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A Very Dangerous Sandbag Clean!

It is important, we often give it lip service, but it should be foundational to what every coach does. That is making sure that the exercises they prescribe, the methods they use, etc. have the LEAST risk in causing injury to another person. I have this very dear to my heart because of the issues I face in my own life. This can cause some to feel like we are “too conservative” in our exercise choice and the methods we promote, but as renown physical therapist Lee Burton says, “exercise should not be a risk factor.”

sandbag training

Being quoted by well known physical therapists like Dr. John Rusin helps us feel confident we are moving in the right direction. 

You could imagine my surprise then when a well known strength coach said he thought sandbag cleans weren’t a good option. He believed their “trajectory” and “flipping” caused issues in the lift. Was I teaching something bad to people? Something that could be the cause of injury. I reached out to several colleagues and they had the same surprise to the comment that I had. Listen, I will always be open to making sure what we are doing is both safe and productive and won’t hesitate to change if either is in question.

sandbag cleans

Strength Coach, Joel Gunterman shows that “flipping” or the weight coming away from the body are two things we absolutely should NOT see occurring in our Ultimate Sandbag cleans

When I spoke with the coach about his comments, he admitted they don’t do them really but he has seen people do them incorrectly a lot. In all honesty, so have I! However, I think people performing exercises poorly on social media isn’t a great reason to label an exercise as not good. The reality is any exercise can be done poorly and because more and more people try to learn from social media (30 seconds to 1 minute isn’t a great medium to really dive into a movement or concept, it is only to start the conversation) is going to cause some issues.

That is why I decided awhile ago that our platforms were going to be used for educational purposes. We can’t control what others do, but we can be a reliable resource! Let’s go back to the point though, are our Ultimate Sandbag cleans problematic and less efficient to use than a barbell? For one, they are different, a lot people assume the technique they use in a barbell automatically translates to that of an Ultimate Sandbag.

Unfortunately, they fail to understand the differences and why specific techniques have to be used. What are those differences?

-Center of Mass: Barbells have their center of mass right where you grip. Therefore, the weight moves at the same place your hands do. This is different than a kettlebell that has more of its center of mass away from the handle and even more so with an Ultimate Sandbag (since USBs have NO weight in the handles, ALL of their weight is away from the hands).

This means the movement and length of acceleration on an Ultimate Sandbag clean is very different to than of a barbell.

-Stable vs. Unstable: When a weight is stable in a barbell (that is why barbells were actually designed, to be a more stable dumbbell) they are predictable with their movement and you can “groove” the exercises. When a weight is unstable, you require more accuracy as fitness expert, Alwyn Cosgrove wrote..

What makes the Ultimate Sandbag unstable is not just sand moving (it only does that slightly because of the weight moving in a stable plane vertically), but the center of mass being away from our grip and the dimension of the weight as well. This means you can’t just “muscle through” the clean.

So many issues with our Ultimate Sandbag Clean begins with having the wrong grip. Second is knowing there are two different types of cleans, front loaded and on the fists as DVRT Masters, Steve Holiner and James Newman break down.

This also is why the BIGGEST mistake people make in cleaning our Ultimate Sandbag is so problematic. That is using the wrong handles! When people grab the snatch grip handles, I realize they do so because that is what you do with a barbell, but the Ultimate Sandbag isn’t a barbell! Not only does it “behave” differently, its actual structure is very different.

A barbell is one solid piece, while the Ultimate Sandbag is many components hand stitched together. So, if you try to “break the bar” while holding the snatch grip handles, the weight folds and you don’t create any stability. What end up happening to many people is they have to “flip” or “throw” the USB away from their body because they can’t get the weight high enough from this position.


DVRT Master, Greg Perlaki breaks down how using another DVRT drill teaches you concepts that will make your Cleans much more successful. 

Some principles of barbell cleans do carry over to the Ultimate Sandbag. Like…

-Elbows have to get high

-The weight moves vertical (not outward from the body and this usually caused by the elbows NOT going high).

-Not bending the arms early in the lift (people often begin their clean with bent arms and that’s a BIG no-no!).

DVRT Master, Steve Di Tomaso breaks down again, some key progressions for your learning how to properly clean. The emphasis is not only what we do on the way up, but the way down as well! The Ultimate Sandbag Clean actually has LESS obstacles than the barbell because we don’t have to deal with a lot of the issues with the wrists and if we follow the details of the movement we get set-up for great success in the lift.

In 15 years of teaching DVRT I have seen it be such a solution for so many coaches. Probably my favorite story is of a young man who came to my facility around 12 years ago. His mom told me she wanted us to work with him because his confidence was low due to being young and awkward in his body because he was young. One of my coaches was working with him and after a few weeks I was watching from a far. The coach wanted to teach him an Ultimate Sandbag Clean. This “awkward” young man was performing GREAT cleans in about 10 minutes of coaching. Amazing the confidence it built and spoke to just having the right understanding, cuing, and progressions. ANYTHING can be dangerous if we don’t know why and how, but if we don’t take the time to learn we can sometimes write-off things that can be awesome solutions for our goals!

These are the last 2 days to save 25% on our camouflage Ultimate Sandbags and you will receive our DVRT Warrior HIIT program for FREE! Just use code “camo2020” before time runs out HERE.