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The Best Total Body Squat Exercise

sandbag workouts

A couple of weeks ago I broke down how we build the foundation to great squats with our Press Out Squat (HERE). What people love about our DVRT concepts especially as it relates to building a strong squat is how fast we can get people moving well and get stronger if we follow simple cues. The Press Out squat is a great example of using stability to help mobility while teaching people how to squat well. Of course, the challenge becomes because of the leverage the press out creates is we can only go so heavy in that lift. Where do we go from here?

press out squat

Just because we start having good Press Out squats, we often still need to keep building good movement habits while increasing our strength. That means we can bring the weight closer to our body and use what we call a Bear Hug Squat. This DVRT squat often gets lumped in with kettlebell goblet squats, but they are actually quite different. The biggest difference is that in the Bear Hug squat we make the weight part of our body, meaning that we don’t rely just on our upper body to hold the weight and that impacts our squat in two big ways.

  1. Our upper body doesn’t become the limiting factor and as we get heavier we don’t feel the load in our upper traps and back more than our legs.
  2. It is an easier way of engaging our lats into our squat and while often not spoken about, the lats are key core stabilizers and helps us build the stability to get better squats.


Even a well-trained kettlebell expert like Adrienne Harvey gets a more upright squat when we place her in the Bear Hug Squat position.

A relatively easy squat to learn, where can people go wrong with such a lift? There are still a few keys you need to have in mind when performing this movement.

Load & Dimension: The BEST Ultimate Sandbag to perform our Bear Hug squat with is a Burly USB because of its load and dimension. Compared to a goblet squat, as the weight gets heavier in the USB and larger, the EASIER it becomes to make it part of our body and use it for a great squat. In a goblet squat the heavier kettlebell often becomes more challenging in the upper body.

sandbag training

Physical therapist Jessica Bento shows a progression in our Sprinter Bear Hug Squat, but the concepts remain the same!

This also means that if you try to use a light or small Ultimate Sandbag this typically will not work well. That is why our Burly can be loaded to 60 pounds (with 3 fillers at 20 pounds) and is a reasonable weight for many people to use. If that isn’t possible because of the load, a reason we have the shape of our Power USB is to give dimension to a lighter load for drills like the Bear Hug Squat. This is so important because of HOW we use the load which is our next point.

bear hug squat

Tension & Ripping Apart: The position of the Ultimate Sandbag and HOW we hold the weight is what makes this squat so effective!

DVRT Master, Steve Holiner describes the differences of the kettlebell goblet squat and our Bear Hug squat, plus the intent in how we hold the weight to create our success. 

DVRT Master, Cory Cripe shows why the bigger and heavier load of the Burly Ultimate Sandbag is so effective in building a great squat! It isn’t just holding a weight, but how you use the weight to build better movement. 

The Bear Hug squat is not a complicated movement, but there are keys that make it so powerful as described above. Understanding the intent and how we use the position and load to teach better movement is so key in the results we can achieve with it. We can use these ideas to build simple workouts that cover a lot of functional fitness goals as my good friend Troy Anderson shows below.

Don’t miss our “End of Summer Sale” with 25% off ALL throughout out DVRT with code “train” HERE. When you invest in our Ultimate Sandbags we are giving a year’s worth of workouts as well for FREE HERE! You can also grab our dynamic DVRT workouts for 25% off HERE to keep you going strong through the rest of the year.