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Conquering the Beast!


By Steve “Coach Fury” Holiner, Master DVRT, Master RKC

“Hey guys, this year we’re going to be implementing a strength test into the system.” –Josh Henkin

Jeez, thanks Josh. That quote, taken the DVRT Master Instructors forum, was posted about 8 weeks before all the masters would be meeting in Josh’s home base of Scottsdale, AZ. First off, I love well designed strength and technique tests. Testing forces potential instructors to invest some serious training time before a certification. It is my opinion, that certifications should be focused on sharpening the blade, not forging a sword.

The DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training Clean and Press Test: For the sake of this piece I’m going to focus on my weight class for the test. Rest assured that my training advice is applicable to all divisions. At a bodyweight of 195 pounds I would need to Clean and Push Press an 80 pound Burly Ultimate Sandbag 40 times in 5 minutes.

sandbag training

I’ve done the snatch test a bunch if times. How hard can it be? I can be a dumbass. The DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training Clean and Push Press is a highly technical full body lift that can smoke the entire body if not done properly. My hopes are that you will be able to use this technique and training protocol to crush it.

I left for Arizona having trained up to 47 reps with an 85 pound Ultimate Sandbag. The Master Instructors all went through the test on the second day of our workshop. I stepped up to the Ultimate Sandbag (USB) expecting to crush 50 reps. I stepped away from the USB furious (go figure). Only 36 reps. That sucked. My shoulders, biceps, legs and lungs were on fire. My technique started to fall apart with the exhaustion. It seriously took about an hour to recover.

DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training Clean and Press Standards

-Women Under 150 Pounds: 40 pound USB Strength for 50 repetitions.

-Women over 150 Pounds:  60 pound USB Strength for 40 repetitions.

-Men under 170 Pounds: 60 pound USB Strength for 50 repetitions.

-Men from 171-210 Pounds: 80 pound USB Burly for 40 repetitions.

-Men over 210 pounds: 100 pound USB Burly for 40 repetitions.

All within 5 minutes.

With defeat fresh in my mind, I broke down the areas I felt suffered in my technique and watched what some of the others were doing. I came up with a plan of attack.

Out of passion, or punishment, I got to the workshop early the next day, grabbed the Burly and stepped out behind the facility with my buddies, Joe Chalakee and Jason Newman to take another crack at the test. Folks, including Josh, thought I was crazy. This session was all about technique. Skill practice.

The results spoke for themselves. I got 43 reps (6 more than the previous day with a huge level of fatigue already built in.). My technique was spot on as well. The best thing was that I also recovered within 10 minutes with juice left in my legs and shoulders.

Before I drop some knowledge bombs on you, my first piece if advice would be to find a DVRT Master Instructor or take a DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training workshop to get a massive head start skill wise.

sandbag fitness

Owning the Ultimate Sandbag Training Clean and Press technique. Here’s how I did it.

Set up for your first clean by actively pulling yourself, hinging the hips back, to the USB. This will pre-load tension to make that first clean solid. Be sure to pull the clean handles apart as you set up. Pulling the handles apart will fire up the lats and aid in catching the USB smoothly to the fists. Take a deep breath into the belly before exploding into the rep. Exhale power breathing style and shoot through your heels, standing up right and catch the bag onto your fists.

With the USB on your fists, take a deep breath and set up for the push press. Until you actually put the bag down after a set of reps, this standing front load position is your rest break. Use it!

Power breathe, exhale again as you push press. Lock it out overhead. Don’t grind the press. Push press it. Your shoulders will thank you.

Breathe into the belly as you pull the USB back into the front load position. Take in another breath as you unroll and follow the Burly onto your feet.

Do not lose tension when the Ultimate Sandbag hits the floor or top of the feet. Use that tension as a spring to launch the USB back onto the fists. Again, your rest period during the lift is in the front load position. Not on the floor.


I found that 8 reps a minute worked perfectly. That will give you 20-10 seconds of rest per set depending on your fatigue level in the later reps. Breathe and reset the USB during these true rest breaks.

High five your buddies as you walk away victorious.

That’s the technique. Now how should you train for it?


*I recommend training twice a week for 4-8 weeks. Leave 2-3 days between heavy and light days.

Day 1 – Heavy Day: Use the actual test weight or 5-10 pounds heavier. Be fresh for this. Try 5 reps every minute for 8 minutes. Cut back if that it is too tough. If possible, I would cut sets back before reps.

Day 2 – Light (Speed) Day: Use a USB 10-20 pounds lighter than your test weight and shoot for 8 reps on the minute for 5 minutes. This will help you identify the tempo and cadence that will be needed for the actual test. I suggest doing this at the end of your normal training session. I find there is an added bonus of going through the test on the light day when you’re already pre-fatigued. Safely. Don’t be stupid if you’re already spent.

All that really needs to change weekly is the Heavy day. You can stick with a USB 10-20 pounds lighter through every light day. Two Ultimate Sandbags are all you need for this program.


Week 1: 5 reps a minute for 8 minutes.

Week 2: 6 reps a minute for 7 minutes.

Week 3: 7 reps a minute for 6 minutes.

Week 4: 8 reps a minute for 5 minutes and victory!

If you are unable to finish the reps/sets one week, simply stick with that week’s programming until you can complete it. There are 4 weeks of padding in there for just that reason. Now some of the weight classes require more reps. Reps divided by the time will get you the reps needed pre minute on the speed day. This rep number is what you’ll need to work up to by week 4-8 on your heavy day. Got it? Good.

The program is simple. The test is hard. Attack. Attack. Attack. Now register for that DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training Level 1 cert you’ve always wanted. Use this program. Pass and join the family!


-Fury out.


Check out our upcoming DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training Certification dates HERE

Steve is a Strength Coach at Mark Fisher Fitness in NYC. As a DVRT Master Instructor, Fury developed the popular Ultimate Sandbag and Dynamic Strength programs at the gym. As a Master RKC, Steve is highly regarded in the community and often sought out by instructor candidates for training.  You can visit www.coachfury.com, facebook/coachfury or coachfury@gmail.com to get in contact or learn more about Steve.

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