Monday, March 24, 2008
Sandbag Training: Taking it to the Next Level
After reading Brooks Kubik's Dinosaur Training, I was inspired to explore sandbag training. I've long been fond of incorporating sandbag drills into my training since lifting sandbags requires a high level of stabilization and effort compared to most barbell and dumbbell exercises. A 100 lb. sandbag is much more difficult to lift than a 100 lb. barbell. The unwieldy nature of the sandbag creates much more tension in the involved musculature in order to control the bag.
Recently, I've been having fun with a whole new type of sandbag: the Bulgarian training bag. It's a sophisticated sandbag that allows many movements a regular sandbag doesn't. It's a crescent shape, draping nicely over the shoulders. It has handles on the end for gripping and two additional knob handles for pinch grip-style training. The bags come in three sizes. I use the large bag, which weighs in at 37 lbs. It doesn't sound like much but because of the bag's design, 37 lbs. can kick your butt!
I mostly train outdoors. I love the fresh air and sunshine. The Bulgarian training bag is perfect for outdoor training. The stitched leather is really tough and can take a beating. The other day, I pulled the bag out of its storage container in my van. I was at a quaint little park, the sun was out, and I picked a nice spot under some redwood trees. After some joint mobility movements to loosen up a little, I did some Bulgarian bag training.
Holding the handles, I whirled it around my body in a circular motion--in fact, the exercise is called "Around the Worlds". I performed 10 in each direction. At the end of the set, I flung the bag over my shoulders and did 20 butt-to-heels squats. upon standing up with the last squat rep I did 10 Good Morning stretches with the bag across my neck. I contracted my neck hard against the bag, stimulating the neck extensors.
The "'Around the Worlds" are grueling; the trick is to push and pull with the arms and not permit the bag to touch the body. The hands, wrists and forearms work really hard to keep hold of the handles while gaining significant centrifugal force. The bag pulls you off your base; you have to really concentrate on stabilizing yourself, preventing the forces moving you off your feet. You must totally root yourself, just like combat.
The bag is ideal training for many sports, but especially good for combat-oriented sports. Try doing the following routine non-stop for five rounds:
1) 10 Around-the-Worlds each way
2) 20 Squats
3) 10 Good Morning bends while squeezing the bag with the neck
Utter brutality yet awesome! It's amazing how Around-the-Worlds rob you of your breath.
Finish off the workout with five sets of push-ups with the bag on your back, then Bear Crawl for three minutes, non-stop, with the bag balanced across the neck and shoulders. (You have to go slow and deliberate so it doesn't fall off.)
That little 37 lb. bag is a killer.