One of the most confusing things to me are the mixed messages that we get in regards to tools like Ultimate Sandbags, kettlebells, and the like. On one hand, people know that a 100 pound Ultimate Sandbag or a 100 pound kettlebell feels REALLY heavy. At the same time, people think loads like a 100 pounds can’t build serious strength because after all, 100 pounds on a barbell isn’t that bad and even easier on a trap bar. So, what gives?
It was my good friend, Troy Anderson, that gave me the idea of putting things in context of 100 pounds because that number is something we can wrap our heads around. For most people, lifting a 100 pound Ultimate Sandbag or kettlebell is serious work. What gives though? Why is 100 pounds NOT the same and how has this mislead us to understanding that our tools don’t all operate the same way?
If 130 pound Ultimate Sandbag can humble a former All-American Football player and still stud of a strength coach, Robert Dos Remedios, we know weight is NOT all equal!
To this day, we get people asking about getting a 200 pound Ultimate Sandbag. I get it, you can lift 200 pounds on a barbell pretty’s easily, so makes sense right? That is until we go over the VERY significant differences! Here is why we can’t just judge our tools on weight alone!
Center of Mass
Barbells and dumbbells have us grabbing onto them right where their center of mass lies. That means the weight almost moves with our hands and is more balanced. If we take a kettlebell, the handle is actually much further away from the center of mass. This is why a kettlebell of equal weighted dumbbell actually feels heavier. There is more leverage against where we are holding the weight.
One of the great benefits of using heavier Ultimate Sandbags is that you can’t cheat the lift. So many times on social media we see people cleaning 20 pound USBs and that’s fine, but you have to then make sure people don’t build bad habits because most people need WAY more load to execute proper power. That is unless we change some of the other variables as you will see below.
This is even MORE significant with Ultimate Sandbags because unlike a kettlebell, there is basically NO weight in the handle. That means all the weight is away from where we are gripping. Such a difference creates HUGE leverage when we lift the weight making something like 100 pounds feel MUCH heavier than it would with something like barbells or dumbbells.
Going into patterns that people almost avoid completely with the barbell (because it would be dangerous) and few times with kettlebells (again, they don’t lend themselves incredibly well for this…) like rotation really exposes the difference in load and the center of mass can work to increase the intensity of the movement of the weight.
It is the same reason that a trap bar is safer to lift, but also much easier to lift heavier loads. The grip is right by our body’s axis of rotation which decreases the leverage on the low back, but makes the weight MUCH easier to lift. Again, that is why lifting 400 pounds on a trap bar can be very different to that of a barbell. This isn’t to say one is bad or good, but most people fail to realize these differences and make incorrect leaps to why one weight feels very different than another.
Of all our DVRT concepts, the one that really is new to most people is that of dimension. This largely happens because most other tools don’t really use dimension of the weight to impact how the weight is used or how it impacts the training. In fact, many tools try to negate this role of changing dimension which is why you see bumper plates of all equal size in Weightlifting and all kettlebells are the same size in kettlebell sport.
DVRT Master, Cory Cripe does a great job showing how dimension of equal weighted Ultimate Sandbags changes the feel of the SAME movement. So, it is important to understand how impacts this variable can be to your training!
When it comes to sport, it makes sense. You want to get so dialed into a technique that you don’t want something like changing dimension of a weight to throw you off. However, that is the OPPOSITE of how we think in DVRT. Of course we want you to improve in your training, but we want to reinforce accuracy of movement every chance we can. So, when we have weights of different dimensions we have different things that happen.
You see in the video above, using a Burly Ultimate Sandbag makes a lift like a Bear Hug Squat better. The dimension of that Ultimate Sandbag allows me to create tension for stability and make the weight part of my body so it helps me into the squat while also giving me a challenging load to lift. If I were to use a smaller Ultimate Sandbag, the smaller dimension and the lighter loads don’t let me achieve the benefits that the Bear Hug Squat offers.
Dimension also changes the level of stability of the implement. For example, both our Strength and Burly Ultimate Sandbags can hold 80 pounds. However, the 80 pounds in the Burly is VERY different than the Strength because of the dimensional changes and that Burly becomes way less stable. That means we not only have to be strong, but very proficient in our movement capabilities.
