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The BIGGEST Sandbag Workout Mistake!

I get it, because I did it! When I began fooling around with my homemade duffel bags in the very early 2000’s, I used them just like an alternate barbell. So, that means I programmed them and progressed any sandbag workout like I would a barbell. However, as obvious as it seems, it even eluded me back then, a sandbag isn’t a barbell.

You might think “duh” but also “so what?”. What ultimately got me so inspired to start teaching people a whole new way of thinking about functional fitness and strength was the unique opportunities that a well designed fitness sandbag (as in our Ultimate Sandbag) would allow us to achieve.

There are many variables of training that the Ultimate Sandbag excels in that much of other strength training equipment doesn’t. We have the loading position during the exercise (we have over 11 positions with the Ultimate Sandbag), or even the planes of motion we can build significant strength and power in that most other forms of resistance struggle to do. However, of ALL the many special attributes of the Ultimate Sandbag, the one that escapes people the MOST is the idea of dimension.

ultimat sandbag workout

One of the first challenges I took on in creating the Ultimate Sandbag (I started in 2004 with my original designs) was how large should the various sizes of USBs be for our DVRT Ultimate Sandbag workout programs? I first noticed with my homemade sandbags that when you changed the weight you also changed the size. As I thought about it, not too many other tools had this very consideration and NO tool used it as a means of progression.

A barbell really never changes its size, neither do dumbbells, bands, and many other tools, not in a way that purposefully changes our outcomes. Kettlebells can, but it isn’t really part of their programming either, heck, competition kettlebells take away this variable completely by making all kettlebells the same size.

Of course, there is a difference between something being unique and another in it being valuable. I’ve found over the years that dimension gives us one of the most powerful benefits of our DVRT Ultimate Sandbag workout programs. How so?

Small Is Deceiving

If we think of smaller dumbbells, we just think they are lighter and we don’t really prioritize exercises differently due to the size of the dumbbell. Barbells, they function the same no matter the load and kettlebells are often falling into the same category as do dumbbells, medicine balls, and even bands. It is only a matter of lighter or heavier.

In our DVRT Ultimate Sandbag workout programs though, dimension allows us to work on different qualities and most importantly, give valuable feedback to the body for better movement.


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A post shared by Cari Satre (@coachcariii)

Our Core and Power Ultimate Sandbags allow us to do rather focused corrective and core work because the dimension allows us opportunities the larger Ultimate Sandbags do not. You might think, well, they are also lighter right? People forget, I could make a Strength Ultimate Sandbag, in theory, weigh the same as our Core, so that really isn’t the biggest factor. A Strength Ultimate Sandbag at 20 pounds functions COMPLETELY differently than a Core at the same weight. That makes dimension an important variable in our DVRT Ultimate Sandbag workout programs that is essential to consider.

Ultimate Sandbag workouts

As Cari Satre shows above, two great examples are in our Dead Bug and Bird Dog progressions. In our Dead Bug actively pulling the handles apart engages our lats/core which gives us a much better position in which to move our legs because our core learns HOW to brace. It is also VERY different from trying to pull bands apart because we have the weight of the Ultimate Sandbag that our body has to react to as well.

During any of our drags we want to use a Core or Power because of the dimension and the handles on the side (I’ll explain why no handles on larger Ultimate Sandbags). We want the surface area to help create that friction on the ground which dumbbells and kettlebells don’t really provide because of their smaller surface areas. The pliability and position of the handles gives us that lat/core engagement that we also aimed to achieve on our Dead Bugs. Even with handles on the larger Ultimate Sandbags, the increased dimension would be WAY too much friction and throw off the position of the shoulders too. In other words, they would actually make our Ultimate Sandbag workout programs less effective. That doesn’t mean we don’t have plenty of drag progressions by changing how we use the weight of the Ultimate Sandbag.



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A post shared by Cari Satre (@coachcariii)

Smaller Ultimate Sandbags also allow us to increase the leverage of the weight while keeping that lat/core engagement. This allows us to optimize movements like lifts/chops as Cari shows above and even progresses them to more dynamic exercises that make our DVRT Ultimate Sandbag workout programs be able to address corrective exercise, stability, mobility, and strength all at once!

Bigger Is Different, Not Better

Larger Ultimate Sandbags obviously give us more weight, but the dimension increasing is what also gives us way more instability in the form that many people think about in regards to a “sandbag workout”. The larger an Ultimate Sandbag can challenge more of our movement accuracy in a host of drills like Cleans, Snatches, Presses, Shouldering, and drills like MAX Lunges.


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A post shared by Cory M. Cripe (@corymcripe)

Cory Cripe shows that even among larger Ultimate Sandbags the greater dimension of the Burly gives way more instability than the Strength USB. These sizes of Ultimate Sandbags can be the same weight, but give our Ultimate Sandbag workout programs very different stresses because of the larger instability of the Burly.

However, we don’t always use the size to create more of a challenge. In the case of drills like our Bear Hug Squats, knowing the right dimension of Ultimate Sandbag can help us teach better movements. For example, there is a reason that we have a Power Ultimate Sandbag and Force USB. They can go to almost the same weight limits, but the dimensions make them better for certain exercises than others. The Force size is great for Clean and Presses, but isn’t so great for Bear Hug Squats because the circumference is too small to create the proper tension. The Power USB is “fatter” because it allows us to perform drills like Bear Hug Squats and even Shouldering with sizes of USBs that actually give the appropriate feedback to the lifter.

Typically we recommend Bear Hug Squats to be used with a Power or Burly Ultimate Sandbag due to the dimensions they offer and how they are able to hold the weight.

Some of these concepts can be really felt when we use our Front Loaded position because the dimension of the USBs will create more or less load on the core and the rest of the body. It isn’t just weight, but also the size that we have to really program and progress in our Ultimate Sandbag workout programs. This doesn’t make training more complicated, in fact, it gives us WAY more solutions to help people be successful. Most people simply aren’t aware of this factor and when they become educated on the benefits that it can offer it allows them to achieve so much MORE in their Ultimate Sandbag workout programs!

Cory explains below how the Front Loaded position, especially on our Front Loaded Good Mornings can make such a HUGE impact to the challenge and results you get!



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