Since we began DVRT 16 years ago, I have had google alerts set up for anything “sandbag training” or related. That means if there is an article about sandbags in fitness I usually see it. To be honest, they are pretty infrequent and not worth talking about. However, with this pandemic and people training at home way more, I am seeing way more alerts in regards to sandbags and workouts. A lot of it is VERY bad which gave me the idea of NOT telling you how awesome Ultimate Sandbags can be for your training in this blog, but what they suck at. Contrary to popular opinion, I don’t recommend Ultimate Sandbags for everything!
One thing Jessica and I have found after teaching in over 13 countries is that if we leave some Ultimate Sandbags alone in an empty room, someone will come in an inevitably start doing some kettlebell swings with them. Why not, right? As I have long said, the best tool to do kettlebell swings with is a kettlebell. Why?
A kettlebell is basically one unit, yes, it has a handle and the metal ball but it has been welded together. That means the whole kettlebell moves as one unit. However our Ultimate Sandbags are carefully stitched pieces and this lends itself to being very useful in many exercises and cues, but makes it horrible for kettlebell swings! Having those separate parts creates a “rebound” effect that is terrible for your elbows, shoulders, neck, and low back. Yes, that means those sand filled kettlebell “things” are just as bad because they aren’t the singular unit the kettlebell is made of.
DVRT Master, Paige Fleischmann shows that while Ultimate Sandbags don’t work well for kettlebell swings, they can allow us to progress the swing in more complex patterns like rotation and resisting rotation in Shoveling and MAX Lunges!
I’m the first one to admit that we made some mistakes in our early years of DVRT. There was no book to follow so as we were writing it in regards to how to optimize Ultimate Sandbags, we fell on our face a few times. However, something that was quickly apparent to us from the get go was that Ultimate Sandbags were pretty terrible for back squats and honestly, anything where we put the low on our upper back.
Why? You see it all the time right?
I’m not a huge fan of putting weight on your back, but if you ARE going to do so, it is commonly taught that the barbell will sit on a “shelf” that is created in the upper back as you see below.
It is easy to create this platform for the barbell by squeezing the shoulders in this manner. However, Ultimate Sandbags can’t sit on the body the same way. Due to their shape, there is no way for them to sit on the “shelf” this way. That means we either put the weight on our neck (not a good idea) or have to flex forward a lot with our trunk to counterbalance the weight (not good either) as Cam Ward of DVRT Australia shows.
This is REALLY important for us to share with you because if our goal was to JUST sell you Ultimate Sandbags, we wouldn’t care HOW you used them. We want you to achieve your goals through their use and that means using them smarter as Cam shows! If you think that limits you in how many ways you can squat with our Ultimate Sandbags, Enrique Ceniceros and Joel Guneterman show you that isn’t the case at all!
Throwing and Slamming
I decided to lump these two together as they are often done by the same person. For many years I have had people ask me if they can throw or slam our Ultimate Sandbags and my first response is always, “what are you trying to accomplish?” I’ll be 1000% transparent, the only response I have ever gotten was “because I want to bash something!” Well, if that is your goal I am going to suggest that Ultimate Sandbags aren’t for you, to be honest, there isn’t a lot of equipment that is then.
However, if you are in the camp that wants to develop “power” well, we have a host of great ways to develop power. You can clean to bear hug, front load, fists, you can clean off-set, shoulder, and even snatch. When we combine those to movement based drills there are plenty of ways to develop great power with Ultimate Sandbags that keep you and the implement healthy!
DVRT UK master, Greg Perlaki shows quite a few ways we manipulate our cleans while Jessica does the same for snatches below!
Not only are these BETTER ways to teach power, but they also teach us the essential role of deceleration in producing real world power, strength and injury resilience!
This post isn’t to say you can’t do a lot with Ultimate Sandbags, in fact, there is almost TOO much for a lot of people as Tim Rudd does a great job showing below some of their immense versatility. However, like any tool, you should begin with the why, then the how. There will be times where Ultimate Sandbags aren’t the answer and that is why we created our L.I.F.T. certification (loaded integrated functional training) to show people how kettlebells, bands, suspension trainers, bodyweight, sliders, and Ultimate Sandbags all fit together in a system. Getting results is more than just doing the exercise or workout, but also knowing why!
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