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Get Over the Bag | Ultimate Sandbag Training

Get Over the Bag…

20130731-081421It’s Wednesday, more appropriately known as “Humpday” to office workers, Facebook goers and camels worldwide.  Thought it would be a fitting time to write about how I got “over the bag.”  Now before you go thinking I’m protesting the Ultimate Sandbag Training System, I’m not.  I want to tell you about my journey to pass seemingly the hardest physical test I’ve ever been tasked to accomplish-  Josh Henkin’s, Ultimate Sandbag Clean and Press Test: 50 Reps at 100lb+ Burly in 5 minutes.

In all honesty, Hell Week in college was a breeze compared to this because I’ve never been faced with a task that I could not accomplish in at least 2 tries, that is unless it’s Level 340 something in Candy Crush.  What? Don’t judge me.

Now I’ll give you a quick backstory.  For those of you playing at home, I’m 260lbs, so I’m not a small kid and yes, even I could drop a few pounds- I’m just like some of you.  These days, I love to move but I dislike the notion of “working out”.  So anything that is non-traditional has a huge appeal to me, hence why I was so drawn to the Ultimate Sandbag in the first place (well that and two fractured vertebrae…a story for another time).

fitness sandbagThe very first time I attempted the Clean and Press Challenge was at the yearly DVRT Master Trainer gathering in AZ.  With the knowledge 8 weeks prior that I would have this test, I managed 33 Reps in 5 minutes.  I gassed out, dropped the bag on my head a few times and ended my attempt feeling defeated.  Only one person over 210lbs passed that day.  I went home days later wondering if I would ever finish this challenge as it mentally had gotten me.  (Josh wrote a great article about, “When Failure is the Right Option.”, check it out.)

The next few months went like this: Life. Procrastination. Excuses.

At the end of January I made it a goal of mine to complete the Clean and Press Challenge.  I got in a few days of training before February 9th, when Robert Dos Remedios posted his successful completion of the challenge on the DVRT Fitness Group Facebook page and that gave me a new feeling of motivation and desire to complete this challenge.  I read Dos’ article about his journey and figured I too, would need to problem solve to find MY way to get over the bag.

I set one of the following goals for each session throughout my training:

BE FLUID:  Efficient and clean movement.

JUST COMPLETE IT:  Finish the work in the given time.

LEARN FROM IT:  Where I would need rest and where I could push out a few more reps.

I attempted the Clean and Press Challenge 3 times and learned each time what I had to do to pass it:

I passed my Clean and Press challenge on 3/7, at 11:15am with 50 reps in 4:55.

What I learned at the end that worked best for me was the following:

I laid out a perfectly good 3 day a week plan, however, I felt tired and unable to fully recover like I needed to between sessions, so I dropped down to 2 days a week and left 3-4 days between each training session.

I did no auxiliary cardio at any point and time during this program.

sandbag clean and pressThe program was structured like this:

Weeks 1-2: Technique and Speed

Weeks 3-4: Volume

Weeks 5-6: No training other than the test.


As you can see, within 9 days(2/26-3/7) I went from barely getting 45 reps, to 48 reps and finally 50.  I felt the test itself alone was enough work to get me over the hump.

I worked best in 5, 1-minute cycles.  I would work for 30-32 seconds and then rest to the top of the next minute and then repeat the whole process again.

I found that training with a #90 Strength bag and #108 Burly more effective than going as low as #80 Strength because there wasn’t much difference in timing and because the difference in load was so great, the #108 felt heavier afterwards.

sandbag workoutGet 12 on your first set and 11 on your second.  Leaving you only 27 total reps, or 9 reps/minute, that need to be accomplished and thusly an opportunity to get more air.

Don’t get too excited when you pass the test, you’ll become very weak all of a sudden and need to use the floor to help you stand up.

Since completing the challenge I have found a new kick in my step, as if this challenge was something I needed to prove to myself that I could do.  Just like sports, all it takes is one win to start a streak.  I now have set my eyes on getting the #130 Burly as well and I look forward to getting over that bag too!


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