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Why I HATE Sandbag Training & You Should Too!!

sandbag training

It was several years ago that I made the decision to stop following hashtags like #sandbagtraining or #sandbagworkouts. Sounds pretty weird for a guy who has spent almost 18 years talking about all the wonderful aspects of sandbag training right? The reason that I had to commit to this was because a great deal of time, I would see something that the hashtag brought up and honestly, it would make me very sad. Like, almost a personal hurt to seeing what people were doing.

It was not about ego, it wasn’t about being right, it was about seeing how people were potentially putting themselves in positions to hurt themselves and at best, just not get any of the benefits that this tool could offer. It made me sad that people could write off both fitness and “sandbag training’ because it either hurt and/or wasn’t effective for them. Especially because I have seen with my own eyes and over the years how used with the right intent, how impactful such training can be not only on people’s goals, but the quality of their lives as well.

You might be thinking, “oh Josh, who are YOU to say how sandbag training should be done?!” To that, I would say you have a great point I am not saying it has to only be done “my way”. However, it does have to be used in a manner that trains the body to move better, perform at a higher level, learn all aspects of functional fitness, in other words, with great purpose and intent. I get notifications about sandbag training articles in mainstream media and they are pretty horrific for the most part. There were exercises recommended, but they were done with poor positioning, purpose, and without any regards for technique.

sandbag training

Most people don’t know I was writing about the benefits of sandbag training in A LOT of places like the Crossfit journal, T-nation, and many others well over 15 years ago. 

I remember years ago reading an article in a popular fitness magazine where a strength coach for a professional sports team actually stated that you don’t need technique during sandbag training because the weight shifts. Jessica would attest to this, my head almost literally exploded when I read this! When something is unstable you need to be MORE precise with your technique, not less, that defies the common sense someone who knows nothing about fitness would understand. If you walk on the street do you have to be more or less exact with how you walk versus if I put you on a tight rope? Hmmmm…

The truth is I am VERY open to hearing other ideas about how to use sandbag training better. I speak with awesome coaches all the time, brainstorming ideas, I developed our DVRT Masters program to have great coaches give their input to the way we can cue, progress, and program better. So, I hope as we go forward here it isn’t about doing it my way, it is about using strategies that help us achieve our fitness goals more effectively. That is why years ago, fitness expert Alwyn Cosgrove, and I decided to try to move people from sandbag training to Dynamic Variable Resistance Training, a system to show you how to realize the better solutions!

Size & Dimension Matter

I understand that a lot of people start with one Ultimate Sandbag and that is totally fine! There is A LOT you can do even with one singular Ultimate Sandbag. However, unlike many other fitness programs, we use not just weight of the implement, but the dimension too to build progression. That means we have to consider it isn’t just the weight that dictates how we do an exercise or what exercise we do, but the dimension as well.

DVRT UK Master, Greg Perlaki shows how we use smaller Ultimate Sandbags for drills like Press Out Squats, but have to use bigger and heavier USBs for Bear Hug and Front Loaded versions. 

sandbag training

Coach Troy Anderson helps us show that larger Ultimate Sandbags don’t work for drills like our lateral drags even if you can muscle the weight through. That is because grabbing the top handle disconnects the core/lats from the movement and places the load in the shoulder. We don’t want to grab the end flap because that has its own purpose that we will show and technique to be used.

Greg shows some great technique and progressions of our DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training lateral drags. When executed correctly they often need regressions, not progressions. If you do, here is a great one from Strength Coach Joel Gunterman. 

This is a much more effective way of building stability and core strength. 

sandbag trainingsandbag trainingsandbag training

DVRT Master, Larisa Lotz and Greg help us show that in DVRT overhead pressing is a great example of how different dimensions allow us different opportunities in using various sizes of Ultimate Sandbags. The first picture, when you are performing your DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training with a larger Ultimate Sandbag you want to clean the weight upon the fists to press. This is a great example of not a “Josh said so” thing, but a safety factor because pressing with the weight on the back side of the arm can hurt your shoulders as is explained below.

