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How Ultimate Sandbag Training Helped Build A Champion

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Several months ago a friend of ours, strength coach Wil Flemming, reached out to Jessica and myself. He had an Olympic weightlifter he was coaching named Mary who was having some low back issues. Mary is training to make the next Olympic Games in weightlifting. With her current numbers she would be HIGHLY competitive for a gold medal in her weight class. Of course, that means injury or any sort of pain would be a BIG problem for her reaching her goals.

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This was going to be a fun for us and Jessica and myself couldn’t wait to see how DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training could benefit someone at this level. After all, many people still have a hard time believing that our Ultimate Sandbag Training is really something that can benefit high level athletes. The loads aren’t as big, so how do we help such people get really strong? Well, let’s go through the process and it will make a lot of sense in how these ideas can help you!

Starting With Some Good Screens

Doing this all digitally because of the distance between all of us was going to provide some challenges, especially for Jessica. She couldn’t do any hands-on assessments that she would normally do with a patient, so what did you we do? We decided on some screens that would give us a ton of information, but wouldn’t rely on a lot of specific skills in doing the screens. That is why we chose looking at how she walked, how she performed a foundational exercise like a bird dog, how well she stepped down and up from a six inch box, and a few others.

Screens can’t really diagnose, but they can give us some important direction and when we see similar things across several screens we can feel confident that we are on the right track. Someone who can snatch 257 pounds and clean and jerk 336 pounds you would think has no issues with some of our simple screens right? Well, in each screen we started to see a trend of some pelvic instability with shifting of the hips, rotation of the hips, and upon the step down a lack of control in the movement.

How is that possible? How is it that someone SO strong could have some foundational issues? The truth is that it is far more common than people would probably think. Even in coaching some professional athletes, I found this to be a trend. It is often a byproduct of several things…

-Sport Training: you would be very hard pressed to find good coaches that say sport is actually healthy for the body. Very often athletes have to fight through injury, perform a lot of repetitive work, and push their bodies to very high limits. Done repeatedly this can result in many of the issues we saw with Mary.

-Repetitive Training: this still probably goes under the issue with sport, but every sport has lots of repetition to it, they have to! Throwing athletes usually have issues because of how many times they throw from the same side, running athletes accumulate a lot of miles on their body, and many other sports require a lot of time refining their skill which also can build significant issues in their movement.

-Not Having Enough Movement Strength Development: the idea that if you get really strong in lifts like squats, bench press, as well as snatches along with clean and jerks means that you have everything your body needs. However, working with Mary, here is someone who is VERY strong in her squats, snatch, as well as clean and jerk but having issues. Why is that? With that mentality we often fail to develop strength in other planes of motions, positions, and directions. This means that our nervous system doesn’t learn how to coordinate the body in ideal ways and we can build major compensatory movement strategies.

Mary, to her credit, could relate to all 3 of these issues that led to us seeing the compensations in the pelvis that was probably giving her some of those low back issues. What did we do?

Having A Realistic Plan

One thing I learned early on in working with athletes is that there is ideal and there is reality. In a perfect world an athlete could get away with some of the issues that caused them problems in the first place, rarely is that realistic. For Mary, she had the Pan America games coming up so having her stop snatching and doing clean and jerks wasn’t going to be reality. What we had to do was devise a plan that would give us a chance to develop these areas that were potential weaknesses, but also allow her to train on her competitive lifts.

That is where we used our DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training for two different goals. The first was a thoughtful warm-up where we could work on some of the compensations that her body developed through her sport training.

Coach Greg Perlaki demonstrates some of the ideas we used with Mary in her warm-up using DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training. 


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Mary working on some important DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training exercises to develop those qualities her competitive training had not spent as much time upon, especially core/pelvic stability.

Then Mary had two training sessions ( being a high level athlete is your life revolves around your training), she did one session of her competitive lifts and a second working on a movement strength circuit with our DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training at the heart of it. We used that training time to use DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training to develop strength in different planes of motions and positions that her weightlifting didn’t really develop. Drills like Cory Cripe and his crew at Fitness Lying Down were used to develop such strength.

Coach Greg Perlaki shows some of the other types of DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training movements that made up a combination of Mary’s warm-ups but also strength work. We tend to underestimate how stressful it is for even really strong people to move ways they are not use to in training. We carefully balanced Mary’s training to take this into consideration, but her and Wil’s commitment and trust in doing things that don’t seem part of a weightlifting program is ultimately had the real solution.

What was the result? Mary ended up not just feeling better, but winning her weight class at the Pan Am games! This wasn’t our victory, it was Mary’s and Wil’s. However, it did show that this “crazy” type of functional training that DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training offers can make champions out of people who are already great, imagine what it can do for your goals! You don’t have to be a future Olympian to train really smart and get great results!

Our winter sale has begun starting with 25% off our Ultimate Sandbags, Online Education, and DVRT Workout programs. When you invest in ANY of our Ultimate Sandbags, you will also receive our DVRT For Beginners, Intermediate, & Advanced Training programs for FREE! Just use code “wintersale” HERE

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