Sunday, June 28, 2009

Quality is the Proof

I was so shockingly (but pleasantly) surprised when I opened my email today and saw a video link by New York based bootcamp instructor, Nii Wilson. It wasn't that Nii emailed me, in fact, he is a incredibly enthusiastic trainer. The surprise was the video he made completely unsolicited by me. Nii had spoken to me some time ago about how excited he was in regards to the quality of our sandbags. While I always appreciate the kind words, Nii's perspective was very unique.

Unlike most people, Nii had spent time in the military and in their logistics department that was in charge of materials for soldiers. This meant that Nii was more than familiar with the concept of army duffel bags and their use for training. There are a lot of people that still try to argue with me that a homemade version of their sandbag is the same as our Ultimate Sandbag. Others believe that it is close enough that the extra money isn't necessary. Well, after Nii's video I was even more amazed how our research and development had created such a unique training tool. 

Making a perfect product is pretty tough, but we stand behind our Ultimate Sandbag and often help people out if anything seems wrong. This is far more than most companies that won't even write back. Check out Nii's well done video though and see if the Ultimate Sandbag is for you!!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Lessons of Adversity

I was laying there in bed, just wishing that I didn’t have to get out of bed because my head was pounding, my right arm throbbing, and oh feeling  a little nauseated doesn’t help. No, it is the flu, cold, or any new disease. It is the normal process of dealing with oral reconstructive surgery that I have been going through for the past year.

Why tell you this? I find every injury and situation has taught me a lot about training, attitude, and how to coach people better. It is also my hope to share my own challenges because I know many of you are facing similar situations and you are putting forth everything you can into finding motivation to train. 

Trust me when I tell you I understand the such challenges. Coming from someone who absolutely LOVES to train, push themselves, I have found the last year extremely challenging. However, I have found some techniques that have made it a little easier.

  1. Train! That may seem weird or easy for me to say, but there are days where I feel like it is an accomplishment getting out of bed and being able to work with my clients. Yet, I feel so much better to train, but how do you get to that point? My first rule is to find anything that allows you to train, that might be simply going for a walk, do some biking, yes, get on the horrid cardio equipment at the local gym. More times than not simply doing a simple workout will improve both your physical and mental well-being. 

That also goes for your strength training. The sandbags have been a great means for to do a lot with very little energy. Performing brief circuits very frequently has been an important way for me to keep my metabolism and strength gains stable. In fact, recently I was in Chicago for a conference and was able to train with my good friend Nick. Nick is one strong guy, especially for his bodyweight. I felt less than adequate because Nick always displays amazing energy and enthusiasm and lately I have been working hard for both. 

Barbell back squatting was on the menu for the day and to be honest, it was one of the last things I felt like performing. At a bodyweight of 180 Nick was performing clusters with 335, most impressive! Me on the other hand? 335 for most my size should be a relative easy weight. However, I hadn’t barbell back squatted probably in six months or so. I had to move to sandbag squatting variations to take pressure off neck and hoped to take this time to strengthen my trunk with the sandbag variations. In addition, I moved to more single leg work as my form of keeping my leg strength up. 

I was inspired by Nick’s work though and although I could tell my body was more than off I wasn’t going to let him completely show me up! Getting underneath the bar I was a little bit nervous about what the results would produce. It wasn’t just about my body, but what if all this other work really didn’t transfer, after all much of my ideas weren’t practiced by elite or very experienced lifters. When I walked out of the rack though I felt strong, stronger than I typically had with this weight on my back in the past. While I didn’t have the endurance to perform many repetitions, I was extremely excited about the transfer that I had experienced and that when this surgery was done I would reach new heights in my training. 

  1. Nutrition is MOST Important: This can be equally as challenging, food often tends to be emotionally based as well. Think of when you have been most down, MOST people will often let their nutrition go. This is also a challenge considering when you aren’t well only certain foods sound good. Yep, there are days where the only thing that sounds tolerable is crackers or soup. So, what do you do? What you have in the house is of utmost importance. For me, that meant having flaxseed based, gluten-free, crackers on hand. It meant having homemade vegetable soups ready to go made out of the crock pot. Don’t worry though, I am not perfect either, but making these plans will go a long way in making you not fall into many of the common pitfalls.

