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Top 3 Ultimate Sandbag Exercises for Strength & Muscle

sandbag exercises

Ian Vaughn, DVRT Master (Creator DVRT for Strength & Muscle and DVRT for Obstacle Course Racing)

sandbag exercises
On my fitness journey the past couple years I’ve learned many new ways to integrate DVRT Ultimate Sandbag exercises into people’s lives and mine. However, it never ceases to amaze me how the classic DVRT Ultimate Sandbag exercises I was taught originally from the beginning still have value to this day, and teach me new lessons on how the body works. So I wanted share my Top 3 DVRT muscle & strength exercises, and how they are unique. These Ultimate Sandbag exercises will not only help you put on muscle, but give a better understanding on how to move better without injury, and be stronger in the long run.

The Ultimate Sandbag Clean & Press

Should be no surprise here, there’s a reason why creator Josh Henkin made a whole five minute out it. For those who have taken the DVRT Level 1 Clean & Press Test, know this isn’t an easy feat to accomplish. Pass or fail, you learn a lot in these five minutes. Why? I’ve always considered the Ultimate Sandbag the best truth teller. Mastering the hip hinge and packing the lats down by pulling the handles apart are first required before getting the USB off the floor…if you don’t – its not really going anywhere. Once off the floor, the hips have to ballistically explode (like a jump) to get the USB to float into the clean to fist position…if you don’t once again – it wont go into the press. So if anything, consider the press the easy part. For a quick visual to this all together watch how I set up to clean and press effectively:

The reason this is so unique is BECAUSE YOU CAN get away with bad form with tools like the barbell. I am not by any means stating the barbell is bad. Its more people’s approach toward lifting the weight is the problem. That’s the thing about DVRT Ultimate Sandbag exercises, the instability and design give you constant feedback upon where you are strong and weak!

Many compensate by hinging with the low back and cleaning by pulling the weight with all arms. A strong athlete would laugh if challenged to 100lb barbell clean & press test. However with the DVRT Ultimate Sandbag it makes you think twice…literally. With the constant shifting weight, the nervous system has to constantly adapt to the load and this is why you’ll see most get pissed at the USB; if you do one rep passively it’ll just drop back down. Since the barbell is static weight it can’t give you the same tactical feedback. So if you’re a avid barbell lifter, the USB will give an even greater appreciation toward clean & pressing effectively and highly decrease your chances of injury because it taught you the real truth on how to lift. You will get the real essence of Ultimate Sandbag exercises.

sandbag exercises

Sept 2014 – DVRT Level 1 Course taking the Clean & Press Test. Of all the Ultimate Sandbag exercises this one NEVER lies!

Ultimate Sandbag MAX Lunge

What DVRT Master, Elizabeth Andrews calls our “sexy move” – rightfully so. It gives a unique twist many don’t notice…it’s like a kettlebell swing. Except now the horseshoe pendulum shape gets flipped going side to side (unlike the kettlebell going back & forth). Notice in the comparison picture below how they both finish in a tight and vertical plank, but are completely different in the back swing phase. With the rear big toe dug down and the USB on the opposite side rotating; the MAX Lunge challenges the whole body in all planes of motion. This is how Ultimate Sandbag exercises can compliment and not necessarily compete with your kettlebell work!

Top 3 Ultimate Sandbag Exercises for Strength & Muscle
So if you’re performing it slow or fast, there’s still a high neurological demand to keep the Ultimate Sandbag from throwing you off balance. That is one of the true beautiful things that Ultimate Sandbag exercises give you that many people miss!

This gives a new level of explosive strength gains and builds the legs with strong functional muscle. To get more in-depth understanding, watch me and DVRT Master Elizabeth Andrews take you through it:

USB Lateral Drags

Lastly the USB drag redefines what real core stability is in very little time, with focused maximal effort. Planks have become a simple but very effective exercise, but typically what happens when a person is “holding” a plank…its the completely wrong idea because I’ll see the shoulders shrugged into the neck, arms or legs not locked out and of course the hips will piked up. Notice the top incorrect picture with broken lines everywhere, versus the bottom picture locked into a solid plank with the Ultimate Sandbag. Why and how does it make the plank better?

sandbag exercises

Stealing stability from the ground up and creating tension in the right places of body is a true practice of total body strength. So when adding the Ultimate Sandbag lateral drag, this now turns the plank into a anti-rotation exercise (meaning you’re resisting the hips and shoulders from shifting side to side – keeping them stacked over each other). This requires a lot of strength for the glutes, lats, and especially the core all at the same time. This takes much practice for BOTH to tense because when the glutes tense, the lats want to relax. These muscle groups are so big they require a large scale of muscle fiber recruitment from the nervous system. So by corkscrewing the outside USB handles this helps create BETTER output into the lats during the drag – which results into more core bracing and glute contraction. This takes so much effort, no more than three drags in per side is optimal in a set. Do not go Ricky Bobby, “I WANNA GO FAST” in this exercise pulling the USB back & forth with little tension (the lazy drag: as seen demoed in the video below) . If you want to advance it, go SLOWER with a quality plank and drag intact each rep.

Many people think that of all the Ultimate Sandbag exercises they can do this one with any tool? The difference is the size of the Ultimate Sandbag that creates friction which creates resistance. Versus a dumbbell or kettlebell that has a small contact point. Plus, you hear on many Ultimate Sandbag exercises that keeping tension on the handles pre-loads the body to connect the core in a better way!

If you’d like to make all three of these a great workout here’s a interval style workout I learned with Coach Dos at our recent DVRT Masters Summit:

Set Interval Clock for 40 Seconds Work and 25 Seconds Rest
Perform 5 ROUNDS: all three exercise equal 1 round

sandbag exercises

For muscle building content and workouts like this, check out my new program DVRT for Strength & Muscle (HERE)

sandbag training

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