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Ultimate Sandbag Workouts for a Better Low Back

sandbag workout

In over 12 years of doing DVRT Ultimate Sandbag workouts, you realize that you have some great information that you need to share again. Since low backs are something very close and dear to our hearts and everyone seems to love “Throwback Thursdays”, I thought this post was worth sharing again. The thought process of using DVRT Ultimate Sandbag workouts to build better movement and resiliency is a very core value to us, so check out how you can do it more successfully.

This past month has been quite a challenge. A 26 year old injury (L4-5 disc herniations) finally caught up with me to the point where I had three surgeries in about 14 days. Let me first tell you, it isn’t all that fun. In fact, it is quite humbling, but fortunately it gave me a lot of time to think about the smart and dumb things I did to be in the current position.

Ultimate Sandbag Workouts for a Better Low Back

In many respects, I would say that the training we have been showing you (the same training we use ourselves) had allowed me to live my life positively as long as I have. On the other end of the spectrum, there are things I wish I hadn’t done that I think made the injury even worse!
That is why this many DVRT Ultimate Sandbag workouts (like today’s)  is all about smarter low back training. That doesn’t mean just working on the low back, but looking for specific compensations, and knowing what is good and what is NOT good to do!

Setting Up Foundations
Good back training means looking for simple strategies that help us both evaluate good movement and look for weaknesses/compensations. Foundational movements are typically those with low complexity and been shown to be prerequisite to more common and complex drills. These tend to be exercises that start on the ground to remove more challenging movement variables. Don’t mistaken these exercises for your DVRT Ultimate Sandbag workouts is the power they can create and challenge they can pose!

Bird Dog: A very popular low back exercise that we use either as a strength or warm-up exercise for our DVRT Ultimate Sandbag workouts is the Bird Dog. It achieves many goals at once, the main challenge is not to go into lumbar extension during the movement. This requires bracing of the torso, so stabilizing the pelvis during cross pattern extremity movement.

sandbag workouts
Most will load or try to correct the compensation of this exercise with bands. While this is not inherently wrong, my experience is that the action against bands can accentuate lumbar extension. That is why we have found great success with Ultimate Sandbag Bird Dog drags. Very quickly we get feedback from the drag that if one braces we will see no movement of the lumbar spine. If there is a lack of bracing one goes into bracing immediately. Such feedback is invaluable in teaching this movement.


Advancing Side Plank: In Dr. Stuart McGill’s “Big 3” stability exercises it is the side, not front, plank that is actually tested. That is due to the fact that lateral hip and core stability has more correlation to low back health and performance. This is why frontal plane movements are an important progression to our DVRT Ultimate Sandbag workouts.
Once we establish a good side plank, we can progress it very similar to that of a front plank. One of the most popular and powerful front plank variations ins a push-up row. Well, we can use this concept and use the Ultimate Sandbag in a Side Plank Row. The leverage of the Ultimate Sandbag creates a unique stress on our lateral core as the weight moves up and down. Instead of being more anti-rotation like the push-up row, we actually fight flexion as a compensation.

 

Carries
Having been a competitive strongman, I have a great appreciation for loaded carries, but there are definitely good and bad ones. More importantly, how we implement them might be more important.
Many coaches have used loaded carries as a form of conditioning, however, the elevation of heart rate tends to be too low to create real high intensity training. There are three reasons for this issue…..

-Loading
-Time Under Tension
-Speed

Even with these three variables addressed, the best option for loaded carries is actually STIL not high intensity training, but an important and possibly better alternative to deadlifts. How?

sandbag workouts

In a doctoral paper, “Strongman Implement Training: Application for Strength and Conditioning Practice”, the author Paul Winwood discusses a very specific study comparing the deadlift and farmer’s walk. Breaking down all the kinematics and force production the following conclusion was made…..

“The farmers lift may have advantages over the conventional deadlift as an effective lifting alternative to generating more anterior-propulsive and vertical force with less apparent stress to the lumbar spine due to the more vertical trunk position. The farmers walk generated significantly higher vertical, anterior-propulsive and medial lateral forces in a characteristic gait pattern than unloaded walking. Such findings suggest that the farmers walk could prove to be an efficient mechanical stimulus to enhance various aspects of the gait cycle.”

Even Dr. Stuart McGill has suggested loaded carries could be a great substitution for deadlfits…..

“Exercises are tools to get specific jobs done. The way an exercise is performed depends on the rationale for choosing that exercise. First, list the objective and then decide on the best tool. Usually the best exercise is the one that creates the largest effect with the minimal risk to the joints. If the purpose is to create hip extension power, then exercises such as weighted carries and sled drags have to be considered.”

So, various sled pulls are fantastic for not just getting the heart rate pumping, but for other movement aspects as well. Let’s delve deeper into the loaded carries though. You might not be surprised that the two pieces of equipment that work best are kettlebells and Ultimate Sandbags. Aren’t they the same? Not really.

Kettlebells generally will go heavier and stress the grip more, Ultimate Sandbags will cause more instability and movement challenging the core instability to a higher degree. Cycling both is the best situation and the following options allow us TONS of options.

The Most Unlikely Hero
Many of the drills I have mentioned may not be terribly new to you, but hopefully you are finding some new respect and variations for them. One more I wanted to add was an unlikely hero that you will find with low back health and strength. Don’t take my word, but that of Dr. McGill one more time…

“In other words, could we have, see deadlifting generally uses up a lot of capacity at the back. If you have a good deadlifting session, generally there is not much capacity to do to much more. However, if we didn’t use it all up on deadlift and we took a heavy two inch manila rope or 1 and 3 quarter inch manila shipping rope and you simply grip into the ground put a big weight onto the end of that rope – say 30 meters away, or 30 yards away for you americans – and then hold that rope in hand over hand, you’re going to develop balance between grip strength, back strength, hip strength, hamstring strength, etc.”
Now while you can grab some sleds and ropes and set this all up (I’ve done with trucks, yikes), the reality is when you break down what Dr. McGill is talking about is a Bent Row! Now a Bent Row seems like one of the least sexy drills but after you see some of these variations you will see them possibly in a whole new light!

That is why you want to make sure you check out our recent posts HERE on how the bent row can be such a power house, but also see how we take the ideas of sled pulls to another level below!

Injuries happen, I am not going to tell anyone that you can never experience a problem. The key is doing things that give you HUGE benefits with minimal risks. You don’t want to be a statistic and if you are already battling the chronic low back challenge you want and need to know how to train smarter!

Don’t miss how our DVRT Restoration and Pelvic Control programs can give you great insights into these types of solutions. Save 30% on both programs for a limited time HERE with coupon code “newyear” as well as our ARES Sled HERE