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Building Strong & Resilient Upper Body Workouts

sandbag workouts

One of the best pieces of advice I ever got to be a better coach was that “you can’t be right for everyone.” It was hard at first to think that way because at most of our hearts as coaches we want to help everyone. However, there are some things that will speak to people and some things that just aren’t what they are looking for in their life. I had to be comfortable doing the same thing with our DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training.

In my early years, I wanted everyone and anyone to fall in love with what we did with DVRT because I had experienced it for myself and my clients, I just wanted the world to feel the impact our training could make. However, as I learned, many times people came with certain ideas or goals that just didn’t fit with what we were about.

A great example was in our early years when I thought we had to go to all the industry trade shows to be known (later I would find good education and information was way more powerful) and an MMA coach came to our booth. Of course, being my super excited self at the time, I couldn’t wait to share with him all the ideas and techniques we did in DVRT and how it could help MMA athletes. After admittedly talking at him for about 5 minutes he asked me a question that I would hear way too many times in my career.

Ultimate Sandbag workouts

Jessica can tell you all about how draining and not really productive those trade shows were:)

“These are good for slamming right?”

Puzzled, I asked, “why do you want to slam the bags?” His answer was simple and honest, “I just want to beat the crap out of something.” It was right THEN that I realized we had to be okay not being for everyone and told him that we probably weren’t right for what he wanted to do.

I share that story with you because often people think that I want to have them use our Ultimate Sandbag for just a replacement of a barbell, dumbbell, kettlebell, medicine ball, you name it. It is hard for a lot of people to wrap their heads around the idea that I would be willing to say that our Ultimate Sandbag isn’t good for something things. Most times we don’t see that from people or companies, but to be that is both being honest to you as well as being real to what we are about and do.

A way for me to help you understand better is a question we get, “how do you bench press with the bags?” People look at me a bit cross-eyed when I tell them, “we really don’t.” Does that mean you can’t try? Trust me, I have and being possible and being effective are two different things. Let me explain why and what is actually BETTER to use the Ultimate Sandbag for in your upper body workouts.

In DVRT we talk a lot about the idea of grip relating to strong and stable shoulders. This is essential in building upper body workouts that build functional muscle but also don’t destroy your shoulders. Bench pressing with the Ultimate Sandbag is tough for this reason and a few others. Getting the weight in a position where you could bench press is awkward, frustrating, and time consuming. If you can actually achieve it your wrists are bent backward and that connection of grip, wrist positioning, are all negatively impacting the health and stability of your shoulders. In other words, not a bench press that makes your upper body workouts better.


That is why when it comes to building stronger pressing in your upper body workouts we use the Ultimate Sandbag for overhead pressing and a lot of push-up plank work. Why are these two straggles really effective for your upper body workouts? Overhead pressing use to be the measure of upper body strength before the bench press was really invented in the 1930s. They may have done so out of necessity, but if we dig deeper we see that we teach whole-body integration, core stability, and teach our upper body to be strong and mobile, something we miss badly in today’s world!

Since most struggle to overhead press because we lose how to use our whole body and core stability, using our plank drags are SO important to build greater upper body workouts. They accomplish SO many goals at once.

-Shoulder Stability

-Proper Core Integration

-How to Engage the Hands a Strong Upper Body

-Understanding the Feet Are SO Important for a Strong and Mobile Upper Body.

-Isometric Strength of the Upper Body

In other words, A LOT of stuff! Yet, people often think we just get in a push-up position and throw the Ultimate Sandbag back and forth and miss a lot of the “good stuff” that makes your upper body workouts so much more effective.

The concepts we teach in our lateral drags have such strong carry over to better push-ups, bench pressing, overhead pressing, basically making your upper body workouts so much better if you spend the time paying attention to the details. 

Ara Keshishian shows the subtle difference in a technique that changes our plank drags from super powerful exercise for your upper body workouts to just another random plank drill that might actually aggravate your shoulders. 

Robin Paget shows how fast we can solve scapular issues, build better shoulders, in other words…prime our body for better upper body workouts. Most importantly she shows how these concepts translate to everything we do in DVRT. 

When you truly understand the why’s and how’s of our lateral drags, you see why if you want to bench press, by all means, do so with dumbbells, kettlebells, or a barbell. However, if you spend time learning these lessons from our lateral drags you will see those upper body workouts be so much more productive and not battle the aches and pains that many are used to experiencing. Of course, the other big question we get is “how do I progress my lateral drags?”

We rarely rely on heavyweight because that leads to inappropriate changes to technique and our bigger USBs aren’t designed for dragging because you lose so many great aspects of the movement by wanting to just going heavier. Instead, try adding these strategies to your upper body workouts and lateral drags.

-Increase drag time (go for 4-6 seconds to drag the USB from one side to the other)

-Add pauses (after dragging to the other side hold the handle of the USB for 2-3 seconds before returning the hand)

-Use some of the directional changes our DVRT coaches show!