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The Squat That Builds Strength & Stability

sandbag exercise equipment

Jessica Bento, Physical Therapist (Creator of DVRT Restoration, Level 1 & 2 Certifications)

sandbag workouts

Disclaimer: the below statement is in fact false just in case you don’t read beyond the first paragraph.

“The longer you hold the side plank, the better. Anything in excess of a minute is good, two minutes plus is excellent. To make the exercise harder, straighten your supporting arm with the palm flat on the mat.” 

Found this on the great wide inter-web the other day when I was looking to see how long the longest side plank had ever been held for (which I couldn’t find, only a regular plank)…anyway not what this post was really about. 

That statement is wrong, but yet one of the first things that comes up when you type in side planks. Which is actually sad since the science just isn’t there to support it. 

You know what the science says? 

Well, Dr. Stuart McGill, a former spine researcher at the University of Waterloo, says there is “no utility” in holding the plank exercise for longer than 10 seconds. 

We really want a more reactive core, one that can turn off and turn on as that is the way our core functions a dynamic core. We just don’t tense up and hold that all day long. As we have said many times, train the way the body is made to function. 

core training

If we held planks all day long then we would end up walking like a monster! So, why do we train these unnecessary long plank holds?!

So why all this talk about a side plank? Well, most don’t know how to progress beyond a side plank besides variations of other side planks. We all know a side plank is great for lumbar stability, core stability and pelvic control but where do you take it? How do you progress this? Where else can you get the same benefit? 

Glad you asked. That is where the shoulder squat squat comes into play and I think it may be one of the most overlooked or under appreciated DVRT exercise but one of the most powerful in my opinion. 

Not many tools allow you to load the body like in our DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Shoulder Squat. Think about it, the weight is right upon your body, resting on your shoulder. You can actually feel all those lateral core muscle kick in as soon as the Ultimate Sandbag rests on your shoulder, you are trying to resist being pulled to one side…kind of feels like a side a plank. 

Coach Cory Cripe helps us show the connection from what we do on the ground with side planks and our DVRT Shoulder Squat

You see where I am going? The shoulder squat allows us to progress a side plank to a much more dynamic movement with all the same great benefits and even more. 

When you break down the shoulder squat you have your body moving thorugh the sagital plane just like most squats but now since you have the load upon your shoulder on one side you are restisng frontal plane motion..you just elevated your squat to another level. Your are welcome! 

The problem is that most people don’t think of the Shoulder Squat this way and miss some of the BIG things that make this such an essential DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training exercise.

Shoulder Squat Stance

You have to know first and foremost, people won’t know, or feel the compensations they make. How they stand is an easy one. A lot of people will not have their feet lined up squarely and/or they may have one leg out to the side more than the other.

Foot shift is VERY common and people won’t know they even did it! Use a line in the ground for some feedback or even a dowel rod to know if you are shifting.

ultimate sandbag shoulder squat ultimate sandbag shoulder squat ultimate sandbag shoulder squat

Some of the compensations due to lack of pelvic stability is a foot moving away (in the first pic), a foot rotating out (middle pic), ideally we want to see the feet in the same position (as picture on the right).

Some will even move one leg out further from the midline causing a hip shift typically to the side of the weight.

Pelvic & Body Compensations During Shoulder Squat

Once we get the feet right then we can watch the DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training Shoulder Squat. It is important to know that I am not going to ask you to pull out the tape measure or anything. All of the issues I am discussing should be easy to identify with a quick check of the eyes.

In a good Shoulder Squat the body should look even and you should notice no to very minimal shift of the hips.

In a lot of Shoulder Squats you will see the hips shift to one side (typically to the side of the weight) and you will see it appears as though one knee is further away from the torso. A clear sign we have some instability in the core.

ultimate sandbag shoulder squat ultimate sandbag shoulder squat sandbag squat sandbag squat

The goal of our DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Shoulder Squat is to have the load asymmetrically on our body but LOOK as though we are evenly loaded as we move. On the left we can really see compensations amplified as we move slowly into the squat. However, we can sometimes immediately see compensations (typically a hip shift) just when loading the body in this manner as you see in the second picture from the right. Before we start moving we want to make sure the feet, hips, torso, and even shoulders are in good alignment. 

Because of the complexity of the Shoulder Squat (there are a lot of parts of the body working) we aren’t diagnosing, rather evaluating. Firstly, are we using an appropriate weight of Ultimate Sandbag. If you are compensating then simply try to lower the weight. If we attempt this and still see the compensations then we may have to address some specific needs which I will write about later this week. The first step is to build awareness in knowing what is right and wrong in such powerful exercises. Lateral stability is one of THE most powerful qualities we can create in our fitness programs to increase our functional strength, resiliency to injury, and overall movement skills.

sandbag exercises

The Shoulder Squat is a great example of one of the classic misunderstandings of “sandbag training”. Many people would say the reason the Shoulder Squat is so difficult is because of the shifting weight of the Ultimate Sandbag. We have instability, but NOT because of the movement of the Ultimate Sandbag, rather because of the placement of the load and how this impacts our movement. That is why understanding our DVRT principles are so important, so that we aren’t just stressing or challenging our bodies, but so we do so in a manner that teaches our body to move and perform better!

If you know WHY things work then you can progress them and use them to their full extent!

Try using these tips and see how you do performing the DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training Shoulder Squat!

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