Blog

8 REASONS FOR YOU TO START SANDBAG TRAINING TODAY

By Saravana Sekar
temp-post-image

When the word ‘Sandbag’ is brought up, you might think of a playground sand box, weighing down a tarp, or even making a military bunker (or water balloon fight bunker before summer officially ends!). But what about using one for exercise? Resistance training isn’t only geared around slinging iron and bodyweight; by using functional tools through multiple planes of movement, there is large room to grow and develop our Kinesthetic Awareness.

temp-post-image

IT’S NOT THE SOLUTION, JUST A PIECE OF THE PUZZLE

Is the sandbag the holy grail to strength and conditioning? Most likely not, but there is no one tool that will do it all for you. On the flip side, learning how and when to use sandbags can definitely help assist to continue a complete resistance training program.

If you are about to eat dinner and need utensils, you wouldn’t try to cut with a spatula and shovel food into your mouth with a can opener. Sure, eventually you could finish the meal and get the job done, but there is a better option to accomplish the task at hand. Maybe an odd example, but the same goes for when training with a sandbag. Many people (myself included) try to replace barbell movements with sandbag as ‘variations’ and add a wow factor. In the end, it’s not a barbell, its function and purpose is ruled by different principles that make its implementation have real meaning and uniqueness. Yes, the sandbag is a great option to use for things like squats, rows, presses, or lunging if using a barbell is too heavy or unavailable, but that is not how it is designed to work. I read an article on sandbag training written by Josh Henkin, who developed the DVRT system (which I will go over later) and his take on 2 movements that show this relationship. He wrote;

WHY DOES THE SANDBAG CLEAN FEEL DIFFERENT?

Ask most and they will say because it is “unstable.” This is not the case. The sandbag in a clean still moves through a vertical plane so there isn’t that much movement of weight. The difference has to do with the distance the hand is from the center of mass of the weight. During a barbell clean, the weight moves with you because you grip right through the center of mass. In the case of the sandbag, the weight drops away from your body as you pull because the hand is much further away.

WHY ARE SANDBAG FRONT LOADED (ZERCHER) SQUATS DIFFERENT THAN A BARBELL?

Most will again say because the load is unstable. Again, this is not the case. Once you are holding the sandbag, the weight can’t really shift. The difference has to do with the dimension of the sandbag. Holding a sandbag puts the arms further away from the body than a barbell. This increases the stress on the trunk and makes the weight feel much heavier. [source–> breaking muscle]

In my experience thus far, I have had difficulty trying to effectively cue and understand the demands for proper sandbag training; even more so than some more advanced kettlebell movements. For serious trainees, replacing your barbell for a sandbag shouldn’t be in your near future. Instead, use it as a great additional tool in your toolbox to execute multi-planar movements, more replicated into ‘real-life’ movement patterns.

THE 8 REASONS TO SANDBAG TRAIN

PRICE
If you’re looking to upgrade or start up a home fitness experience, I recommend getting an adjustable weight bag. They are relatively inexpensive when compared to other equipment, and since it can be adjusted can accommodate lifts demanding varied load sizes (perfect for progressing movements too).

LEARN WHAT LACKS, BUILD UPON IT
Wouldn’t it be nice to be fluent at anything new or foreign we try? In order to become the strongest and balanced be physiologically possible, our body must be able to adapt to both the unique and properly used movement patterns sandbag training demands. By exposing where we are weak, a better connection with our bodies.

DEVELOP SUPERIOR GRIP STRENGTH
Since all of the mass of the bag is compact in a small space, it becomes a seemingly larger force compared to a barbell. It is pretty tough to get a good grip since it is constantly internally shifting with your movement. The anti-radial/ulnar deviation and rotation properties recruit a larger demand of the forearm muscle units performance.

SIMPLE ADDITION INTO TRAINING
You can add in the sandbag right away for deadlifts, squats, presses, and pulls. This is not their overall design intention, but a good place to start for a better understanding of their benefits. From there, learning, practicing, and re-grooving new exercises can become more fluent to add variety and function into your workouts. The how and why you are using them will dictate the type of training. An athlete would use them much differently compared to a strongman competitor; extremes? Maybe, but you get the gist.

DYNAMIC VARIABLE RESISTANCE TRAINING (DVRT)

temp-post-image

For certain movements, adding extreme amounts of varied load are much too high of an injury risk, or are just completely unnecessary. For example, the amount of load for deadlifting is non-comparable to say, sandbag get-ups; incremental loading is not the only variable to facilitate improved performance. The DVRT system is focused on four important and overlooked training variables:

Body Position: Changing how we stand results in a change in how the exercise feels. Altering a bi-lateral deadlift, squat, clean or press into a staggered position creates the external load to challenge our movement.
Holding Position: The different hand grips alter the stress placed on the body. Whereas the barbell has about 5 altering hand grips, there are over eleven different hand grips with sandbags; an extremely critical element that is comparable to so many daily movements.
Planes of Motion: Many exercises are done in the sagittal plane. In order to best understand moving the different planes of motion, it is best to learn how to resist them first. Movements like shouldering, drag throughs, rotational lunge, snatch, and tactical lunge to name a few, develop the ability to move more efficently in space.
Stability of the Implement: Ready for this? A sandbag can both be stable or unstable, depending on the goal and purpose of the exercise. *boom*wow*poof* A piece of training equipment cannot change its shape, but a sandbag can alter its stability, adding purposefulness.
Unless you are a professional or premier athlete, I believe that focusing all of your energy into a small scope of practice is not the best option. To follow the path to the greatest version of yourself, becoming exposed to any avenue to improve is a sure fire idea. Using unusual tools during your training can also light a new spark if you’ve found yourself bored with the same old routine, yielding inadequate results.

Great places to find more information about Sandbags can be found here. If you need a path to get you started, check out my video linked below, The DVRT System and 11 Killer Sandbag Training Exercises

Wishing You Great Strength,

Coach Sean

Link to the 28 Day Orca Empire Challenge

DVRT Principles & 11 Killer Sandbag Training Exercises

Coach Sean briefly elaborates on the Dynamic Variable Resistance Training System (DVRT) and how it relates to sandbag training. These are a few movements to get comfortable and confident with sandbag training