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How Do Kettlebells and Ultimate Sandbags Work Together?

sandbag exercise equipment

Since the beginning of DVRT I have talked about how I was inspired by my early lessons with kettlebells. After all, it was my conversations with the man that brought back kettlebells, Pavel Tstasouline, that made me look up what other tools could be getting overlooked but offer so much value. That is how I found sandbags in the first place. Heck, Pavel over 15 years ago sent me a file of old Russian lifters using sandbags (sadly they were on an old computer that lost everything and that broke my heart!).


My point is that I never thought about the discussion being Ultimate Sandbags OR kettlebells. I get it, when you look at the drills we share in DVRT and our Progressive Kettlebell Movement Certification (PKM), there are drills that look similar. However, just because movements can be done with different tools doesn’t make the outcomes or even the goals the same! Let me give you some examples.

Lateral Movements

I’ve written quite a bit, and gotten a lot of slack for it, that I think the tool with the least versatility is the barbell. In the anger I have created over such a comment, no one has given me a good reply back other than “they like the barbell”. The issue with that sentiment was that wasn’t my point. The barbell is like the person you don’t want to date but they are okay people. The barbell has a “good personality”. Sure it can be used for some things potentially, but I’m not sure it does anything significantly better than kettlebells and Ultimate Sandbags other than if you have your heart set on heavy deadlifts and back squats (which is a whole different conversation).

Where this becomes most evident is when we try to move and train in other planes of motion. We know lateral strength is so important in building injury resilience and functional strength. When you can perform lateral cleans and lunges with kettlebells and Ultimate Sandbags, does it matter which one you use? I start to break down why’s here…

While most people think they only use Ultimate Sandbags for instability, the position of the handles and the tension we create helps us create proper core stability. By the “plank” we create we can learn these more sophisticated movements and you see how we can easily manipulate the same weight to train different qualities. Can you use a barbell for this? The risk of injury is much higher because the length of the barbell is meant to more just up and down. In old times when barbells were shorter, you possibly could, but the leverage now is pretty dangerous to use a barbell. So, you can think our Ultimate Sandbags are also a nod to old time barbell training as you see below.

strength training

You can see in the video that the tension I can create along with the different holding positions allows me to have more progressions and more value to both my Ultimate Sandbag and kettlebells. These look similar, but the qualities we are training are different.


Since we just covered a lower body version, I thought discussing the upper body would be worthwhile as well. That is because we again have movements that look similar, but are different. Both Ultimate Sandbags and kettlebells work best for pressing overhead. Interestingly enough, both tools help us teach proper concepts about pressing overhead that help us build the mobility and strength to do so safely.

Once again, a barbell can be pressed overhead, but when you learn the differences, not sure you are going to want to use much other than Ultimate Sandbags and kettlebells. What’s the difference? It has to do with how the tools let us hold a weight and the feedback that gives our body.

With Ultimate Sandbags we have 3 holding options in pressing overhead. There is pressing the weight on our fists (or grabbing the outside of the USB on smaller sizes), we can go off-set (where one hand is pressing and the other creates tension), and Arc Press. The benefit of these movements are numerous. The shoulder position is safer position for the arm to press and allows us to more easily integrate the lats and core. The instability of the weight on the fists requires not just strength, but greater movement accuracy. Then drills like our Arc Press help combine grip strength with making a more dynamic side plank.

sandbag training sandbag workouts

Coach Troy Anderson shows an off-set grip series where we REALLY roll in the side of the USB to create a thick grip to get better core stability. This is how we do some one arm rows, cleans, and presses.

Kettlebells don’t have the different holding positions, but we can press one, we can press two, we can alternate and each one offers something different in learning about pressing. As you can see below, we start many people in half kneeling so they learn to use their feet to create core stability from the “ground up” and using a band helps us create stability as pressing one kettlebell requires us to know how to RESIST a good amount of force on the body. So, while the weight being pressed overhead may be smaller, the amount of work the body may be doing could be higher!


So our progressions would be…

-Single Arm KB Press with Band

-Arc Press with USB

-Off-Set Press with USB

-Alternating Press with KB

-Press on Fists with USB

-Double KB Press

This series of progressions is to address the need to build mobility, stability, and strength all at once. If you follow these progressions you learn so much more about how your body functions and it allows us to teach so many great functional fitness concepts. That is something many people miss that we do uniquely with DVRT and PKM. Yes, we use load to build fitness, but we also use these tools to teach people how to use their bodies smarter! Such a concept is often completely overlooked when people discuss what tool to use! Having better progressions means better results and experiences, that is what is most important.

Don’t miss getting a FREE Core Ultimate Sandbag on ANY of Physical Therapist, Jessica Bento’s DVRT Rx online courses. Just use code “dvrtrx” HERE for this week only!

sandbag exercises