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The Barbell That’s Alive!

About a week or so ago I wrote an article asking the question, “do we need to Olympic lift?” (you can read the article HERE). I partly did it because I wanted to stimulate a conversation. It wasn’t so much an attack on Cleans, Snatches, or Jerks. It was more asking the question, “do we need to be so stringent in how we see these movements?” Because let’s face it, the sport of Olympic lifting is pretty darn cool! However, notice I said the SPORT of Olympic lifting.

With sport that means practice, practice, practice, and FOCUS on technique, technique, and technique. Ask an Olympic lifter their goals and usually it is about improving their weightlifting numbers. Now ask the average person or athlete that tries to use Olympic lifts why they do so and you hear things like…..

-I want to be more powerful

-I want to be more athletic

-I want to get leaner

-I want to get functionally stronger

My point is that people are using the Olympic lifts in these cases to get an outcome other than just getting better at Olympic lifts. I make this point because it is an assumption, a large one, that getting better at Olympic lifts as we traditionally think of them will accomplish all these goals. Not only get you the results, but do so better than any other means!

Is being building power a good thing? OF COURSE! Are variations of Olympic lifts possible to teach (like pulls from the hang and so forth)? Sure! That isn’t my point though. We make TWO HUGE assumptions when using Olympic lifting.

    1. It transfers to EVERYTHING! What do I mean? We automatically assume if we are powerful up and down then we are going to be powerful when we move laterally, forwards, and in rotation. Watching a lot of people trying to be powerful in these different patterns definitely demonstrates that this is simply NOT the case! While there may be some transfer, we still have to build more general qualities. That means learning to be explosive in different patterns, planes of motions, etc. Sadly, this is usually only relegated to medicine balls and bands, but we can do so with STRENGTH if we follow some DVRT Ultimate Sandbag exercise progressions!

If you want to see some cool DVRT Ultimate Sandbag exercise progressions that build power in 3-D check out the video above!


2. The barbell is our end goal! It saddens me to hear people from different disciplines default to the barbell a lot of times. I am talking about those that love kettlebells, gymnastics, you NAME it, they seem to eventually bow to the power of the barbell. This is sad to me because it still says that we fall prey to the idea that the highest load is the most beneficial load. Of course we now this isn’t true, but we just don’t know what else to do.

How do you measure other forms of strength like resisting forces, or moving in different planes and angles? Such a question still tells me we are a LONG way from really being about training functional movement! Why? The answer is simple, the movement, the quality of that movement. How do you measure you are getting stronger in these ways that are new to many? Can you maintain the same level of quality movement with a heavier load as you did a lighter weight? Simple right? Then we can layer load and other variables, it isn’t that tough.

I keep bringing this up because I can’t tell you the number of Powerlifters, Strongmen, and Olympic lifters who have great strength in their sport, fail miserably when we make them perform more broad movements. Those exercises where they have to move in a different direction and resist other forces makes very strong individuals look very mortal! It is also important to keep talking about this because training in the manner we are discussing is ACTUALLY the more efficient and effective means of achieving the goals we listed earlier.

We also learn so much more about our bodies in this type of functional training. Watch this young man under the guidance of DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Master, Raymond Lee, perform a Snatch with a Burly Ultimate Sandbag. He still achieves all the great benefits of Olympic lifting (triple extension, power, mobility) and yet has to react to the dynamic nature of that Burly. It doesn’t just move with him, he has to react to the subtle changes that the Ultimate Sandbag tries to cause to his body. It doesn’t have to be a circus act, but just enough imperfection to really tie in his body into more well rounded movement!

For a long time I have used the quote from Brooks Kubik’s book, “Dinosaur Training”, “nothing else will give you that type of deep down strength and power that you will develop by lifting large, bulky, odd shaped, and awkward and difficult to manage objects. A barbell cannot approach a heavy barrel or a heavy sandbag when it comes to developing the type of rugged power that is required in any form of physical combat or contact sport. It is too easy to control a barbell. You need to supplement your barbell work with heavy objects that cannot be controlled no matter how you try-objects that are by their very nature never fall into any sort of lifting groove.”

I only disagree with Mr. Kubik in the sense of using this style of training as “supplementation.” My question is if this style of training has the closest relationship to life and sport why is it NOT our foundation? Well, I am hoping the DVRT system helps solve that problem by giving better direction to HOW we use these tools and well ALL strength training tools for real life. After all, I think the Ultimate Sandbag is truly the “alive barbell”!