Jessica Bento, Physical Therapist
I use to think it too! The idea of using external load for my patients only seemed appropriate if they had the body weight movement down first! Oh man, I wish I could go back in time and fix that outdated idea I had.
Like many, I naturally assumed that external load always made an exercise more difficult. As I have rehabbed myself and used DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training more and more I have come to greatly appreciate how load is absolutely NECESSARY in teaching people how to move well.
That’s largely due to the fact that most people don’t know how to use their body. Just watching the Olympic gymnasts you can begin to appreciate how much skill goes into using your body weight at a high level. Since a lot of people have no idea how to tap into their body, using load as a feedback tool becomes really important.
This is especially true when you realize that when we move well we are actually using our body’s natural chains. Josh has spoken about the idea of “sling systems” and “fascial lines”, quite a bit. If those words seem to make your eyes roll back into your head you can break them down into some simple, but important concepts.
Your lat, core, and opposing glute work together. Your obliques are really important to the use of your hips. If knew nothing more than this you would actually be way ahead of most people with there training.
When you “turn on” these chains, movement instantly gets better. Instead of taking 6-8 week corrective phase to correct these issues. No, this isn’t an infomercial promise, it is understanding how the body works better. When we train the body as it is designed, it is amazing to people how much faster we see improvements.
A great example of this is the single leg deadlift. The major problem that most people have with the single leg deadlift is that most just aren’t ready to be in a true single leg stance. This is often a GIANT leap in instability for someone, so rather than throwing them into something far to advance, I would like to introduce you to our DVRT concept of rear stepping.
As the name implies, you are taking a step back instead of being true single leg. This gives us an opportunity to make the movement more progressive and the coach the chance to make sure the individual isn’t compensating. We are still using the back foot for some support which gives us stability and better use of our obliques. The second benefit is the fact we can make the step short or long depending upon our strength/stability.
If the rear step seems too aggressive then we can use a sliding motion thanks to something like a Valslide. This keeps us constant contact with the ground and gives us just another way to build sensible progression.
Now that we have determined the right level, we can talk about applying load. We begin by putting the load in a strong position of right in front of our legs. That’s not the whole story, what makes the Ultimate Sandbag such a useful tool here is that we can pull apart the handles. That instantly turns on our lats and core to make us more stable in our movement.
That is going to be amplified to a greater degree by not adding load, but moving the load to our Front Loaded Good Morning position. This means these first two loading positions are designed to really turn on those chains and make them stronger. We can progress by challenging the ability to use those chains without the feedback the load offers.
By moving to a kettlebell in the opposite hand we bring a more unstable asymmetrical load back into a stronger position (by the hip). We want to put the kettlebell in the opposing hand to stimulate our natural cross pattern (hand and opposite leg work together) and to help keep the obliques on that side active. Doing this body weight most people never know how to turn on their obliques to give themselves stability.
The hardest version would then be the stance leg and weight on the same side. We don’t get any feedback upon the opposing side and the leverage of the weight plays a big role. You will be amazed to see people that can lift big weights in a classic deadlift really struggle with this movement because of the challenge of keeping all the chains firing.
What did I do? I just walked you through a sensible series of progressions. Sure, we could alter the load or reps, but I wanted to demonstrate to you the power of changing placement of load. We can have variety, but really it is just progression or placing greater emphasis on a specific goal.
We could follow the same pattern whether we are starting in a standard bilateral stance or going true single leg. This isn’t just about having more exercises though, it is about showing you how easy it is to get anyone to be successful no matter their starting point or current fitness level.
That should be our goal ALL the time, take the most efficient route to better movement. Next time, don’t underestimate how weight can be a valuable teaching tool if you use it right!
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