Visitors to our weight room--which houses over a half million dollars in high-tech equipment--often ask me to name my favorite pieces of equipment. Their eyebrows furrow when I point to our stacks of sandbags and rate them among my top five picks.
That's right. The good old-fashioned sandbag is, in my opinion, one of the most versatile strength-training pieces going. We like them so much, in fact, that we have 30 of them (ranging in weight from 25 lbs. to100 lbs.) and include at least one sandbag exercise every single training day.
What types of exercises can you perform with sandbags? Actually, I can't think of many exercises that you cannot perform with them. Take a moment to think of all the exercise possibilities with barbells and dumbbells, and chances are that they can be performed with a sandbag.
THE SPARTAN SANDBAG:
In searching for the perfect sandbag design, we've experimented with all shapes and sizes over the years. We wanted assorted weights, of course, as well as secure handles that allow for divergent grip positions. A durable outer covering is a must, as the bags take a beating and we've had problems in the past with ripping at the seams.
Our current blueprint calls for a sandbag encased within a stout outer shell that is equipped with a sturdy zipper and padded, rectangular handles on two sides (photo 1).
This assemblage provides us with an unremitting, multi-purpose training tool.
Let's take a look at a short list of some our favorite sandbag exercises:
This is a great multi-joint exercise for the hip and leg musculature. Start by cradling the sandbag over the arms and lifting one leg as high as possible in a bent-knee position (photo 2).
Push off of the back foot and step as far forward as possible with the lead leg so that the knee is at approximately a 90-degree angle when the foot hits the ground (photo 3).
Note the extension of the back leg. Transfer your weight to the front leg, and drive upwards to the starting position. Repeat the sequence with the opposite leg. We've executed this exercise over varying distances, with the minimum being 50 yards.
In the September '03 issue, we reviewed this exercise in-depth with the use of a specially designed bar. The same techniques apply when exchanging the bar for a sandbag.
Start by holding the bag in front of the body at about shoulder level (photo 4), and then squat to a position where the thighs are approximately parallel to the floor (photo 4).
Maintain a flat back position and a "big" chest. Quite simply, don't permit the upper and/or lower back to round or be pulled forward when executing the squat. Retrace back to starting position and perform a front (i.e., keeping the bag in front of the head) military press just before completely extending the legs (photo 5).
Return the bag to the starting position, pause briefly, and repeat. We like to perform this exercise in sets of 8-10 reps.
ROMANIAN DEADLIFT (RDL):
Commonly referred to as the straight or stiff-legged, deadlift, this is an excellent movement for the hamstrings and hip/low back muscle complexes.
Start by holding the bag with the arms hanging straight down in front of the body (photo 6). With an ever so slight bend at the knees, bend over at the waist while maintaining a flat back and keeping the head up and eyes focused straight ahead.
Continue to a point where the back is parallel to the floor (photo 7), and then return under control to the starting position.
We perform higher reps on this exercise (10-15) which dictate the use of lighter sandbags. Doing this provides somewhat of a safety mechanism by not allowing the weight to compromise the techniques.
This exercise targets the upper back and biceps, while also providing some indirect work to the forearms. We use a utility bench to stabilize the upper body and to sustain the correct back posture. Start by holding the bag with the arms extended in front of the body (photo 8).
Now pull the bag toward the bench and in alignment with the chest region (photo 9), pause briefly, and then return with control to starting position. Reps are usually in the 8-10 range.
STANDING CHEST PRESS:
Start by holding the bag at chest level and staggering the feet with a slight bend in the knees (photo 10).
Press the bag straight out with the arms slightly higher than parallel to the floor (photo 11). Return to starting position and repeat.
This is an excellent exercise for the chest, shoulder, arm, and forearm musculature. Reps are usually in the 8-10 range.
A simple, yet very effect movement for the anterior shoulder region and, again, a good stressor for the grip musculature.
Start by holding the bag with straight arms in front of the body (photo 12).
Keep the arms straight and raise the bag to a position where the arms are slightly above parallel to the floor (photo 13).
Pause momentarily in that position, and then return under control to the starting position. Again, reps are usually in the 8-10 range.
We have merely scratched the surface here with the possibilities, convenience, and versatility offered by sand bags. We basically use them as "finishers" to our main workouts.
In other words, we might pick one or two of the exercises described here and perform a couple of hard sets to put an exclamation point on the workout. However, we also have used them exclusively in some training sessions.
For instance, we sometimes have them ready to greet our players as they exit the fields or courts for a quick strength-training session of 4-6 movements during times of the year when it's difficult to squeeze-in weight-room sessions. A welcomed sight for them, I must say.
Sandbags? And you thought everything has to be so high-tech in the new millennium!
SEND YOUR QUESTIONS TO: Ken Mannie, Michigan State University Duffy Daugherty Building, East Lansing, MI 48824 or via email at email@example.com
BY KEN MANNIE Strength/Conditioning Coach, Michigan State University
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|Publication:||Coach and Athletic Director|
|Date:||Mar 1, 2004|
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