, or preventing side bending.

“The suitcase carry is a great exercise that challenges an athlete’s overall stability, strength and resistance to antiliteral flexion,” Ortega says. “This is important in maintaining good posture during athletic movements.”

For this exercise, you’ll need a dumbbell or kettlebell that is a comfortable weight.


Woman Doing Suitcase Carry

With your dumbbell or kettlebell on the ground next to you, begin by picking up the weight with good form. This means bending your knees and not just extending your back and hips toward the ground. This exercise is unilateral, which means you’ll be working out one side at a time.

You can start with either your left arm and hand, or your right. Either way, you’ll alternate sides after completing the initial set.

Once you have lifted the weight:

  • Stand up tall. Your arms should be next to your sides in a straight line, with no bend at the elbows.
  • Pull your shoulder blades down and back, which will help create a neutral spine.
  • Remember to also brace your core as you prepare to start moving.
  • Begin walking at a slow, controlled pace. Keep your spine neutral and remember to keep your shoulder blades down and back. Try to avoid slouching or leaning over.
  • Repeat these steps with the weight in your opposite hand.

Since you’re holding a weight on only one side of your body, remember to keep your balance and avoid leaning to one side. The weight should be parallel to your thighs and your other hand. Prevent the weight from going below your opposite hand.

“In order to prevent lateral flexion, you want to pull your ribcage down on the opposite side that does not have the weight and hold your core tight,” Ortega says. “You will perform this exercise over a given distance, number of steps or time.”

After completing this exercise with both arms, try the farmer’s carry, which uses two kettlebells or dumbbells.