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How to Become a Fitness Ninja

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How to Become a Fitness Ninja,


Kari Negraiff, DVRT Master Chief Instructor

Co-owner Envision Fitness: Maple Ridge, BC

Movement is one of those really vague things that you really don’t appreciate until you don’t have it! Since I spend A LOT of my time as a fitness pro restoring people’s movement, I have seen hundreds of times how movement relates to EVERYTHING in a fitness program. It can be a motivator or a detractor of goals, it can inspire performance, or hold people from moving forward. That is why in my last post (READ HERE) I wanted to lay the foundation to one of the most important movement based drills you can perform, the DVRT Around the World. 

There are just so many tremendous benefits of what seems to be a somewhat goofy looking exercise….

-Reactive Core Strength

-Hip Mobility

-Fluidity of Movement

-Shoulder and Thoracic Spine Mobility


Unfortunately, the DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training Around the World drill falls victim to the category of “cool looking exercises” which means people leap frog the progressions to doing it really well! That means they don’t experience the tremendous benefits of this movement, which is the whole point of teaching meaningful progressions of movement, not just novel exercises. 

This post is going to take you down the road of how we have been able to teach the DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training Around the World so successfully to our clients at Envision Fitness. 

Step Two: Fire up those engines. A whip like motion of pivoting the hips generates all of the power for the Ultimate Sandbag to continue in its cyclic path. This is much easier said than done!!

Typically, trainees and coaches’ alike rush the practice and understanding of this phase, which leads to under an powered gyrating mockery of the Ultimate Sandbag Around the World, this version of movement is better served on the dance floor of a country bar!!

Learning to generate a powerful rotational force with the hips is hard enough on it’s own let alone while trying to maintain the ‘orbit’ of the USB (hence the rubbing-tummy-patting-head analogy). In order to get you started I’ll steal some advice from DVRT Master Instructor Seth Munsey, Drill then Skill. First we must teach our trainees how to generate rotational power with their hips. Enter the Med Ball.

Coach Q’s Tips:
Drill #2: Med ball Rotational Throws

Purpose: Eliminate the gyrating cowboy effect
-Cue athlete to throw the ball ‘through the wall’, encouraging lots of power
-Ensure the inner leg remains stationary and the foot points straightforward both throughout and after the release of the med ball
-Coach your athlete to generate power by ‘throwing’ the med ball from their hip; watch for the outside hip to accelerate toward the inner hip, causing internal rotation of the inside leg.
-At first allow the athlete to re-group between reps then progress to ‘rapid-fire’ reps one after the other- this will help with the timing necessary to transfer to the ATW skill

Next let’s ditch the Med ball and practice the rotational power using our USB.

Drill #3: The slow-standing Ultimate Sandbag Around the World
Purpose: Still working on eliminating the gyrating cowboy..
-Have your athlete practice with the USB from the start of the ATW position to the mid point (with USB behind the head). Here they will be working on transferring their skill of rotational power from med ball to USB.
-After a short pause in the movement mid-point, have them continue the dismount over the second shoulder.
-Watch that the athlete’s torso remains tall and rigid as in the TK ATW and that the hips move completely into internal rotation on both sides (it is very common for the ‘dismount’ hip to remain neutral instead of wound into internal rotation)

Once your athlete understands how to generate rotational power from their hips in the alternating ‘pivot’ fashion, the next skill to be learned is timing. The first hip action in the ATW ‘launches’ the USB into orbit over the first shoulder; the second and most important hip action accelerates the USB through the sticking point around the head and off the second shoulder. The timing of hip ‘pivots’ is not symmetrical. Launching the USB up to the first shoulder with the initial hip pivot is much like drawing back the elastic of a sling-shot prior to firing. Think of the initial hip pivot as essentially ‘loading’ that hip. Once the USB reaches the first shoulder, the internally rotated hip must rapidly fire, initiating both the second pivot and the acceleration of the bag through the sticking point. When the timing is off, the USB will get stuck behind the head or the trailing arm will get caught on the head during the ‘dismount’ of the USB off the second shoulder.

“Pivot-Pivot” (grooving the pattern above video)
Purpose: Still working the gyrating cowboy…it’s a stubborn one!
Without the USB, have your athlete practice the timing of the hip pivots while standing in place
I use the expression ‘load-explode’ to encourage the athlete to quickly fire the second pivot after the apex of the first is achieved. This will take some practice.
There will be a longer pause before returning to the beginning of the cycle.
Now add the USB, things should be coming along now but make sure to watch that torso remains rigid, the hips are fully rotating AND the timing is working to accelerate the Ultimate Sandbag properly

We’re almost there! Now you have all the basics, you’re probably wondering why this motion still feels so awkward. Trainees often report, or when you watch them you’ll see: the USB seems to get stalled coming off the second shoulder and it often looks like their head is in the way of the trailing arm. Most trainees will lower their head to prevent contact with the arm and they will often say that their arms aren’t long enough for this movement. In my experience this happens as a result of trainees literally ‘arming’ the USB around the head. I don’t blame them, as this is what we initially taught them in the TK ATW; but unlike its TK cousin, the standing ATW requires ‘loose’ arms. It’s slightly more complicated than, but sort of like ‘waiving your arms in the air like you just don’t care’.

Drill #5: Waive your arms in the air like you just don’t care
Purpose: To fix the ‘headless rag doll’
Seriously. Be silly with this one. Without a USB, instruct your athlete to completely relax their arms and initiate the standing ATW hip action over and over. After a good laugh and some practice you will actually see the arms move in the exact orbit we want the USB travelling in. You’ll be tempted to skip this silly step but I assure you you’ll regret it if you do!
Once you’ve mastered the jello-arm ATW in the first step, add the USB. This will take much practice, but learning to relax the trail arm in particular through the orbit will allow your athlete to stay tall and perform the standing ATW in consecutive repetitions.

Like in our tummy rubbing analogy, if the hip motion is to rubbing your tummy as patting your head is to relaxing the arms in the orbit of the USB; in order to teach the two motions to occur simultaneously it is easiest to master each movement separately to the point of unconscious competence (ie you can do it without thinking about it) then work on combining the two skills.

There you have it, everything you need to know in order to ‘get’ the USB ATW. Coaches, advance you’re ninja’s wisely. This skill is advanced and takes a lot of practice and coordination. I once heard a saying that stuck with me: “Anything worth having is worth working for”.