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What Makes This Core Exercise So Powerful

sandbag workouts


Jessica Bento, Physical Therapist (Co-Creator DVRT Restoration Certification, DVRT Pelvic Control, Shoulder, & Knee Courses)

You might have seen some strange movements in a lot of our DVRT programs that we say is an amazing core exercise, but looks a bit odd. It doesn’t look like a plank and it doesn’t look anything like a crunch/sit-up, what is it. Training these diagonal patterns may not really be an obvious powerhouse core exercise but if we take the time to understand why we would work such patterns you will transform how you think about core training overall! We here at DVRT are firm believers that knowing the “why’s” are very important regardless of where you are in your fitness journey. It also helps to understand the intent and when you might use such movements. So I thought I would explain the why behind some of these exercises that pop up a lot in DVRT.

Why should diagonal patterns be used in training and make for an essential core exercise? Well, we have to know where something came from in order to really understand it better. Diagonal patterns stem from the world of PNF or proprioceptive neuro facilitation dating back to the 1930s and 40’s was a therapeutic system. First introduced by neurologist Herman Kabat and the principles furthered by physical therapists Margaret Knott and Dorothy Voss in the late 1950s. Utilized often in physical therapy practice, diagonal patterns were found to be more effective than traditional single joint motions in treating dysfunction. That is because our body is actually designed to use these diagonal patterns as we move. 

PNF incorporates those diagonal patterns which often cross the midline. You see these movements in everyday life and sport such as throwing, kicking, even walking and running. PNF patterns require increased stabilization and most times movement across multiple planes of motion requiring the increased integration of muscles, specifically our core musculature which in turn improves overall movement quality and my favorite, function strength. 

ultimate sandbag exercises

Basically, you work more muscles as well as actually working natural movement patterns, good deal right? All too often our training in the gym is solely designed to see how much weight can be moved this is primarily done in one plane of motion. Our training should be reflective on how we actually move and diagonal patterns are a great way to do that. 

Lifts and chops are a rather common exercise you will see in DVRT as well as in the fitness world which are considered a diagonal pattern. Lifts/chops also represent the idea that “proximal stability creates distal mobility.” In layman’s terms when someone experiences lack of mobility, it isn’t always or even rarely is just a flexibility issue. Stability limitations by the individual can cause the body to go into a protective mode and reduce the mobility of the extremities. Creating this stability by “turning on” many of the intrinsic muscles allows the body to gain immediate changes to mobility especially of the shoulders and hips.

I typically use diagonal patterns to improve core stability and strength, make stronger connections in the kinetic chain, and as stated above, improve overall movement quality and function strength which I hope are all good reasons to perform these movements.

core exercise

One of the coolest parts of DVRT is how we use concepts like lifts/chops in so many different movement patterns making many drills both strength and corrective at the same time!

Now you might be saying, “what does the even look like?” “What exercises are you talking about?”

Lifts/chops can be used for just about ANY movement pattern and they can make the an exercise easier (as Josh will break down) or they can add greater strength/stability demands as you see in some of the drills above. However, it does make your core training smarter because a great core exercise teaches the body how to work smarter in a wide array of different environments. Like all good movements though, HOW you do them is incredibly important as well.


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A post shared by JoshHenkin (@joshhenkindvrt)

Of course probably one of the most common questions I get is “can I use…” There is a reason that I recommend the Ultimate Sandbag for make a core exercise like lifts/chops better.

  1. The act of being able to pull apart the Ultimate Sandbag and connect our grip to our lats/core is something that instantly allows people to have the core engaged in the exercises. Where as using something like a dumbbell or medicine ball would force us to push our hands towards the midline causing more of the pecs and flexors of the body to be used which we DO NOT want to do!

core exercise

You can see if I don’t pull apart the Ultimate Sandbag I lose the connection and often people bend their arms and load the shoulders, NOT the core!

2. We have load and tension all at once. One of the more common questions I heard after I address the difference between using the Ultimate Sandbag and tools like dumbbells and medicine balls, people will ask “what about bands?” Thinking that you can pull apart a band, but you have to realize that pulling apart is only PART of the equation. The fact that I have load as well  is what helps us make that core exercise an effective movement. Often done with bands and cables coming across the body is a better way to use these tools for lifts/chops, but people are always so amazed at the better connection through the grip and how we are creating tension on the Ultimate Sandbag which you can’t do with bands and cables.

Once we understand how and why, then we can start applying our DVRT lifts/chops to do everything from core stability, better shoulder/hip mobility, connecting the lower body to the upper for better strength, and just so many solutions. DVRT UK master, Greg Perlaki does a great job showing the lifts/chops from core exercise to really dynamic strength training.

What CAN confuse some people is sometimes you see us grab onto the Ultimate Sandbag itself and sometimes we grab the outside handles (we always use the smaller Ultimate Sandbags with these drills), what’s the difference? I explain why below, but once you see why this should be a core exercise you fit into your training at least for some drills you will find that your training gets much better and THAT IS the whole point. So, I hope this inspires you to try our DVRT lifts/chops in some of the movements we have broken down.

You can get workout programs like Jessica’s Better Backs, Knees, & Shoulders program HERE and a second workout program of equal or lesser cost for 50% off with code “bogo” or you can do so with any of our workout programs HERE