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How to Make POD Workouts Smarter

ultimate sandbag training

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

“Its not the load that breaks you, its how you carry it.” An amazing quote from the great Lou Holtz. The sad fact is right now gyms, coaches, and everyone in fitness has to be far more innovative with how they train people. You can’t just rely on “going heavier” or just using a cool new tool. The pandemic has been a huge tragedy, but it is also exposing programs that really understand how to maximize ALL the important variables of training and those that have become overly attached to only one…load. I’m sure you want to yell at me right now, “but Cory you need load to get strong!” 

In NO WAY am I suggesting we don’t use load, but we often overlook how we can make a weight feel heavier to the body by means other than physically changing the load. At my gym, Fitness Lying Down, we are able to use a load and change the holding position in so many ways to either progress or regress any given exercise. Having the ability to change intensities on the fly based on how someone is holding the weight is proving to be very beneficial for us as we return to the gym during the COVID-19 pandemic. Not allowing clients to move station-to-station and share equipment during their sessions can be pretty challenging as a coach when matching abilities with proper load. 

ultimate sandbag workouts

I mean it was so simple and easy when clients could move from one station to the next and use the same Ultimate Sandbag someone else did because they were similar in strength. But those days are gone for now and we have to come up with smarter solutions in order to meet our client’s strength needs so they can have an effective, safe, and fun training session.

If you have been following DVRT for any amount of time you are familiar with the front loaded (FL) holding position, holding the Ultimate Sandbag in the crook of your arms and spreading it across the chest to amplify the front plank. So let’s say someone is happily squatting in their exercise pod with the USB in the front loaded position (USB FL Squat) and you as the coach feel it’s not enough for them. However, someone else has a heavier Ultimate Sandbag and you have to stick to your guns when it comes to your “no share” policy to keep your clients safe.

ultimate sandbag training

Before covid we had introduced these DVRT concepts to our gym so making the change wasn’t as challenging as it could have been. Creating better solutions helps us be far more adaptive. 

So what do you do?

With your cat-like reflexes, you can invite your Ultimate Sandbag Front Load Squatter to move the bag from the FL position to the top of the fists (FstL) while squatting. This very small change in holding position has now altered the perceived load amount and increased the intensity of the squat exercise! Your client now feels like the weight of the bag has jumped at least 10 pounds without actually changing the implement itself! Magic…or science…or both?

Some of the many options of increasing intensity in your Ultimate Sandbag squat without having to change the physical load of the USB.

We can further change the holding position to an off-set load where one hand is under the bag and the other is grabbing from the side. This is going to put more emphasis on anti-rotation for the squat or any exercise you incorporate it with – continuing to increase the intensity without increasing the weight of the bag. And for a full on, anti-rotational experience placing the USB on the shoulder will amplify the intensity with higher demands on the core to resist rotation in the hips, knees, and feet with any shouldered exercise!

Now let’s think implements for a quick second. Well…if you know me, there is no quick second when I explain anything. Have you seen my Kettlebells & Coffee episodes (shameless plug)? Let’s say, for example, that someone is living their best life in the pod assigned to them performing some effective sprinter stance deadlifts (USB SP Deadlift) with a 50 pound strength bag. Now we could change the holding position of the USB into a FL good morning – but 50 pounds might be too big of a jump in that front load position.

But hey! Here is a pair of 12kg kettlebells in their pod (how convenient)! Let’s say we set the USB down and have them hold a kettlebell in each had and perform the save DVRT drill. Holding two independent weights is going to require more core stability to successfully complete the 2KB SP Deadlift. One more thought on increasing the heat on this double kettlebell hip hinge…what if — now hear me out — instead of two kettlebells we only went with one! 

You might be thinking I’m off my rocker here because we have just cut the load in half. How can that be more intense? But many of us (including myself) miss the fact that strength isn’t just about how much you can lift, but also how much you can resist! Having all 12kg in one hand without anything in the other is going to really demand stability (through the hands and feet) to keep the body from avoiding rotation as a result of the lopsidedness of the weight distribution!

One last thing I’d like to cover: perceived intensity versus actual intensity. Here’s what I mean, let’s say someone is doing one of my favorite DVRT staples — FL Up/Downs. Well let’s say when someone completes a set of this lunge-building drill they are out of breath and their heart rate is through the roof. 

But now it’s “sprinkle week” at FLD, the week we change holding and body positions midway through our client’s monthly programs, and we have now taken the FL Up/Down to a USB Shoulder Up/Down. This same FLDer with the same USB performs the same amount of Up/Downs and comes out of it saying that was actually easier! What gives?!?!?

Holding the USB in the FL position for any exercise is a serious test of core endurance — think holding a plank for 10 minutes…that’s what it will feel like if you do a set of USB FL Up/Downs with an appropriately sized USB – but 1 minute of work instead of 10! Changing the holding position to the shoulder will not feel as taxing on your front plank, but the rules have now changed. Holding the bag in the FL position allows for more control and stability because of the evenness of pulling the bag across the chest.

However, with the bag on the shoulder there is more chance for the body to unnecessarily twist because of the need to resist transverse plane motion. Even though now the weight is perceived lighter, there is more demand on the core muscles to hold the body in position throughout the movement with the USB on the shoulder and according to science and good ol’ common sense, this just made the same exercise more intense!

If you’re looking to be a movement rock star and get more bang for your buck with minimal equipment, practice and learn how to manipulate holding positions to build a better, more functional strength training experience.

Check out Cory’s great programs and save 20% with code “save20” HERE that will change how you think about training and developing all around fitness!