It is a saying that at one point I held like as close to fitness gospel as anything else….“don’t add weight till you master your body!” That might sound like heresy to go against such a popular mantra, but a few weeks ago I had an experience with a top fitness facility that proved otherwise.
A coach wanted me to look at his “whacky” shoulder. While his general shoulder mobility was good, it was clear that his right side was significantly different than his left. What was fascinating is I had him clean and press an Ultimate Sandbag. Under load his shoulder mobility became equal.
What the heck is that!
Load can be an amazing teaching tool when used with the right intent! In this case, creating tension against the Ultimate Sandbag activated the right muscles in his upper body and core, but also gave me insight that his shoulder issue was really a core and pelvis one! When we addressed the core and pelvic control we immediately improved his shoulder. Crazy right?! It isn’t magic, it isn’t a fairy tale, but rather understanding how the body works.
What I want to share with you is how we use Ultimate Sandbag exercises combined with the right tools to create some pretty special results to your fitness.
We often believe that load is just designed to make an exercise more difficult. However, it can be the best way for people to understand to move in the ways we want. Far too often we spend time trying to understand or communicate cues that are well intended but aren’t designed to create the changes we think! Part of that is when you have never “felt that” before it can be challenging to learn from just verbal cues.
Your verbal cues might be amazing, but remember, that is only one aspect of learning. Having people understand how to control and use their own body can be a great challenge. Load though gives feedback, allows people to create tension that leads to creating stability and therefore strength. This is one of the hidden “secrets” of our Ultimate Sandbag exercises. Not just the instability but the feedback and learning that deliberate actions in our Ultimate Sandbag exercises create.
What might shock most people is that we load people almost all the time immediately. Not because we are trying to be hardcore, but almost universally we all move better with load on our bodies. Chances are you already know this when it comes to something like the squat. If I give you a load in front of the body, you will get a better squat than if I ask you just to perform a bodyweight version.
It isn’t mystical, it is the reasons I just mentioned. Applying load in specific ways activates the smaller muscles that are not only often weak, but just not “awake”. Load can instantly activate our core and chains of the body. So, what is the secret?
Our goal isn’t just to throw load on people, but create deliberate actions with the load to use the right muscles. In our DVRT Ultimate Sandbag exercises, you will hear us cue actions like “pull the handles of the Ultimate Sandbag apart”, or “grip the handle of the kettlebell harder” and many more. The “secret” is really how we engage with the load to create a better foundation for movement.
A great example of this is demonstrated by the series of movements that DVRT Master, Ian Vaughn, has created some awesome Ultimate Sandbag exercises with Perform Better mini and super bands? The mini bands can be used in a multitude of ways and combining it with specific tension techniques in our Ultimate Sandbag exercises, we can develop much more successful outcomes for the client.
We don’t want to just hold the handles during Ultimate Sandbag exercises but try to pull them apart to activate more core and lats!
Sprinter Stance Deadlift and Rows
A concept that we want people to embrace in Ultimate Sandbag exercises is that of using the feet. This is game changing for most people as we often cue, “use the hips”, “squeeze the glutes”, “brace the core”. These are all actions we want, but they aren’t accomplished by what these cues are telling us.
Simply stand up, grab the ground with your feet like they are your hands. REALLY grab the ground and notice how your legs extend, your glutes get tight, and your hips lock into place. So, HOW we use the hips, HOW we squeeze the glutes, and HOW we activate the core is all a byproduct of using the ground with the feet. How do you get clients to understand that concept. That is where using the mini bands under the feet, keeping tension on the band requires gripping of the feet!
As we know though, all good functional movements have the goal of not just working muscles, but connecting the chains of our body, specifically the posterior oblique chain of lats, core, and glutes. While the action of the feet get the lower body going, what we do with the upper body to connect the chains is equally as important. People often round their backs on many hip hinging movements because they don’t create tension at both ends of the movement. It isn’t complicated, the simple cue of “pulling the handles apart” is a huge advantage of using the Ultimate Sandbag. The more open joint position of the shoulder and pliability of the handles allows us to create great tension in the lats that transmits down to the core. NOW we have a great platform into create successful and powerful movement.
