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Ultimate Sandbag Workouts For Stronger Upper Body

sandbag training




I have to be honest, I have somewhat of a love affair with pressing weight overhead. In my early years of lifting I loved to bench press. I was pretty good at the bench press in even in high school, but it wasn’t till much later than I would find my passion for the overhead press. Part of my delay in developing my relationship with the overhead press was the fact I came into the fitness industry in the late 90’s where pressing overhead was suppose to be TERRIBLE for your shoulders. Now we have come full circle where everyone wants to press everything overhead! You will find why and how Ultimate Sandbag workouts are such a cornerstone of doing these movements right and getting the results you want!

sandbag workouts

My love of pressing definitely showed in my days of strongman competitions!

My own personal attachment to the overhead press began when I started to Olympic lift. Although I was quite good with the bench press, I felt darn weak in putting any weight overhead. I learned quickly that the overhead press wasn’t just a fancy name for the shoulder press, but really requires integration of the entire body. My weakness didn’t stem from a problematic upper body, but I didn’t understand how to properly utilize my body as a singular unit—really the basis of what functional training is suppose to teach us.

The fact that overhead pressing was one of the three classic ways old time strongmen measured strength (lifting from the ground and carrying weight were the other two), I felt like I was gaining a better form of strength. Not only focusing on the Olympic lifts, I began to compete in Strongman where lifting all sorts of different implements overhead required even more awareness on how the whole body is responsible for developing strength, not just a single muscle or group of muscles.

sandbag workouts

Our Ultimate Sandbag workouts like Clean and Presses really demonstrate this need of balanced strength, power, endurance, stability, and mobility.

That is when I really began appreciating how our Ultimate Sandbag workouts could be such a great benefit. The instability and unique movement of the Ultimate Sandbag made pressing not just a practice in muscling a movement, but how to be precise.

You see, when people say they like “instability training” they really don’t know what they like about it! There is a big difference between using an unstable surfaces versus unstable implements.

Research has shown time and time again that unstable surfaces don’t build greater strength or activate more muscles. However, unstable implements do! For example, when researchers looked at dumbbell press versus barbell both standing and seated and they found the following…

“..the exercise with the greatest stability requirement (standing and dumbbells) demonstrated the highest neuromuscular activity of the deltoid muscles, although this was the exercise with the lowest 1-RM strength.” (study here)

Not hard to buy into then, but the inevitable question of, “how do I go heavier if Ultimate Sandbags don’t go up by 5 pound increments?” That is where understanding our DVRT system gives you more in the sense of how to build success in our Ultimate Sandbag workouts.

In DVRT when it comes to manipulating upper body movements we change body position as a means to make things 5-10 pounds heavier or easier. This is a concept used in body weight exercises all the time, but seems to get missed in external loads all the time. If you wonder if it works just look at the body and strength of a gymnast, wrestler, or even martial artist!

Changing body position isn’t just a means of making things easier or harder, but fixing issues in your press as well. A lot of people actually have a leaky press. What’s a “leaky press”? They rotate and laterally bend when they press overhead. While some may argue that this is an old school method, it does reduce the carryover to other forms of overhead pressing because you can’t lean when you use most other implements in pressing overhead.

In my mind, the overhead press is just as much a great trunk stability exercise as it is an upper body exercise. The overhead press has a lot of similarities to the push-up, by learning to resist the pull of the weight to one side or the other, we actually build integrity and strength through the hips and trunk (similar to altering body position during a push-up). We can then stress the body in a two different ways with leverage and focus on trunk stability.

-Change Body Position

-Alter Pressing Motion

-Or Both!

DVRT Master, Cory Cripe, shows how we progress our pressing instead of just changing weight challenging more and more of our movement accuracy. 

The following breaks down these ideas so you can easily integrate the right progression for your goals. You will quickly find which variation is the toughest for you and you might have to make this version your priority! Understanding these principles allows you to press almost every training session and self periodizes your training.

Try a cycle like this one:

Monday: Heavy

Military Press 5 sets of 3

sandbag workouts

Most people don’t know the military press is feet together almost like a soldier position, hence, military press

Wednesday: Medium

Kneeling Press 3 sets of 5

Friday: Light

Half Kneeling Arc Press Press 3 sets of 6 (per side)

Or you can use some of these awesome ideas that Ian shows in these Ultimate Sandbag workouts. Check out his great DVRT workout programs and more while saving 25% with coupon code “save25” HERE