Nutrition isn’t important for the reasons you may be thinking. Sure keeping yourself in shape is important (especially for those that are going to be having to deal with surgery), more important is avoiding the cycle that often occurs with feeling horrible (both mentally and/or physically). The cycle usually follows feel bad>eat badly>feel even worse. Poor nutrition increases inflammation in the body and can keep one’s mood low. This is a recipe for disaster!

Good nutrition can do exactly the opposite. Various foods can act as an anti-inflammatory, improve healing, help mood, and keep your conditioning from getting poor. As I mentioned it isn’t always easy, but if you are determined to stay on the right path you can always make better choices. 

  1. Set new goals: Yes, sometimes new goals feel like “getting out of bed”, “being able to workout”, or a host of others. Realistically, new goals can be created and progress can be made. For me the opportunity to focus on some new sandbag training goals have been very helpful. That is really where the “3 Rounds of Hell” originated. There is incredible value for so many with this challenge, but for me it was about developing a goal for myself to keep improving my power and stamina. This leads me to creating new programs and testing these methods to continue the growth and evolution of this system of training. 

This isn’t about making anyone feel sorry for me, rather, hopefully giving inspiration to others that may be going through their own personal challenges. One of my biggest inspirations was my step-mother that fought Stage IV breast cancer for seven years. No matter what came her way she had a positive attitude. Even when it was obvious the cancer was winning she never showed a poor attitude, in fact, she was doing charitable events for breast cancer awareness till she could no longer get out of bed. That type of persistence and attitude has given me the perspective that no matter how lousy I feel day to day, that is is all temporary and the majority of my life will be spent feeling great and hope to help other find methods that help inspire them to live healthier lives. 

Monday, June 22, 2009

Limited Edition Women's Sandbag

Who are the most willing, open-minded, and likely to get involved in a coaching program? WOMEN!!! Having coached for 15 years I can honestly say how much easier women are to work with than men. Why? Firstly, women are primarily interested in results and feeling better. Typically, women don't come into a training situation trying to pretend they are still in their high school football shape or demonstrate how tough they are (even though these guys haven't moved from their office chair in 20 years!) 

Women are open to new ideas and if you actually listen to what they want, sandbag training is perfect for them! Sandbag training is a highly athletic and a graceful form of training that stimulates strength, flexibility, and cardiovascular endurance. Possibly the most important, it isn't that typical iron weight that can often be a big turn-off to many women. 

That is why I wanted to create something specific for all of our women. Too often women are forced to adapt into men's programs or follow cheesy women's infomercials. That is why I created the "Femme Fatale Fitness Program". The programs are the same ones I use for my female clients at my facility. Programs that have helped numerous women go from 50 pounds overweight to wonder women! 

Alright ladies, you too have your challenges though. You can fall into the traps of marketing or our "social norms". However, it doesn't mean you have to be perform bad fitness programs to try to conform. Your problem areas are different from guys, but don't think cheesy machine exercises are the way to go. Very dynamic, fun, and effective exercises can be utilized to deliver much better and faster results. Yes, that is the basis of the "Femme Fatale Fitness Program". 

To launch our program I wanted to do something exciting and fun! So, we created a limited edition women's pink camouflage bag. A very cool looking sandbag that is the same dimension as our small sandbag, but with handles on the ends as well to be more versatile for women. This isn't a sales pitch. I only have about eight bags, so this is truly, first come, first serve. In fact, you will have to email me for the special link to purchase the bag. 

This is going to be an experiment for us of sorts as well. Not only did we create a limited edition sandbag, your response will determine if we make more!!! However, I wanted to move away from people just focusing on the bags themselves, so we are going to give you two secret workout programs that I demonstrate to start getting results today! Lastly, we are going to offer two options for payment, you can pay in full or try our experiment of a payment plan to help those that are dying to get their hands on the bags, but just getting hit hard with the current economy. 

So, if you are ready to jump on our NEW "Femme Fatale Fitness Program" email me directly at, remember we only have 8!!!!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

3 Rounds of Hell is Here

After I spoke about my challenge of "3 Rounds of Hell" last week I received a ton of emails!!! Some wondering how to do it, some how to train for it, and some doubting it could be done! I'll admit, my initial challenge was pretty brutal, but that is how I wanted it. Yet, I feel like there are things I needed to clear up....

