As someone who competed quite a bit in sports that were all about lifting heavy things (both in strongman and Olympic lifting) I use to think great functional strength was just about how much you could lift. However, what I learned being around a lot of fellow competitors was that couldn’t be the only measure.
Many of the other lifters could out lift me in the gym (I was often the one of tallest and lightest lifters which isn’t a great recipe for being a great strength athlete most times), but I was still able to compete. How was that possible?
I started to realize that while I may have not possessed the greatest brute strength, I had a really good balance of stability, mobility, strength, power, and endurance. There was also one other functional strength quality that I had that most overlooked, because I possessed balance of these strength qualities I had good movement accuracy.
Since I had far less room for error (also along with having a long history of back issues) I had to make every movement count far more. This not only enhanced my ability to be competitive in these sports, but I had far less injuries and need for supportive gear like my fellow competitors required.
This is an aspect of functional strength that I think most misunderstand and others are completely unaware of in their desire to be stronger and more fit. Being really functional strong is more than how big your muscles are, or how much you lift in very stable environments. High levels of functional strength are about how you effectively and efficiently you can use your body as you lift.
That is a BIG reason that a lot of supposedly strong “gym lifters” really hate doing our DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training. They see a weight that appears to be far less they are use to lifting in the gym and think it should be easy. Then when they almost literally fall over (yes, I’ve seen this happen more than a few times), they just want to say it is “stupid” and walk off all pouty.
It isn’t because their muscles aren’t strong, but they lack great functional strength because their muscles don’t know how to work together at a high level and they lack the balance combination of stability, mobility, power, strength, and endurance. To someone who truly wants to get better, this is a wonderful opportunity to see how much more there is left for us to achieve if we dedicate ourselves to true functional strength.
Of course, some will think I am saying you don’t get leaner or more muscular chasing after more functional strength goals. NO! That isn’t the case at all! Have you seen many gymnasts, martial artist, or wrestlers? They have this type of functional strength and they often have physiques that would make most gym goers very envious.
How do you do it though? Well, of course we want to learn how squat, hip hinge, push, pull, rotate, lunge and overall move well in more stable foundations. However, the issue is when we ignore the ways we can progress a lot of these movements to get WAY more functional strength, conditioning, and muscle out of them. Here are some great examples of how DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training helps us accomplish such goals.
Below I am showing how we build these functional strength skills in the squat pattern in simple ways. We can progress the body position by going to our sprinter stance that causes some additional single leg emphasis, but also challenges pelvic/core stability. Then we have progressions in how we can combine our Ultimate Sandbags and kettlebells to challenge the squat not only with load, but the placement of the load challenges how the whole body is being used.
People far too often go from deadlifts to power cleans even in our DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training system. There are SO many great progressions in between that will result in a stronger posterior chain, better glutes, and healthier low back. Check out below how we set it all up to get great results.
Upper Body Pulling
A lot of people don’t think much of our Ultimate Sandbag bent rows because they can use much heavier weight on a t-bar row or supported dumbbell rows. Well, one thing that is really cool about using Ultimate Sandbags to build great functional strength in even familiar exercises like rows is that we use the WHOLE body! Yes, there will be those that tell you that it is a bad thing because how do you isolate your back if your core fails?
Well, that’s the WHOLE point! How can you use those upper back muscles in real life or sport if you have to be artificially supported to use them?! Combining all the different holding and positions we can use for our rows there is such a bigger and better world of even upper body functional strength training to be had!
Because we don’t recommend bench pressing with the Ultimate Sandbag people think that there isn’t a lot of pressing work we can do for the upper body. However, we do have our own versions of pressing in both drills like our lateral drag progressions as well as our overhead presses that build great total body functional strength and even mobility.
Learning how to press the Ultimate Sandbag correctly from a foundational perspective is key for having success with the progressions as well as seeing how such drills can help, not hurt, your shoulders.
If you do have some shoulder issues, our Arc Press is a great starting point along with many of our bird dog progressions to help restore functional strength and range of motion to the shoulders.
Our DVRT MAX lunges are probably are best known lunge, but they aren’t the only or even the best for many people to begin. People often struggle with lunges because their qualities of functional strength aren’t very balanced. However, by using the Ultimate Sandbag as feedback, not just load, and having the right progressions in place we can see results in functional strength skyrocket. Just check out how with the following progressions.
If you enjoy these types of blogs let us know, because there is still a bigger world in also looking at rotation and locomotion training we do in DVRT. However, if you started with these principles you will find so many incredible benefits for your fitness goals. People are often shocked how just thinking a bit smarter about our functional strength can yield such great results. It isn’t magic, just good application of the science of strength training.
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