The Dead Bug has come back into vogue, which is great. Heck, Dead Bugs Ultimate Sandbag exercises are a big part of our DVRT Restoration program. However, many coaches still struggle to get clients to truly understand the whole point of the Dead Bug. Sure, it is a core stability exercise, but what are we looking for? The goal is to keep the pelvis “quiet” as we move the extremities in a cross pattern.
Great, but again, how do we get clients to understand these concepts? Again, using the Ultimate Sandbag exercises with a mini band we can give feedback to make these connections and to activate the RIGHT muscles.
It isn’t just doing something different, these Ultimate Sandbag exercises are about doing things BETTER!
The mini band can be placed around the feet in advanced strategies and around the knees for an easier version. The goal is the same in both cases, we want to keep one leg stationary as the other leg moves forward. The mini band activates the glutes on the extending leg and strengthens the hip flexors on the static leg.
I know, do we want to strengthen hip flexors? Yes, as long as it is conjunction with such movements. Remember, hip flexors are core stabilizers too as long as they work with the rest of the core and don’t dominate it. In many people, hip flexors might be “tight”, but they are also very weak. This type of drill goes a long ways in stabilizing the pelvis and correcting a lot of tilted or rotated pelvis issues.
The upper body is the same as our deadlift and row exercise. Tension of pulling the handles apart activates the lats and core so the client gets important feedback and connection of the chains. The other benefit as Ian shows, is that we can create a lift/chop pattern to our Dead Bug. We know lifts/chops are an amazing way to build intrinsic core stability, so the Dead Bug is a perfect place to apply such a powerful movement.
Super Bands and Ultimate Sandbags Exercises
Ian also shows us how super bands can be a powerful tool in teaching movement and activation. Even better when connected with the tension techniques of the Ultimate Sandbag exercises. You will see some of our foundational movement patterns such as hip hinging, lunging, and developing mobility like the shinbox are all easier to achieve with feedback.
Ian shows a few ways we use the Ultimate Sandbag to create the upper body tension that works so beautifully with the resistance the super bands connected via our Core Strap to provide great core training. You see how Ian just doesn’t hold the weight of the Ultimate Sandbag, but creates tension whether it is “trying to break the bag apart” with his forearms, or “ripping it apart” by directly grabbing the Ultimate Sandbag itself. These techniques teach our client HOW to activate the core and lats to stabilize the shoulder and core to not only build strength, but stability that instantly results in better mobility. That IS how simple and powerful using Ultimate Sandbag exercises with the right intent can be for your training!
The band gives us direction of movement, it gives us feedback upon improper positioning/alignment, and most of all it forces us to brace the core so that we have that strong foundation in which to move. You won’t believe how a little resistance of the band transforms a common exercise into a powerhouse one! These techniques are not meant to be novel, but enhance how we get people to understand how to properly use their bodies.
What is most exciting to us about using Ultimate Sandbag exercises like this is that in an era where many facilities are moving towards either small or large group training, you can still coach at a high level. While you may not be able to sit down and micro manage each and every client, we can use movement and great functional fitness tools to be our assistant coaches. In fact, they may be better coaches because they move people in the ways we try to communicate verbally. Building the “wins” for the client enhances the experience and results. The ideal win for the coach that wants to separate themselves in the industry, a process that allows you to not just get ordinary results, but extraordinary!
You can even put a pretty powerful workout together. Try this both warm-up and workout with these Ultimate Sandbag exercises!
DVRT Shinbox: 30 seconds
DVRT Dead Bug: 30 seconds
DVRT Bridge: 30 seconds
DVRT Press Out Squats: 30 seconds
Repeat 2 times through rest only through transitioning through movements. Don’t go through the 30 seconds quickly but slowly through all the Ultimate Sandbag exercises.
DVRT Sprinter Bent Row and Deadlift: 30 Seconds Per side Rest 30 between
DVRT Lunge Band Press Out: 30 Seconds per side Rest 30 between
DVRT Explosive Front Squats: 30 seconds Rest 30 seconds
DVRT Front Loaded Good Mornings: 30 seconds Rest 30 Seconds
20 Shinbox Get-ups breaking up as many sets as needed finish in under 10 minutes.
Check out Ian’s great programs and others HERE and if you love DVRT Ultimate Sandbag exercises like this don’t miss our DVRT Restoration program for 25% off HERE with coupon code “holiday”.