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Ultimate Sandbag Training the Ancient Fitness Tool

Believe it or not, I never intended DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training to be a thing. It may be hard for people to see where we have taken DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training and believe that all I wanted to do was to learn how people have used sandbag training for centuries.

I fell in love with the idea of sandbag training and reading Brooks Kubik’s “Dinosaur Training” book. The book is full of lost of ideas of old strongmen, how they developed feats of strength that most of us would think of as impossible today even though they were often much smaller than today’s professional athletes.

Mr. Kubik’s description of how odd objects like sandbags built a different type of strength, no, he didn’t use the word “functional”, but that was what he was eluding to in his writings. As much of a fan of barbell training as Mr. Kubik is, he knew as did the old time strongmen that real world strength training isn’t perfectly balanced and predictable. It is more rugged, unstable, and varied.

“You feel as sore as you do because the bags (sandbags) worked your body in ways you could not approach with a barbell alone. You got into the muscle areas you normally don’t work. You worked the “heck” out of the stabilizers” (Kubik, p. 115).

sandbag training

Of course, nothing sold me more than the first time I make my own sandbag from an army duffel bag and garbage bags. Those first few sandbag training sessions sold me instantly. Being humbled by weights that were easily a third or less of what I would normally lift on the barbell definitely made me want to do as much research as possible.

As I have written in the past, once I get into something, I go 110% into finding out everything about it. To my surprise most modern fitness and weight lifting books had nothing to very little written about sandbag training. What I could tell is that sandbag training was something coaches used when money was an issue or they didn’t have any better options. You can take that as most didn’t think that sandbag training was very valuable, the first sign of something better they took it!

There was a nice book released by Ironmind back in the day. In all honesty, for the time the MOST extensive book on sandbag training and yet it was more of a pamphlet than book. I appreciate what the author tried to do and while there was some interesting drills there was little to no discussion on sandbag training principles, concepts, and methods. Still, the view of sandbag training seemed largely to be based around an “alternative barbell”.

That meant digging more and looking up as much as I could in the past about the world of sandbag training. I found some cool nuggets such as some think sandbag training can be traced back to the time of Egypt. That could easily make sandbag training one of the most ancient of strength training tools.

sandbag training

The famous old time strongmen the Saxon brothers used sandbag training but even outside of a contest, it is hard to know how it was used!

However, I could find very little upon its use during the time and finally came across some information by John Jesse in his book, “The Encyclopedia of Wrestling Conditioning.” A great book, especially for having been in the 70’s and what some suspect Crossfit was based off of! I got turned onto this book because my research had pointed to wrestlers and martial artists being the biggest supporters of sandbag training.

sandbag training

Why? The idea of strength and conditioning and athletes using weight training for sport is a relatively new concept. Many athletes for decades thought lifting weights would ruin their sporting performance making themselves bulky, immobile, and overall less athletic. This could be partly traced back to the fact that the first instructors of weight training came from the worlds of Olympic lifting, powerlifitng, and bodybuilding. Not really sports that look at how dynamic and movement oriented most other sports are in their design.

So, how would a Powerlifter train an athlete? Much like a Powerlifter! How would a bodybuilder train an athlete? Guess what? Much like bodybuilder.

Wrestlers and Martial Artists have had strength training a big part of their development for centuries and realized that the fluid nature of their sport required a different type of strength that you would often associate with what would be happening at a typical gym. They realized tools and methods like sandbag training would represent the dynamic type of strength they would need to excel in their sports.

As John Jesse even wrote, ““The use of heavy sandbags and their large circumference forces the lifter to do his lifting with a round back instead of the traditional straight back lifting with a barbell. It is this type of lifting that truly develops a strong back. It develops the back and side muscles in movements that are identical to the lifting and pulling movements of wrestling.”

sandbag exercises

I’ll admit, I was kinda let down that the overall amount of information written about sandbag training seemed so limited. What I DID start to discover was an interesting correlation. When it came to building real world strength or what we would call “functional” in many circles, sandbag training seemed to be of paramount importance. Wrestlers, martial artists, and strongmen all knew that sandbag training was something very unique and built a type of strength that was hard to replicate.

I find this so interesting considering where age seems to matter. You hear how popular tools of today like kettlebells, maces, and Indian clubs have immense value because they have been used for a long time. What I find MOST interesting is that of all these tools the sandbag has seemed to pop up time and time again in every culture for such a long and yet mysterious history.

It tells me that sandbag training gets often lost for the simplicity of the implement, yet we forget sophistication doesn’t come from the tool, but from the craftsmen/woman using the tool. For over a decade we have looked to not create a different sandbag, but one that would stay true to the history of being such a dynamic strength training tool and to do something even more dramatic!

Create a system of training that would honor the unique features of sandbag training so that the future of fitness would have a guide to see how sandbag training is so much more than a “bag of sand’. That is why we don’t want people to think of sandbag training, as far as I can tell, there has never been anything close to an agreed upon system of using sandbags. Rather we want people to realize the simple sophistication this tool allows for in Dynamic Variable Resistance Training (DVRT). What the past started we hope to build upon for an exciting future of fitness that will transform how we think of training forever!

Find out how we have brought this ancient real world strength training tool to the modern world of fitness! Discover why top strength coaches in the world are promoting the use of our Ultimate Sandbag Training programs. Check out our revolutionary Ultimate Sandbags HERE and our upcoming DVRT programs HERE