The second picture is one of our favorite ways to use Ultimate Sandbags to teach proper pressing strength, mobility, and stability. The Arc Press is more of a one arm press and gives us frontal plane stability at the same time. This generally works better with Core and Power Ultimate Sandbags. Larisa shows two women using our Power and Core Ultimate Sandbags differently. While there are a few people that have the shoulder width to press these smaller USBs on their fists, generally we recommend the outside handles or grabbing on the outside o the USB itself. This puts our shoulders in the right position and teaches how to develop proper tension.

How You Hold The Weight Matters And STOP Putting USBs On Your Back!

A big variable we use in DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training is how we change holding position to add intensity or build different progressions. That is because while you can change the weight of your Ultimate Sandbag from workout to workout or cycle to cycle, you aren’t likely going to do so during the actual workout. Upon first hearing this people get really confused as how they are going to build strength and progression. Guess what? You don’t do that either with your kettlebell, dumbbell, medicine ball, bands, should I keep going? With all those tools you are forced to get A LOT of them to go from weight to weight, only a barbell changes its load in small amounts (which makes you wonder why we base our program on the exception not the rule?).

Instead of forcing you to have tons of Ultimate Sandbags (although we wouldn’t mind, it makes feeding all our rescue dogs easier), we simply change the intensity by how we hold the Ultimate Sandbag. You have already seen some great examples in the squat and pressing overhead, but how about lunging as DVRT Master, Cory Cripe shows?

Physical therapist, Jessica Bento shows how we can also do so with hip hinges…

People often think this is making things more difficult, but I don’t see how?! I see it as making people’s workouts better because you don’t have to possess a ton of equipment and it gives you BETTER ways to progress your training. We are all for going heavy, but what if trying to go purely heavier isn’t solving your needs? What if to get to heavier weights you need to build other forms of strength instead? As the saying goes, “when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” Most people ONLY have hammers when it comes to progressing their workouts or building better workouts.

Of course it is probably best to end this blog (although if you like this let us know at info@ultimatesandbagtraining.com and we will do a part 2) with another safety issue. Putting the weight on the back! Let’s face it, people ONLY do this because they are most familiar in doing so with barbells because that is what people know. However, as you can see below, barbells were used in all sorts of ways until the modern barbell came about in the 1930’s.

These barbells were much lighter (metal was expensive and fitness wasn’t very popular) so they manipulated their body and holding positions (hmmm, sound familiar?). Back to the point, the barbell used correctly allows us to create a “shelf” on our traps and upper back for the weight to relatively comfortably sit upon. However, the Ultimate Sandbag has a VERY different shape so when placed on the upper back two things happen. Because there is no shelf, the lifter leans excessively forward and puts more load on their low back, or almost worst, they put the load on their neck as they run, lunge, and do other actions that really put an important structure at risk.

I really hope this post helps convey a few important ideas. One, we don’t tell you not to do something because you are going to all of a sudden explode today. We offer better techniques and solutions because we don’t want you to develop aches/pains from your training and we want you to get superior results from the work you do put into your DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training. Second, exercise is an opportunity, an opportunity to teach your body to work better and function better, we can teach our body to do great things, or we can beat it up. The latter isn’t that difficult to do. Lastly, we know there is such great power in these ideas and we don’t believe our ideas are the only ones. However, new ideas have to solve not “sandbag training” but training issues in smarter and more effective ways. I HATE the idea of us teaching “sandbag training”, rather we are teaching you a movement system that will help you achieve whatever your fitness goal no matter how much equipment you have, the size of your gym, or how much time you have to train!

In order to help you see where DVRT can go, we are offering a very special and limited time sale. For THIS week only you can get a Burly Ultimate Sandbag (we recommend starting loading at 60-80 pounds) and when you do, you can get either a Power or Strength Ultimate Sandbag for FREE!! We are doing this because you experiencing great functional fitness is the MOST important thing for us! Just use code “power” or “strength” HERE. 

*sale applicable to domestic customers only, excludes AK, HI, and PR. Please contact customer service at info@ultimatesandbagtraining.com if you are out of the states and would like a shipping quote in order to take advantage for this sale.