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How to Really Build Strength

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It is sooooo interesting to me! It is the internal discussion that shows up once in awhile. A discussion that really lets you know how people feel about something. In fact, it showed up this past weekend at the Perform Better conference. During a great lecture by Robert Dos Remedios a gentleman asked, “so are kettlebells and Ultimate Sandbags really just for conditioning work?” 

What I find interesting is not that this gentleman asked such a question, but that it is something that probably a lot of people are thinking. To be honest, I get it, a barbell can outwardly go SO much heavier than kettlebells and Ultimate Sandbags it would make sense that if you wanted to get REALLY strong that you would definitely have to place emphasis on the barbell. 

Well…..you see that depends how you see strength. That is why I wanted to use this blog post to discuss the myths of how we see strength training and why tools like Ultimate Sandbags and kettlebells should get way more respect! 

It Is All About Force!

Those looking to develop great strength will typically say that with the barbell you can create far more force, so game over! Well, not soooo fast. The unfortunate thing to debate this point is that there isn’t a whole lot of studies out there comparing the force of kettlebells and Ultimate Sandbags to that of barbells. 

The limited studies available are also not what they seem. A very famous kettlebell versus barbell study (HERE) gave the edge to the barbell. Yet, if we look at the actual study it was a 35 pound kettlebell versus 80% of the individuals barbell max effort. While I am definitely one to say weight is not all equal, such a difference makes a reliable comparison difficult. In fact, when the weights were closer (still not the same) kettlebells performed very comparable to that of the barbell (HERE)

You can begin to see unfortunately there just isn’t a lot of studies yet (we are trying) with Ultimate Sandbags. However, we can extrapolate some of the kettlebell results to be similar to that of kettlebells if not one better than the other at times.


The point being, we really don’t know if one tool creates more force than another. We tend to default that just because the weight is heavier we get more force production. The reality is if we look at the limited studies we are seeing tools like kettlebells can create high levels of force with loads much lower than we would typically see with the barbell. 

You Can’t Progressively Load

I have worked with a lot of awesome coaches at the university level and sports teams. So, this is not shot at them, but they are often stuck on numbers. Most notably, being able to progressively increase the load of the weights they use over time. Percentages and other aspects of designing training programs tends to take emphasis for many of these coaches. 

Yes, Ultimate Sandbags and kettlebells really don’t fit well if you were going to base your program on these types of concepts. That doesn’t mean they can’t be used to track incremental progress or develop great strength. 

When kettlebells were first re-introduced in the early 2000’s they came in 16, 24, and 32 kg sizes (35, 53, and 72 pounds). No way you could get strong like that right? Part of the beauty of kettlebells at that time was the focus on ALL the other variables of progressive overload. Like what? How about….


-Range of Motion

-Body Position

-Load Position


To name just a few. Initially kettlebells worked largely on the goal of old time strongmen who always tried to make the lightest weight feel heavy. Partly because metal was in very limited supply so training like we do today was literally impossible. 

Don’t worry though, they often performed feats of strength that are almost impossible to replicate in today’s strength landscape at body weights far less than some of our best athletes. 


DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training expanded our capability of stressing our body in more efficient ways so that we could have a more holistic manner of training our body than just load. If load was THE BEST way to build our body, we would have people lifting several thousands of pounds and that just isn’t the case. 

What seems like a limitation is about doing things just a different way. We can still make incremental progress and changes to training, we just have to focus on different things that end up with actually superior results!

We Do More Than Just Up and Down

This is the toughest concept for people because it makes TOTAL sense and then leaves everyone scratching their head why we don’t take this as more of a priority in fitness. Like it is SO obvious how are we failing to address what real world strength is all about. 

If you look at the barbell it is designed really to just move up and down. You might think that goes for any strength training tool, but when you look what Ultimate Sandbag Training and kettlebells allow for with movement you will see we can do A LOT more than just move up and down. 

Sport and life require us not to just produce force, but resist it as well. In fact, many studies have shown that injury occurs not because of our inability to produce force, but our lack of strength in resisting it! That means we have to do more than just move up and down. 


This is slowly changing, but much of fitness was based off of Powerlifting and Olympic lifting that really only requires you to go up and down. Now that movement and real life training is more of a focus, the priorities in our training are changing and how, as well as what, we prioritize as strength is changing

I hope this is giving you a different perspective of strength. That is what we have done in over a decade of helping people transform their functional fitness with DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training. They are constantly amazed how lifting loads much less than they were use to are building resiliency and strength they always dreamed of achieving. 

Change is always a process, but thanks to having the right tools we can make BETTER fitness programs. As renown strength coach, Alwyn Cosgrove, recently remarked, “the goal is not to have more tools and programs, but to become masters at using them.” I couldn’t agree more and if you want to see how you can use Ultimate Sandbag Training and kettlebells to develop real all around fitness check out some of our programs HERE.