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Not Believing in “I Can’t” in Fitness

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As both a strength coach and rehab specialist, I have spent my last 13 years training a wide variety of athletes and teams ranging from the New York Yankees organization to youth athletes as young as 6.  I have trained a 60-year-old competitive motocross athlete and everyone in between.  Now I make my living working with hundreds of NCAA Division I athletes every year.

164260_234132976729422_1918056439_nThis variety makes my job lots of fun, but also extremely challenging.  Over time, I have used different training systems, tools and implements; all with their own strengths and weaknesses.

By many standards, I have worked with patients and clients that would be considered complex and challenging.  Looking back, I have encountered tibial and femoral osteotomies, chondral cartilage repairs, tumors, pregnancy, klippel-trenaunay-weber syndrome, cystic fibrosis, labral repairs, thoracic outlet syndrome, tibiofibular fractures, and many with sickle cell trait.  And the list could go on.

With all of that being said, as an Athletic Trainer, I only work with athletes.  Thus, the vast majority of people that I train are very healthy and I consider that a blessing.  Admittedly, those of you who work with the general population and non-athletes typically face complex clients and many challenging situations that I don’t see on a regular basis.

My Story

About 18 months ago, after experiencing some physical ailments and vision problems, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.  It was a difficult time for both my young family and myself.  At age 34, suddenly many things in my future had come into question with such a difficult diagnosis.

corrective sandbag trainingIn simple terms, MS is a disease where my immune system effectively attacks my nervous system.  The myelin that surrounds my nerves is being broken down.  Much like the wires that run through your house walls, if the coating on them breaks down, the efficiency of the electrical impulses will diminish and the likelihood of short circuits increase significantly.  As the myelin continues to break down, so does one’s ability to move, which is what leads many people who suffer with MS to a life in a wheelchair.

After a great deal of research, I discovered that the medical treatments for MS have improved immensely over recent years.  I was greatly encouraged by the medical treatment options, but it was also important to me that I take a proactive approach to control the disease with diet and exercise.  Luckily, there is quite a bit of good information on nutrition for those with MS.  The same isn’t true for exercise.

The vast majority of the present research on exercise with MS tells us that exercise is important for long-term cardiovascular health and maintaining flexibility.  But, the focus is on safe exercise, so most of the research is performed on machines, bands, and bikes.  While those implements are safe, they don’t do much to challenge the nervous system that is being compromised in a person with MS.  I have long believed that the priority for training “healthy” people should revolve around training the nervous system.  But, for those with a compromised nervous system, neurological stimulus training is theoretically much more important.

I have always been a fan of functional training, but after the diagnosis it was time to take it to a new level.  Implements such as TRX, Kettlebells, Vibration and even my bodyweight became more important than ever.

The DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training system was not new to me, but it now had new importance.  Because it is scalable, those of us who struggle with certain movements can always find a progression that fits.  The variety and diversity that the DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training system brings with such simple implements, is also important to me.

But, what I believe is the real value in the DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training system for me (and others with special needs) is the dynamic nature of the movements and implement.  Because the sand or water that fills the Ultimate Sandbags shifts rather easily, every rep of every exercise is different and challenging.  This constant challenge is a continuous neurological stimulus to anyone who uses it.

IMG_0812Understand that not everyone with MS reacts the same way that I have (and the same goes for other disorders).  But for me, the USB and the DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training system has been the most effective tool in my training since I was diagnosed.

Prior to my diagnosis, I experienced weakness, instability and chronic pain in the right half of my body.  My asymmetry made training in single leg movements and exercises with an offset stance (i.e. lunges) nearly impossible.  I can happily report that after several months of effective training with the DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training system at the foundation, along with some nutrition modifications and traditional medicine techniques, my MRIs are very stable, I present with no symptoms upon physical exam, and I have very few, if any restrictions in any physical activities.

Why DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training Was For Me

I can’t say for sure that the DVRT system will be as effective for others as it has been for me.  But I can say that I use it extensively in my orthopedic rehab practice, my collegiate strength and conditioning programming, and in my personal workouts.  What I have found is that there are several key advantages that the DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training system presents when training special populations.


  1. Scalability:  The entire system can be made to fit pretty much anyone at any time.  This can be in the form of changes in the movement, USB dimension, load, dynamics, size, or even grip.
  2. Systematic Approach:  There are prescribed progressions and regressions that have been established for every movement and exercise.  Like the scalability described above, this allows you to progress and regress clients to fit any restrictions or need.
  3. Versatility:  One mistake that a lot of people make is not using enough variety in their training.  Adding variety trains both the physical and mental needs of your client.  If you are a personal trainer, this is also important because it allows you to train around restrictions when needed.
  4. Dynamic:  The dynamic nature of the USB makes this tool stand above other methods when training special populations.  I’m sure there is someone out there who wouldn’t benefit from neurological training, but I can’t think of who that would be.  The nervous system is an integral part of all that we do and the DVRT system is incredible at fine-tuning it.

Keep in mind that with any client, you need to thoroughly evaluate and research their medical history and make wise decisions within your scope of practice.  If you aren’t comfortable working with them, find someone who can prepare them for your programming.  When they return, take a systematic approach with movements and implements that are challenging, but tolerable and safe.  Both you and your client will see the results you are looking for.

You can read more about Mitch’s work here: http://www.maximumtrainingsolutions.com

Not Believing in “I Can’t” in Fitness is a post from: Ultimate Sandbag Training System

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