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Building Better Upper Body Strength With Ultimate Sandbag Workouts

sandbag exercises

Ian Vaughn, DVRT Master (Creator DVRT Real World Muscle & Strength and DVRT for Obstacle Racing)

It is probably perfect that on a Monday we are talking about pressing. While most people think of bench pressing being the perfect exercise for Monday workouts (okay, they do them on Friday too;), this isn’t the pressing we are really talking about. I think of heavy pressing as the definition of true happiness; however, many get the wrong idea it’s ALL upper body when it comes to pressing. In fact, many people hate to press anything heavy because they think it will hurt their shoulders. This wasn’t always the case though as especially overhead pressing was once the true measure of strength. When you see how we use our Ultimate Sandbag workouts not to just improve your press, but how your upper body performs and feels, it will change how you see pressing as well!

When people try our Clean and Press Ultimate Sandbag workouts, they often get a get a dose of reality that’s its more than just the “upper body” working. In my decade of coaching, I’ve noticed those that choose a specific muscle groups on a certain day (split routine) have the most unbalanced functional qualities.


Those that choose certain muscle groups to “target” seem to neglect the biggest weaknesses in the body. After all an important concept we teach in our Ultimate Sandbag workouts is how to use the body to move the weight properly. We are more concerned with HOW you lift a weight, than the weight you actually lift. That is because to get the result that many want, you have to shift your focus on how you are using the body. This is the “secret” in being stronger, but also more injury resilient.

When people just focus on the muscle rather than the body, I have to remind them of the saying:

“You can’t fire a cannon from a canoe”
sandbag workouts

Performing exercises like squats, swings, and lunges builds the legs up with foundation like a battleship. The more strength developed in the legs (glutes, quads, hamstrings, calfs), the more artillery you’ll have for pressing.

How do strong legs relate to better pressing? One of the hardest concepts we teach in our DVRT Ultimate Sandbag workouts is that pressing is accomplished by pushing DOWN into the ground, not focusing on pressing the weight UP! Of course that sounds completely counterintuitive, but when you do so, you give a platform for your upper body to work from, you connect the core to the lift, and you keep the ribs from expanding which puts pressure in your low back and a bad stress in the shoulders too! Why don’t more people teach this concept? Can’t tell you, but it is the “magic” in pressing heavy and being safe.

So properly setting the up the body by hip hinging with a flat back, keeping the feet rooted, and pulling the handles apart to engage the lats can build a strong foundation to better strength gains (especially in pressing heavier). Now how can we challenge our pressing skills? Just as you saw in the video above, we don’t just do typical deadlifts and go beyond deadlifting by staggering our stance, shifting it side to side (Ultimate Sandbag Shucking), pivot the feet to work in more athletic planes of motion. So this easily transitions to more pressing complexes with the Ultimate Sandbag.

This is where you’ll notice you DON’T need a heavier Ultimate Sandbag to get more out of your Ultimate Sandbag workouts. For example,  I can clean & press a 100Lb USB Burly no problem…but tell me to clean to fist the same USB from a side lunge position…and then press? Ya, give me a lighter Burly or Strength USB instead to better execute it with execute proper form. So when you go back to the regular USB Clean & Press, it’s feels easier because the nervous system has been trained to work as one piece and not like Frankenstein. This is the awesome power of our Ultimate Sandbag workouts, we are developing the nervous system as well as the muscles of the body. That equals a strong and more resilient body!

So to bring this all together, here’s a great example of Ultimate Sandbag workouts to apply everything we talked about in this article to get you stronger not just with your Ultimate Sandbag, but in many functional training activities as well.

sandbag workouts

Don’t miss on saving 25% on Ultimate Sandbag workouts and Ultimate Sandbags with coupon code “spring2018” HERE