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Common Mistakes of DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training

ultimate sandbag training

Cory Cripe, DVRT Master (Creator of DVRT Dynamic & Movement Strength Workout Programs)

You know I’ve been doing this DVRT thing for over 5 years now and I must admit how every day I get just a little bit better with a coaching a cue here or a small body position tweak there. But you know what I’m most proud of – the mistakes I’ve made with DVRT. After all, it is mistakes that helps us learn how to be better! Here are my little DVRT confessions in no particular order…

Mistake #1 – Going too heavy

I believe this is the biggest mistake everyone makes when buying their first Ultimate Sandbag. I still remember my first USB was a Strength Ultimate Sandbag. Coming from a background of barbells where I could bench press, squat, & deadlift hundreds of pounds, I felt the need to make sure my first Ultimate Sandbag was going to be as close to 100 pounds as I could make it.

I’m pretty sure this poor Strength USB was filled over 80, close to 90 pounds (even though the recommendations from DVRT were to fill 40 to 70 pounds). Well what’s the problem with filling it as much as you can? Well, the bag becomes a solid brick, making it into a one-trick pony. What do I mean by that?

Power cleans felt like I was being punched in the chest every time I caught the USB. It was challenging to hold the bag in the front loaded position because of its rigidity – it never could be pulled across the body effectively, engaging the lats. It basically was only good to use for deadlifts & bent rows…okay a two-trick pony.

DVRT exercises like these feel pretty horrible with a brick of a bag. Making your Ultimate Sandbag stuffed to the brim takes away the instability that allows us to work on qualities like movement accuracy. 

There are many reasons why DVRT has come out with 5 different Ultimate Sandbags. It feels so much better power cleaning a 90 pound burly bag over a 90 pound strength bag. Same could be said about a 40 pound power bag versus a 40 pound strength bag. Stay with the guidelines because they are there for a better USB experience, trust me!

Understanding that instability isn’t just about making an exercise more difficult but helping you become more proficient is key. 

Mistake #2 – Sprinter Stance

I still remember trying to figure out what the sprinter stance (the body position formerly known as staggered stance) was all about in regards to ratio. We decided at FLD to make it a 90/10 split; 90% should be on the front foot and 10% on the back foot. This, in hindsight, really didn’t work well because it was still way too unstable for many of our clients to appreciate it. And eventually it became too much that they would start dropping the back heel leaving the hips and spine in a compromised position.

It was one of those many instances I was grateful for attending a live DVRT certification because it was there my question was answered. I discovered and experienced for myself that it was a 60/40 relationship. This ratio became more reasonable and the benefits from transitioning to a body position allowing for more frontal plane resistance while still working in the sagittal plane. It allowed our clients (and myself) to be more comfortable being uncomfortable learning to build multi-planar strength without taking a giant step in the progression continuum.

What I like about DVRT so much is how the system looks to make incremental progression to movement based strength. This allows us as coaches to help make clients more successful 

I will admit the change in name has made it more tangible as a coaching cue. People can really understand (even if they never have) a sprinter exploding out of the blocks. And one coaching cue I’ve really enjoyed using with our FLDers is not trying to pick up their heels to accentuate the stance (something I did in the past), but to literally try to pick up their back foot giving them the feedback to drive 100% of that 40% into the ground!

This strategies have allowed me to help people better! In the past, once we performed some deadlifts we would go right to single leg deadlifts. That would be WAY too advanced for most people so seeing how DVRT as well as PKM (Progressive Kettlebell Movement) principles that our community shares impacts real people is what keeps me so excited!

Mistake #3 – Progressive Overload

A very popular answer to the progressive overload question (how can you make an exercise more difficult) is to simply add more weight. Now this isn’t necessarily a wrong answer, but it might not be the best answer. What if you’re working with kettlebells and you have a 12kg (26.4 pounds) bell and needed to go a little heavier. Well the next kettlebell in line is the 16kg (35.2 pounds) – that can be quite a jump given the exercise. It’s not like your Ultimate Sandbags are separated by 5 pounds like barbell & dumbbell weights, too – am I right?!?!?!


Understanding what DVRT is actually teaching me has even helped me inspire other professionals in our industry and that IS exciting!

As I mentioned coming into DVRT from a barbell background, it was challenging for me not to reach for a heavier bag to make any exercise more challenging. I actually had to use the science of movement and find better solutions with the same weight. It’s as Coach Dos says, “its not rocket science, but it’s still a science.”

My biggest mistake was hesitating to use the principles of DVRT to create a more challenging environment for our clients instead of throwing a heavier bag at them. I didn’t want to take a chance and make a mistake – and that right there was my mistake! As a DVRT coach it is necessary to make mistakes (or I like to refer to them as teachable moments) to grow better as a fitness professional.