The idea of dimension is something that anyone who has used any type of sandbag knows. It was actually sports coach and professor John Jesse that laid out in his 1974 book “Wrestling Physical Conditioning Encyclopedia”, “Forms of progressive resistance exercises used by old-time Indian wrestlers were heavy sandbags weighing 40 to 120 pounds…” (p.82) It wasn’t till we started DVRT that we actually systemized this concept.
Don’t get me wrong, some coaches realize this impact and use it to demonstrate why judging our programs and tools on weight alone actually lead us down the wrong path! As fitness expert, Alwyn Cosgrove, gave a great example of this…
“Let me explain “Alive” – let’s say you can deadlift 100lbs. Now try to pick up a 100lb child who doesn’t want to be picked up! It’s an entirely different type of strength – one that grapplers and mixed martial artists can attest to.
I can remember my brother coming to visit and squatting over 200lbs very easily. I gave him a 100lb DVRT Ultimate Sandbag and asked him to clean it and front squat it. He couldn’t do it. The Ultimate Sandbag moves around too much.”
The crew at Fitness Lying Down knows all too well about this! When we talk about strength training that has carryover to real life, this is why tools like Ultimate Sandbags are so effective!
Position of Load
The number one reason that people will tell me they want to get into DVRT Ultimate Sandbags is because the weight is unstable. Well, it is, but not for the reasons that most people would believe. For example, when you hold the weight in the front load position for something like a squat, lunge, step-up, hip hinge, etc. the weight isn’t unstable! Where the load is placed on the body makes the body want to fall forward. You need a lot of upper back, core, and hip strength to NOT let that happen. Unlike a barbell Zercher position, the dimension of the Ultimate Sandbag makes this aspect much more profound!
This is an example of drills that LOOK similar but FEEL very different. While I can feel my core and upper back on the barbell, I also feel my low back, upper traps wanting to kick in etc. Why? Because I can’t create proper tension as I explain in the video. Similar appearance, VERY different outcomes and ways it impacts my body!
Position of load is something we very rarely think about. That is because tools like a barbell on give us really about 4 options, kettlebells about 4 as well, where Ultimate Sandbags give us 11! With so many more options of how to place the load on our body in different ways, we can stress the body in unique ways and build progressions in ways other than just going heavier.
You can see from the progressions that DVRT UK master, Greg Perlaki shows that we can build a movement pattern into some sophisticated ways by just changing how we hold the Ultimate Sandbag. This is so incredibly valuable right now where coaches are trying to figure out how they are going to be able to help people with different fitness levels and abilities while NOT changing too much equipment.
Recently, DVRT master, Cory Cripe was asking me to discourage him from making one of his Burly Ultimate Sandbags 150 pounds. Why would I not tell him just go to the capacity of the USB? Well, if you understand the role of dimension in our system then you can appreciate that when an Ultimate Sandbag gets close to its loading capacity it loses the mobility of the internal weight and becomes just like a big brick. There could be reasons to do this, but they are far fewer than having the weight be more fluid and mobile.
The other reason is that when you get to 100 pounds with an Ultimate Sandbag, 10 pound jumps don’t feel like 10 pounds, they feel much heavier! When you get to 150 pounds there aren’t many people that can do a lot with such a weight. In fact, when I was at a Strength Coach conference a thrower with over a 400 pound barbell clean came by and wanted to lift the 130 pound Ultimate Sandbag that I had sadistically loaded. After he struggled to clean the weight several times he asked me how much the USB weighed. When I told him he shouted “BS!” He couldn’t believe 130 pounds could be so heavy, but you have to realize the factors that impact the way we perceive a weight.
Here is Coach Dos going through our Clean and Press test. At 6’5 and around 250 pounds you see this 100 pound Ultimate Sandbag is still serious work!
One of the big reasons we don’t make anything heavier than our Burly is that there wouldn’t be many people that could actually use the weight in the manner we find most productive. We don’t just “make stuff” we try to create solutions that give you smooch in return! So, what weights DO we recommend? You can find the standards HERE, but this is also why we suggest the weights and sizes we do in our DVRT pod workout program. We want you to have a HIGH return on your investments and that means being smarter in how we use our tools! You can see in the video below, using the tools we recommend in kettlebells, bands, bodyweight, and Ultimate Sandbags definitely gives us way more options that we ever realize we have in most of our training. Think differently allows us to train better!
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