Sure, some equipment is more beneficial than others, but our choices seem limitless. This also encourages the fun factor that many people forget about.
Often we spend a lot of time arguing over the perfect rep and set scheme, or should we use a slight pronated or semi-supinated grip to optimize effectiveness. While some of these factors definitely prove to be necessary one can not discard the impact enjoying training can do for performance.
It will make someone work harder, be more consistent, and as long as the program has rhym and reason will lead to some outstanding gains.
One piece of training that sometimes gets forgotten about is sandbag training. Sandbags are easy to learn, challenge the whole body, and have more versatility than almost any other form of equipment. The only downfall to sandbags in the past was their tendency to fall apart, which can make a gym floor pretty messy!
Recently I have started enjoying the benefits of sandbag training and even started my own line of sandbag products as a result. These bags are meant for lifting and bring back the excitement of this odd form of lifting.
Why Use Sandbags?
The most obvious seems to be the simplicity of their use. One does not need to invest hundreds of dollars into coaching (although I am available for those that are interested) or have to read any complicated books. Grap, rip, and lift. You definitely want to pay attention to lifting posture, but outside of that most of the fun is trying to figure out how to lift the bag.
Sandbag lifting shares a lot in common with kettlebells in regards to their ability to challenge not only strength, but endurance as well. A good bag will allow for some movements within therefore always forcing the lifter to maneuver and adjust to the awkward weight. This definitely causes the body to use more muscles and expend greater energy as it is hard to get into one consistent groove.
You have to constantly search for an open spot and then crush grip. However, unlike most pieces of equipment I find that not only is your crushing grip challenged, but pinching grip as well. For those that are into grip training you will appreciate the distinct difference between the two.
Versatility is important when choosing any form of equipment. With common concerns about money and time it is often silly to invest a great amount of money into something that has limited use.
With such variety it is hard to get bored. Along with the various exercises come the many holding positions one can use with sandbags. If squatting is getting too easy with the bag on both shoulders go to one shoulder, hold it overhead, hold it in your arms like a zercher, bear hug, etc. You are really only limited by your imagination.
Sandbags lend themselves to team or group training easily. Because of their cost and transportability, they are easy to set up for small or large groups. This is great for those that wish to combine strength and field work and are concerned about time issues. Coaches can concentrate on full body lifts and challenge various motor qualities such as maximal strength, endurance, and power development.
Finally, the immense amount of trunk training that occurs with sandbag training is almost a good enough reason itself to use them. Trying to squat, run, lunge, jump, or any other movement while holding the sandbags in various positions challenges all of the trunk muscles.
Many of my clients will comment how sore they are deep in their rib area after initially using sandbags. Don't believe me? Try a few sets of sandbag Turkish get-ups and then email me how you are feeling!
How To Implement Sandbags
As with any other form of training, it really comes down to one's goals. If maximal strength, endurance, or speed are specific goals then the program has to be designed according to good training principles. However, one can try to improve several components if the program is designed appropriately.
Circuits: Since fatigue can be somewhat specific creating a program that emphasizes strength on a lift such as a squat can be followed with relatively short rest by an exercise like an overhead press, and so on.
Use a weight you can hit ten repetitions with, but you are only going to be performing sets of five. Set a time frame, approximately fifteen minutes, and alternated between these two exercises using only as much rest needed.
You don't have to use only sandbags, in fact, I highly encourage that you use a variety of implements in your training hopefully including sandbags. A tool such as a sandbag can be used instead of a standard barbell or dumbbell lift such as squats, deadlifts, clean & jerks, presses, rows, etc. The change of implement will bring some new neural stimulus that can often lead to new gains when you go back to the standard lift or looking for a new change in performance.
Another option is to use sandbags as a form of active recovery. You can easily change the load to enhance a motor skill and keep mobility without excessively taxing the body. Using a lighter load for your squat can keep you enhancing the groove of the lift and maintaining flexibility without draining the body from the core routines. These sometimes odd lifts such as squatting with the bag on one shoulder can increase core strength that may compliment your squatting routine.
Some lifts are just a great overall new challenge such as the Turkish get-up bear hugging a bag. While as sick as this may sound it can definitely stimulate the fun factor that may help training once again.
In The End
With so many options this is a simple and easy method and tool to implement. It isn't a miracle technique but will challenge you in new ways and again don't underestimate the fact fun can bring upon a world of new progress!
About The Author
Josh Henkin is owner of Innovative Fitness Solutions (www.ifsstrength.com) in Scottsdale, Arizona. Coach Henkin has presented nationally in the field of fitness and sports enhancement. He is also the author of High Octane Sandbag Training manual and DVD (www.sandbagexercises.com). You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.