I’m going to switch up gears now and talk exercise equipment, and one piece in particular today, the sandbag. Not just any sandbag, but the Ultimate Sandbag created by Josh Henkin of Dynamic Variable Resistance Training. I have seen videos on YouTube of people showing how to make homemade sandbags at a less expensive cost than the professional grades and I do know that there are different sandbags to choose from, but when you put your hands on, or wrap your arms around, or throw one of these over your shoulder – you will know that this is QUALITY! Really, do you want to have anything less, filled with sand, over your head possibly break? I will be honest, I have not even touched another brand of sandbag out there – because I don’t have to; I know quality (c’mon, I’ve been married to quality for 11 years now)! When I was first introduced to the Ultimate Sandbag in 2012 at a Perform Better Summit in Chicago, I was a bit skeptical about the notion of sandbag training. However, when I started to move (or try to move) through traditional exercises with the sandbag as my resistance – I quickly realized the benefit of this form of training and fell in love.
Now, love is not easy. I went back to my corporate fitness gig and asked the boss if we could order a couple of Ultimate Sandbags for our next equipment purchase (I was normally allowed one purchase per year). I was denied the sandbag because like me, other people can be skeptical regarding the advantages of implementing the sandbag into their workouts. As much as I tried to persuade and educate my supervisor about the benefits that this style of training would have on the company’s employees – I was ultimately denied. It’s unfortunate that people will look at the Ultimate Sandbag and brush it off as being useless and not having any room for it in their training. And that is what I’m here to do today – tell you that this is a fantastic tool to have in your fitness toolbox!
You remember my last blog pertaining to stability, or better yet, motor control, right? The sandbag basically does not let you move unless you can maintain some form of core stability (core control). To hold an object such as this, where you are unable to predict how the weight may shift really puts a spotlight on the ol’ lumbar region and makes it do what it is meant to do! However, the fun does not end there! Wherever you position the Ultimate Sandbag on your body (gripping the handles, shouldering the bag, hugging the bag, or grabbing on to the sides) this bag will maximize body control all over. One of my client says she needs to work on her wrist strength and endurance. Guess what? We emphasize “bottoms-up” sandbag work. You may be asking yourself about the “bottoms-up” technique. This is where we hold the bag on top of our knuckles and attempt to keep the majority of the weight dispersed over the two fists. When you move your body while maintaining an isolated hold on the Ultimate Sandbag, you will find out what a total body exercise is! Even though you may know the weight of your sandbag; you will never really be able to calculate the resistance because of how the sand shifts and offers a dynamic variable to your resistance training (just as the system created by Mr Henkin implies).
So, this form of stability training is very functional in the “real” world as opposed to other forms of fitness that attempt to offer ways to create instability. Just because it includes a physioball, or makes you feel wobbly does not mean it is functional. Which one of these videos do you think has more carry-over in everyone’s daily life?
Both exercises will offer an effective abdominal workout (enough crunches on that ball will set your abs ablaze), but only one is truly efficient. When using the word efficient in the fitness arena, I am referring to the ratio of time vs work in any given exercise (somewhere in that ratio should be body and mind engagement). So, think about it: ab crunches (even on a physioball) can be effective, but you are going to have to increase your workout time to exercise other parts of your body. With the get-up exercise, not only are your abs included in a major way – but so is the rest of your body! You could spend 10 minutes doing this exercise and walk away knowing you just took a great workout from that session. Effective and efficient. In regards to functionality, think about your body going from lying to standing versus multiple repetitions bobbing your head and shoulders up and down. Mind and body engagement? When you are performing the abdominal crunch, your brain pretty much shuts off – no need to work here! However, when getting up from a lying position, especially loaded, your brain is alert and perceiving the environment you are moving in. You’re a smart reader – its obvious, you’re at the Fitness Lying Down website – so, you know which exercise offers a more functional approach to your life outside of the four walls of the gym.
With Fitness Lying Down’s philosophy to use a more natural movement approach to fitness, the Ultimate Sandbag fits like a glove in our system! To lift an object that is more related to our environment outside of the gym not only prepares us for those real-life moments, but also gives us one heckuva workout! I think about the shouldering exercise with the Ultimate Sandbag and how that has made me a better father. Stay with me … to take a dead bag and throw it on top of my shoulder generates strength and core stability/control – it gets the heart rate elevated, and body temperature increased. When my 4 1/2-year old son is sleeping on the couch and I have to take him upstairs to bed, I have to shoulder his “dead” body (he assists me in no way) and walk up those stairs. So much carry over is offered in this simple, effective, and efficient exercise; I couldn’t get that from a barbell, or a dumbell, or even from my beloved kettle bells! Performing this exercise and mastering it has made my body stronger and more efficient outside of the workouts and has made my son’s trips to bed more safe and comfortable. When discussing body efficiency outside of the workout, I am referring to how little energy the body has to output in order to accomplish a task; this is a good thing! Also, we love to roll at Fitness Lying Down because it is a natural movement pattern that mobilizes the spine and stabilizes the core. Well, take a look at how we can use the Ultimate Sandbag in our rolling exercises. It may look too easy, but that’s because Laura is crushing this exercise; trust me, though – her body is WORKING!
In closing, we at Fitness Lying Down prefer equipment that is multi-functional, allows us to exercise our creativity as fitness pros, and gives us the biggest bang for our buck; the Ultimate Sandbag does just that! I could continue gushing over this wonderful tool in our arsenal, but my editor is giving me the, ‘you have gone way over your allowed word count!’ signal. If you are on the end of your fitness rope and tired of the same ol’ exercises, get yourself introduced to one of these bad boys and you will find a better, smarter way to burn calories, build lean tissue, improve your cardio, and just plain have fun! Stay tuned on our Facebook Page to see more videos of how we implement the sandbag into our routines!