People were kinda shocked, well, maybe very surprised at the very least. When renown corrective exercise expert, Gray Cook, had fitness coaches try to perform an Ultimate Sandbag for time they couldn’t believe how challenging it was. The most surprising part was that the challenge had come in loads much lower than they were use to in other forms of carries. So does Ultimate Sandbag Training give you a different type of training effect.
This made me think about how a lot of people miss the whole boat on real world grip training, especially as it relates to using sandbags. I say real world because grip training can be a novel act like balancing on squishy objects. This point was driven home to me when I use to train with World Strongest Man competitor, Kevin Nee. Routinely Kevin would make fun of himself for being one of the worst of our group in performing grip acts like closing hand grippers. Yet, he would soundly beat all of us in farmer’s walks.
How is that possible? Grip strength, like strength in general, comes in various forms. Before we get too far into how to develop it you may think, “grip strength is nice, but I just want to get fit.” Well, believe it or not, grip strength can be really important to being more efficient and effective in your workouts.
Grip strength has been correlated to better rotator cuff function so if you want better shoulder health, grip strength should be somewhat of a goal. Another interesting thing happens when squeeze your fists tightly with a straight wrist. Try this, hold your arms down by your side and grip your hands really tightly, did you feel what happened? You feel your elbows turn out, your lats tighten up, and even your core start to brace?
That is what exercise science calls, “irradiation”. Basically by creating tension you are developing a chain reaction through the body that enhances strength through build stability throughout the chain. You can see it work big time in DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training in something as simple as the deadlift. Just get into a proper hip hinge, but don’t grip tightly or do anything in particular with the handles. Feel like a bit of work, maybe even feel a bit in the back?
Now try this, grip the handles tightly and actively pull the handles apart. You feel like your whole body is turned on? When you now deadlift and keep this tension does the weight all of a sudden become easier? Chances are you are nodding your head right now in agreement, that is irradiation.
One of the points I want to make here is that grip strength for the sake of “grip strength” isn’t much of anything. If we try to use grip to enhance how our body moves and functions then it does so much more.
Another grip example is what happens when we clean the Ultimate Sandbag to fists. In order to be strong here you have to create a tight fist and a straight wrist. Why both? Well, it is hard to have a tight fists and a bent wrist for one. Letting your wrist really bend in either direction instantly weakens your upper body. A tight fists and neutral wrist makes you strong!
Something a lot of people miss is that wrist strength makes up a component of grip strength. Legendary strength expert, John Brookfield, lists wrist strength right up there with crushing, pinch, and supportive strength. A break in the wrist position make a break in the chain. Where most people work just really crushing we have already included several other types of grip strength that not only make your hands, but your body stronger.
Those Darn Handles
Recently I enjoyed being a podcast for couple of fitness professionals. I always appreciate honest questions, especially those that probably a lot of people have, but may be afraid to ask.
In our case it is, “doesn’t the handles take away from the benefits of sandbag training?” When asked how I respond to such a question my gut reaction is, “they don’t understand the Ultimate Sandbag.” What do I mean?
The way people grip a duffel bag (typically by the sides) actually creates stability on the weight, not instability. With the Ultimate Sandbag, the weight is far away from the handles, so not only do we have more demands on our hands, there is also more instability of the weight.
When you begin to pull the weight in exercises like Cleans or High Pulls, the weight wants to drop away from you. Forcing yourself to pull against the handles and grip tightly gives you better stability and overall strength. This happens even on simple seeming exercises where it doesn’t seem like it would in things like Farmer’s Walks. With the weight so far from the handle and the weight can move, oooh, you got something tough going on there!
The best part is that if you have been following DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training for some time you know we don’t always use the handles. Press Outs, Shouldering, Arc Pressing, or even our Off-Set grip exercises are examples when we grab on the Ultimate Sandbag to create a different type of grip strength.
Hopefully you are starting to appreciate that grip strength isn’t something that just the hardcore lifter wants to accomplish. Understanding grip strength and how Ultimate Sandbag Training delivers in unique ways allows us to train smarter, use our body better, and end up being much stronger. Not a bad deal. So, when you train try to use these concepts, especially with the Ultimate Sandbag. Keep those handles pulled apart, do some exercises that require grip directly onto the Ultimate Sandbag, keep that tight fist and neutral wrist. Do so and watch your real world strength really improve!
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