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Where Functional Strength Training Should Start

sandbag training

Yesterday I told you how every time I hear strength coach, Robert Dos Remedios, present, I learn some important ideas about HIIT. Well, I wanted to brag about the amazing job Jessica did this past week in Tokyo as well. Of course, a proud husband wants to gush about not only his wife delivering such impactful content, but as some of you may know, Jessica HATES public speaking. However, she loves helping people and her two talks about innovative methods of low back and shoulder rehab were too good not to share! In fact, it is the perfect place for most strength training programs to begin. If they did, we would see people having way more success and way less aches and pains. 

sandbag workouts

The Role of Gravity

Many of you that follow our DVRT posts and programs notice we are big fans of drills like Dead Bugs, Bird Dogs, and Side Planks. Yea, they are great core exercises, but they are deeper than that! Probably a concept of functional training that almost no one talks about is the role of navigating gravity. Yea, it isn’t a sexy topic to bring up, you aren’t likely to brag about going #beastmode on gravity right? Yet, functional training experts like physical therapist, Gary Gray, make a BIG deal about strength training and gravity. 

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Gravity changes everything! Our ability to translate our strength training and injury resilience to life and sport is largely dependent upon this idea of gravity. Being agile, fast, powerful, is all about our ability to navigate gravity. Why so many injuries occur is because we fail to resist the forces gravity impose upon us. So, if it is so important why don’t most people talk about? Well, it is really hard to measure how much gravity you resisted or navigated right? 

It is this reason that so many strength training programs start people on the ground. Let’s see how well you move when you are on the ground and if we see compensations in such a stable environment, imagine what happens when we do more life and sporting actions. 

Making Connections

It isn’t a unique DVRT strength training idea to start people on the ground. Heck, we see lots of people now embracing drills like the ones we mentioned. They rarely think of the role of gravity and miss the next part even more so! While people see an exercise, we see an opportunity to teach people how to use their bodies better. What’s the difference? 

I see people posting all the time how to take their Dead Bugs, Bird Dogs, and Side Planks to the “next level”, they miss the true purpose as Jessica explained this weekend. These types of exercises teach us how to control our pelvis which is the center where our strength training for both our lower and upper bodies emulate from. If our pelvis is off and weak so will basically everything else! 

sandbag workouts

Just hitting our core with exercises isn’t the answer. Jessica showed how our upper and lower body are connected through our core. So, the real answer to the difference of strength training in the world of functional training versus bodybuilding is the focus on creating this connection or as Dr. Stuart McGill called “linkage” of the body. A great example is the how we try to connect our lats, core, and glutes together through these drills teach our body how to create stability and a foundation for our strength training. 


That means when we use different tools in DVRT we don’t just use them for variety sake, but because they represent different progressions to the movements. Let’s look at this Bird Dog variations that I believe are truly game changers……

Ultimate Sandbag: We use the Ultimate Sandbag as our foundation because it is the easiest way to teach this connection of strength training. Between the way we grab the handle and the friction on the ground that the Ultimate Sandbag creates allows us to build strength in the muscles, but more importantly make these connections in the body. That is why using a dumbbell or kettlebell is simply NOT the same!

Dumbbell: The dumbbell row here is not as much about building a big upper back like we are use to seeing in most strength training programs. It IS about driving into the ground with the feet and hands that allows us to resist the rotation that the row creates. That is why strength training programs that have this exercise on a bench don’t work as well. The lack of force we can create into the bench versus the ground makes the exercise suffer. 

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When it comes to building #corestrength , few exercises are better than the bird dog. While so many think of the bird dog as ONLY a corrective exercise, it is a powerful #plank , means of teaching how to press, connect the chains of the body, brings in the need to RESIST the other planes of motion, and connects #glutes with the core and upper body. —————- With the new found popularity of the bird dog, people are doing all sorts of variations. However, with the desire to make them “harder”, we miss the aspects of the bird dog that make it great! One of the big #fitnessgoals of the bird dog is to create a lot of tension into the ground by both grabbing with the hands and feet. As we move, the goal is keep that tension which keeps the pelvis in place. When we introduce these #DVRT variations the goal is not to make the bird dog more difficult, but challenge our ability to keep tension into the ground. These drills are more about pushing DOWN, than trying to lift the weight up or move the weight. —————— The Ultimate #Sandbag drag with @perform_better mini bands is to designed to connect the body from head to toe. The DRAG, not lift, of the Ultimate Sandbag, creates friction on the ground and the position of the weight allows us to connect the lats to the #core . The mini bands are causing a push/pull in the lower body activating both the glutes and hamstrings like we would in walking and running. ——————- The dumbbell bird dog row isn’t really about rowing, but driving the foot and hand into the ground. The rowing action is simply a means to challenge the stability we create before the movement begins. The use of the lever bell in the third variation takes the leverage of the bell to challenge grip which enhances shoulder stability and leverage to build up the smaller muscles of the lower back. These bird dog drills show that such a #coreworkout builds better strength, movement, and represents what #functionalfitness should be all about. #absworkout #ultimatesandbag #physicaltherapy #coretraining #crossfit #sandbags #kettlebell #functionaltraining #fitforlife #mensfitness #fitover40 #sandbagworkout #personaltrainer #fitnesscoach #conditioning #upperbodyworkout #

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Lever Bell:  What is the difference with using a Lever Bell versus a dumbbell? The length of the handle and uneven load really increase the challenge to grip, shoulder, and core. Being able to easily change the intensity by where you grip the load makes a big difference as well. You see a much better connection being built than the typical Bird Dog. 

Most important is realizing these are just foundations for greater progressions where we challenge ourselves to resist gravity more. An example is how we go to half kneeling positions like these.

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Coaches think helping people to have better shoulder mobility and strength means tons of stretching, mobility, and correctives. However the real point of #functionaltraining is to connect the chains of the body to produce better movement and strength. But what are we trying to connect? —————— ???? The diagram shows how our feet and core have a great influence over our upper body. In fact, one of the main jobs of the core is to connect the lower body to the upper body. So, how can we use the core better (as spine expert Dr. McGill calls the core for the shoulders, a platform). Using a half kneeling position and both feet driving into the ground helps our core and #glutes stabilize our pelvis. ————— ???? We also know grip connects to our shoulder as well as the lats, not shoulders or chest, are responsible for pressing. That’s why these 3 #DVRT drills aren’t about shoulders but grip, lats, and core! They are about pressing down NOT pushing out or up! You can create stronger and healthier shoulders in literally minutes if we learn how to train the body as it is designed to function. Each tool here does something different. From @perform_better Lever Bells, Ultimate #Sandbags , and #kettlebells to actually teach the body how to move better!

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Scroll through these 3 progressions. 

Then we can see how we make these progressions really challenging by going standing or taking away our stability like DVRT Master, Cory Cripe, shows in both these lateral crawls with our Ultimate Sandbag and ARES sled and as you will see in the background with standing Bird Dogs/Dead Bugs.

The point is how much more we can accomplish and the direction we can take with our training if we focus on the movement and understand what functional training can really be about!

Save 30% on our DVRT educational programs like our L.I.F.T. certification (Loaded Integrated Functional Training) and so much more with coupon code “springsale” HERE