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The Single Shoulder Carry Technique

single shoulder carry

Movement is vital, and the ability to use your body to help another is a primary goal of Natural Movement – to be “Strong to be Helpful.” The Single Shoulder Carry technique is an excellent example.

The Single Shoulder Carry is quite easy to achieve from a technical standpoint, assuming one has the requisite conditioning. This technique is a quick way to hoist a standing, conscious person (e.g. someone in a weak, injured state or a child) on one’s shoulder and rapidly carry them away with a tight, secure grip.

There is a trade-off though, compared to other techniques such as the Cross-Shoulder Carry (aka “fireman” carry). First, the weight of the person carried sits on one side of the body, tiring this area more rapidly and making it more difficult to maintain postural integrity. Secondly, and depending on the size and weight of the person carried in relation to the size and strength of the carrier, it is not easy or secure to free one hand, which could be very useful in certain environments like steep inclined terrains or a stairwell, for instance.

On top of the practical benefit of being able to move someone in need, there are many fitness benefits that result from the Single Shoulder Carry, such as core strength, stability, and power. Also, if done rapidly, this movement can be used as an effective take-down in a defensive situation, like those taught in the MovNat Combatives course.

Find yourself a training partner who is not too big for you and who’s willing to be carried by you, or better yet, one who’s about your size and strength so you can both switch roles and train. If you don’t have a training partner, any weighted object can be substituted, such as a sandbag, stone, log, or medicine ball. Ideally, you’ll select an object that is heavy enough to be moderately challenging, but relatively comfortable to practice with. As your skill improves, you can increase the difficulty in many ways (see “next steps” below).

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Step 1

I stand in front of my partner, bend my legs, and lean forward and bring my shoulder against his belly, which is where his center of gravity is. I press the side of my neck and head against his hip on the opposite side of the weight-bearing shoulder.

I simultaneously open my arms and extend them behind his legs, hands ready for the Palm or “Gable” Grip.

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Step 2

Assuming a solid position and posture (feet firmly planted on the ground, shoulder pressing against partner’s lower abdomen), I tightly wrap my arms around his thighs to make sure my grip is strong. I let my partner lean forward as much as possible against my back, trying to align his center of gravity, my center of gravity, and my base of support (my feet and the space between them) as close to a vertical alignment as possible, in preparation of the lifting.

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Step 3

I forcefully push off my legs, regaining an erect posture and maintaining a strong and straight back all the way as I am lifting my partner’s body up. I keep a tight grip and pressing him towards me at all time.

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Step 4

I am fully standing now, and instead of rushing to move forward, I take a moment to check out my position and the position of my partner’s body on mine, ensuring the most efficient overall position possible. My center of gravity now combines with my partner’s COG, so the goal is that both our centers of gravity are optimally aligned vertically with my base of support. If needed, I make small adjustments before I begin walking.

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If I have done a good job with my position, carrying my partner is easy. Of course, this depends on my strength in relation to their bodyweight, and the complexity of the terrain where I walk. If I haven’t gotten the position correct, gravity will pull my partners weight off balance, forcing me to use upper body strength to compensate. This challenges my postural integrity and makes me waste lots of energy – forcing me to stop and reset my position before I keep on walking.

It’s always better to get the position just right from the beginning for maximum safety and minimal energy expenditure.

Next Steps

Once you’ve got the technique correct, you can increase the challenge by:

  • Work on your strength and conditioning by either lifting and carrying a heavier person, or walking a longer distance, and/or at a faster pace, or on inclined terrain.
  • Improve your coordination, proprioception, joint stability, feet and ankle mobility and stability by walking on uneven terrains.
  • Balancing on a relatively narrow surface. Make sure it is close to the ground, flat and stable, and half a foot wide, so that it is safe for both you and the person carried.
  • When you’re skilled and strong enough, you can have fun taking a few steps back, run towards your partner standing, lift them up in a very swift way and run a short distance. Just make sure you’re doing that on a soft surface like sand or grass, and that your partner is willing to play with you!

Weighted carries like “farmer walks” and shoulder carries are often touted as an excellent training tool – even by traditional fitness professionals. These natural movements are simply one of the many ways the human body is designed to move. And when you utilize them regularly in your training, not only will you improve your real world movement skills, great things start to happen to your fitness as well. It’s also a nice feeling to know that you are STRONG and can carry someone to safety, if needed.

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Note: This article contains material from Erwan Le Corre’s book, The Practice of Natural Movement.

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Improve Your Fitness & Movement Naturally

At MovNat, we teach Natural Movement from the ground up – starting with the most rudimentary skills like breathing and sitting positions, and working our way up to more challenging, athletic movements, such as jumping and climbing skills. Every natural movement we teach is inherently natural and has a practical purpose. It’s not merely about physical conditioning. Although, improved health, fitness, mobility, and conditioning are natural byproducts of a Natural Movement practice.

If you’d like to learn how to breathe and move naturally and efficiently, join us for a MovNat Level 1 Certification or a MovNat Workshop. We hold events all around the world. Or, find a MovNat Certified Trainer or Gym in your area. We also offer MovNat Online Coaching as an alternative to live instruction and a Natural Movement Fundamentals E-Course.

Most people know that they should be more physically active. Some even recognize the incredible value in a system like MovNat. But they struggle with actually implementing natural movement into their daily lives. That’s why we work closely with people from all walks of life to help them move better, get healthier and stronger, and discover their true potential with natural movement fitness. It’s also why we work extensively with health and fitness professionals who understand the value of this new paradigm and are eager to start implementing it with their clients.

So, if you’re ready to take your movement practice to the next level, this is your chance. Please join our community and check out an event near you soon.

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