Training with a wide variety of equipment is nothing new to the fitness field. Bands, chains, chutes and weighted accessories (vests, ankle / hand weights) have been around for a long time. “The more exercises performed the greater variety and stimulus to the system.” (Torcolacci 1993) “One way to alternate the program is to do a different exercise to develop the same muscle” (Yessis 1981)
Kegs filled with water and sand, heavy tires and oversized bars are the mainstream in weight rooms. Kettle bell training is making a comeback and boot camps are in demand.
As teachers and coaches, we want something that is new for our student / athletes, yet safe and affordable. When I came across sandbags and the body weight suspension system it allowed me to add a new dimension to my training system. My student / athletes can perform a wide variety of conventional lifts, kettle bell lifts, plyometrics, strong man training and plate work with the same piece of equipment. They can add or subtract the weight depending on the type of training they are performing. You can use the sandbags on the field, in the gym or in the weight room. Using the suspension bands and medicine balls I can add some stability training need to ensure a solid core.
With any training system, the instructor must make sure that form and technique are a priority. Before I move my student / athletes into intermediate and advanced exercises, I making sure they have a solid strength base established and they can work (dumbbells) unilaterally.
This is not an all-encompassing system. I encourage the teacher / coach to use this within your yearly periodized system. I like to incorporate bags, ball and bands periodically throughout the program.
The student / athlete’s goal will dictate the weight, reps and speed of movement. If we are focusing on strength, then I will increase the weight of the bags keeping the sets in the 3-4 range and the reps in the 6-8 range. When focusing on power, I will have the student / athlete focus in on how fast (rate of force development) they can move the bag so I will lower the weight and keep the sets at 3-5 with the reps at 3-5 range. If hypertrophy is the desired result, I will lighten the load and increase the sets to 4-5 and the reps to 10-12. Finally if the student/ athlete is learning a new lift or piece of equipment I will use 2-3 sets with 10-12 reps at a very light load.