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Shoveling for 3-D Power Training!

sandbag fitness equipment

Cory Cripe, DVRT Master (Creator of DVRT Movement Strength)

I was really excited to see that shoveling was included in the DVRT Big 6 because of how horrible I was at it in the beginning and that I treated it like most people treat exercise they see on the internet and social media.

sandbag training

Listen, I understand how we see an exercise on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, you name it and can’t quite see the intent of it, but only the task of getting it done. So, we see something cool and try it out for a couple of reps and if it doesn’t quite jive then we throw it to the side and search for the next shiny object.

That was my first impression of shoveling with the Ultimate Sandbag. This was before I was a Master Instructor – heck, it was even before I was DVRT Level I certified. I was following DVRT through YouTube and saw this exercise and thought it looked pretty cool. It was a kettlebell swing but an ever cooler swing with an  Ultimate Sandbag!

After watching the video a couple of times and skipping past the instructional BLAH, BLAH, BLAH because, ‘Hey, I have a degree in exercise; I know how to move.’ I picked up my 50 pound strength USB and did a few reps and stopped. I did not like the way it felt. I didn’t throw my back out, but let’s say it left my low back feeling kinda icky and it didn’t feel as cool as it looked.

So, for something that started as a disaster in the beginning, why am I such an advocate of the DVRT shoveling drill now and believe it deserves a spot in the Big 6?

Let’s start with what went wrong.

  1. I was very well versed in deadlifting at the time and was OK (that’s putting it nicely) doing good mornings with the Ultimate Sandbag, but that was it. My hip hinge experience was very basic and really, all that concerned me was being able to rock the power cleans! 
  1. Hip hinging, for me, in the sprinters stance was not very good. My dominant side held up pretty well, but as soon as I switched feet – my hips would get all wacky and it felt terrible compared to my dominant side. (That should have been a red flag)

The sprinter stance can be a great way to identify movement issues, especially as we move to power based movements. 

  1. I wasn’t doing anything rotational at the time. Pivoting while exercising was still foreign for me. (This should have been a BIG red flag)
  1. And let’s not forget the fact I went right to the 50 pound strength USB when a smaller, lighter USB may have been a better option to start with.

Dimension, not just load plays a big part of the progressions of DVRT.

But, for whatever reason, I thought I could simply grab a USB (and not exactly a light one) and do this DVRT drill. As a result of it not feeling great and me not looking cool doing it, I decided to put this exercise away and chalk it up as a silly move that was “too functional ;)”

I’m grateful my ego wasn’t totally destroyed and that I didn’t give up on DVRT because as I slowly grew less hard headed, I figured it was a good idea to attend a live event and go through the DVRT certification process. Even though I thought I knew a lot about how to handle the Ultimate Sandbag and perform the DVRT exercises, I was also realistic about the fact there had to be more to learn. And oh boy! was there ever!

A huge takeaway from the Level I certification, and one I continue to process, is the progression of movements. This is why I think shoveling is a great Big 6 DVRT drill! You have to be proficient in other movements before you can even step on the stage and make it happen. Not only do you have to know how to hip hinge, but you need a good background in rotation, and you better not forget about being able to master catching the USB with your hips and not your arms!


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DVRT Master, Sean Lettero helps us break down how to perform Shoveling with the RIGHT technique!

These three concepts and more are necessary to find success in shoveling. You can’t just walk into your local gym and pick up any sandbag and start throwing it around expecting it to be fluid and seamless. It needs to be earned!

I’d like to lay out for you some key DVRT exercises to work on to better prepare your body for the rotational demands of shoveling and build the necessary strength to work your way up the Big 6 ladder.

Numero Uno…

Adding DVRT side planks into your sessions is a great place to begin. Looking at the side plank and looking at shoveling you might be wondering, ‘Why? Has Cory finally gone off the deep end and has no idea what he’s talking about!’ 

I’ve been accused of worse 😉

I’d like to look at us training the movement, not the exercise. And the requirements for a stellar rotational movement comes from the ability to resist forces in the frontal plane. So, if you can begin building frontal plane strength through the many variations of side planks using the Ultimate Sandbags, then you are one step closer to feeling as cool as it looks to shovel!

The next drill is a “go to” for me at Fitness Lying Down when I need to teach our clients how to pivot in a controlled manner. The bear hug rotations will instantaneously connect the upper body to the lower body when rotating and pivoting. And this right here is what shoveling is all about, being able to pivot and rotate but not lose the connections from the feet and the floor.

Many people, myself included way back when, aren’t very good at pivoting their feet to create an authentic rotation through the hips. So – like any skill that is new to us – we need to start slow. While bear hugging the USB (and this means tearing the USB apart as you pull it down and into your body) slowly begin pivoting one foot as you continue grabbing & pressing down with the other. 

What we don’t want to see happen is both feet moving. When this occurs – we are no longer working in the transverse plane.

I know, I know. It looks so simple. But why do things have to be complicated all the time. When done right, you will be amazed at the core integration from such a simple, yet effective, DVRT drill, can you say, ‘Hello Obliques!’ And learning to rotate from the hips and not twist from the waist is going to set you up for success for shoveling and any other rotational exercise/movement thrown your way!

Final movement to help build you up for an effective DVRT shoveling experience is the high pull. But not just any high pull – a sprinters stance high pull! What I like about the high pull is how you need to have an amazing hip hinge to be efficient at it. You’ve all ready worked your way from the most basic of hip hinges, deadlifts & good mornings, to be here.

And the high pull is such a key exercise when it comes to learning how to catch the USB with the hips and not the arms. And trust me, after completing the hip extension to “swing” the USB in front of you, it’s very important to have the ability to guide it to the other side by catching the force with your hips and not your low back!

And why sprinters stance and not in a more stable position – such as having the feet shoulder width apart? Like the DVRT side plank variations, our goal is to build strength in the frontal plane to prepare your body for rotation. Placing yourself in a sprinters stance means moving in the sagittal plane, but resisting frontal plane forces, and the explosive nature of the high pull, while resisting these forces, is going to make certain your core is reactive ready to create and resist forces.

Of course, I would recommend improving any rotational power movements after these three fundamentals are mastered. These rotational power movements can include high pulls, inside-out power cleans, and rotational power cleans … and I’ve never been opposed to the occasional rotational snatch, too!

Check out Cory’s DVRT Movement Strength Programs HERE and save 30% on our DVRT Workout Programs &  Ultimate Sandbags  with code “holiday2020” HERE!


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