I continued to learn from these moments and fine tune my craft over these last few years and by no means can I say I’ve made it because I continue to learn by doing and accepting feedback from our clients. Listen, the more people you can work with and practice coaching DVRT the better you will understand how you can change the intensity of any exercise by manipulating the holding position, body position (just like a sprinter stance mentioned earlier), and the plane of motion you are working in.

This rethinking of progressive overload will not only greatly benefit those who entrust you with their physical fitness needs, but will equip you with better tools in your tool box and not just your physical tool box, but your knowledge and wisdom tool box. If there is one thing to take away from this mistake of mine – don’t be afraid to make mistakes in the pursuit of being better. Don’t Cripe it 😉

Most people would see these as different movements, but they are the same exercise performed at different levels. When we realize how exercises work with one another we develop better programs!

Mistake #4 – Hands

I’m still dealing with this thanks to old FLD videos. I have current clients asking why they saw a video of me hanging on to the USB with open hands. I hate to admit it, but in earlier years I would purposely cue clients to hold the handles of the Ultimate Sandbag with a loose grip. Not really sure why but I remember hearing somewhere (probably on the internet) that this would promote more upper back activation whereas holding tight is best if you’re targeting the arm muscles. BIG MISTAKE!


Such a simple cue can be SO impactful to the result we get with people! 

Its embarrassing, but of all the anatomy & physiology I took in college if you asked me how many bones were in the human hand I would have no idea! Thanks to a friendly revisiting of A&P from DVRT I have committed to memory that there are 27 bones in each human hand. If there are 206 bones in the human body – I did remember that – and 54 of those bones resides in your hands (another 52 in your feet) then that probably means something regarding the importance of grip strength.

I’m here to tell you that holding onto the USB with all 5 fingers of each hand with purpose and intent will save you a lot of work in the long run dealing with wrist, elbow, and shoulder issues. I cannot tell you how many low back problems (yes, I said low back) I’ve cleared up by simply cueing the grip of the USB and KB. So if you have 5 fingers on each hand – use them and be stronger as a result!


We spent a lot of time teaching these concepts to the U.S. Marine HITT instructors to save shoulders and be MUCH stronger!

Mistake #5 – Catching With Elbows

When it comes to power cleans with a barbell, how do you unload the weight? Well you drop it of course. Thanks to bumper plates, dropping the barbell from the catch position is an easy and safe way to unload the weight from the catch position. Didn’t matter if you were an athlete at UW-La Crosse or a professional basketball player with the Chicago Bulls, your dropped the weight to prevent injury. However, using the Ultimate Sandbag, dropping the bag after cleaning it can damage the implement you invested in, so not very smart (you don’t see people just dropping kettlebells or dumbbells soooo…)

An undervalued aspect of power training with DVRT is learning deceleration. It was easy for me to coach the up part of the power clean, but to teach the proper technique of unloading the weight was a whole new world! Unfortunately I learned that by not teaching FLDers how to catch with their hips it would greatly affect their wrist, elbow, and shoulder health.

The best teachers aren’t those that have made no mistakes, they are often the ones that have made the MOST! If you see in the first video I catch the weight downwards with my arms, scroll through though and see how I make that correction! Making mistakes is how we get better, but we have to be willing to learn first!

The ability to catch the USB with the hips, as opposed to the elbows, is the safest way to absorb the momentum of the bag before it softly lands on the ground. And the benefit of this absorption – after safety – is the readiness of the body to spring out of the hinge position to perform another power clean immediately. This will come in handy for anyone who is preparing to take the clean & press test to pass their DVRT Level I certification.

Fitness Lying Down and DVRT certified coach, Megan Berner helps me break down this ALL too common error that can impact the health of your body!

The best way to remedy catching with the elbows is to revisit and practice front loaded good mornings, high pulls, and bent rows with the Ultimate Sandbag. These three DVRT drills are paramount in learning how to decelerate and catch the USB with the hips keeping your wrists, elbows, shoulders, and even low back safe during your power cleaning fun! You can see how progressions in DVRT are so important and how we use them to revisit these principles as we progress to more sophisticated DVRT movements as you see below.

Hopefully you are smarter than me and listen to others and have not made any of these DVRT mistakes. But for anyone that is making these mistakes, its okay – you’re not a bad coach because of it. But you will be a better coach, fitness professional, and human being for admitting that these mistakes are being made and finding a way to turn that ship around for everyone to have a safe and enjoyable DVRT experience!

Check out Cory’s programs as well as our DVRT Online Education and Ultimate Sandbags for 25% off with code “save25” HERE