1. Why shouldering the sandbag? This seems to be the most fundamental lift that encompasses the most overall body strength. We can load it very heavy or use a more moderate load and the drill won't be limited by blisters on the hands, major technique flaws, or anything other than the drill itself.

Where some lifts test a dominant area of the body (i.e. upper or lower body strength) shouldering requires everything! If you don't have proper hip or low back strength, you will know it! If you don't have enough upper body strength, you will know it. You simply can not cheat the movement.

2. Are there rules? The only rule I have come up with so far is that the movement must be a clean shouldering repetition. You can't inch it up the body or rest it on the legs. It must explosively reach the shoulder from the pulling position in one clean rep.

3. Can you scale the challenge? I don't think everyone should have the same rules. As of right now this is how I see the challenge

180 or under: 120 pound sandbag
180-220: 150 pound sandbag
220-270: 170 pound sandbag
270 and over: 200 pound sandbag

130 or under: 50 pound sandbag
130-150: 70 pound sandbag
150-180: 90 pound sandbag
180 and over: 100 pound sandbag

I will admit, this challenge is not well tested. That is the fun part about what we are creating with Sandbag Fitness Systems, we are writing the book on sandbag training. Unlike most other forms of physical conditioning there is not textbook on sandbag fitness that everyone follows, we are writing the rules. In fact, I wanted to take the challenge for a run myself, heck, I can't ask others what I am not willing to do.

Yep, it kicked my ass! I think within two weeks of training for it I will have all three rounds nailed down. However, I can honestly say that my hips, back, and arms were completely toast! My heart was racing and I KNOW this will have amazing carryover to so many other fitness goals.

In the next few weeks I will write much more about how one progresses and trains for such a challenge to dominate the hardest fitness challenge!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Hardest Fitness Challenge Ever?!

I still hear it all the time, "sandbags are great for conditioning, but don't do much for your strength." How ridiculous is this? I always know this is someone that has really never spent any serious time sandbag training. Instead of trying to rationalize to people that sandbags can make you strong I wanted to place a challenge to prove my point.

The trouble is, "what is being strong?" Being able to lift a lot is great, but just being able to lift a lot isn't tremendously beneficial. Being able to reproduce feats of strength repeatedly is far more impressive. I took one of the best sandbag drills and created a challenge to see how many people could perform strength and endurance? No, I didn't want this to be easy, I wanted it to be a brutal test of fitness.

What is the test? Initially it was taking our large sandbag, loading it to 150 pounds and performing 10 shoulders (5 each side) within one minute. Many people weren't even able to last through this challenge. Heck at a recent conference I had a former football player who weighed 300 pounds unable to complete this challenge as he thought his heart was going to explode! I wasn't satisfied though.

I wanted to see how people really could recover and do it again! So, the NEW Sandbag Fitness Challenge is the "Three Rounds of Hell" drill. It is shouldering the 150 sandbag 10 times in one minute, resting one minute, and repeating this for two additional rounds. Don't worry, women can do it too with the 70 pound sandbag!

Want to see how hard the 150 pound bag shouldering is? I placed the challenge to an excited trainer at the recent Perform Better Summit. Want to see if he was able to make it? Oh btw, if you make our challenge you have to perform a CLEAN shouldering movement, no stopping at the chest! I was in a good mood here:

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Synergy Special is On!!

I am heading off to Chicago in a few days to be a part of the Perform Better Summit. For those that are not in the industry, this is always a pretty big event with approximately 30 top speakers lecturing and giving hands on training sessions. Definitely a very cool event. Of course, I know kettlebells are going to be a popular tool of application. It is amazing how kettlebells went from being completely unknown to a training tool that has numerous certifications, television programs, and celebrity endorsements that promote its benefits. In fact, I was speaking to a rep of Perform Better and he told me that kettlebells were their top selling product. Pretty darn impressive.

I am hoping that sandbags can make the same run and changes in the industry that kettlebells have been able to achieve. As I have written about extensively, sandbags are just as versatile and powerful as kettlebells and offer some unique aspects. So, there is no doubt that sandbags will get their day as well.

Thinking about the similarities and differences of sandbags and kettlebells is what made me think of running a special on the Synergy program. I wanted to do something different so I am releasing the Synergy Special Sale that is unlike anything else!

What will you receive?

The top selling Synergy DVD that has follow along workouts with kettlebells and my Ultimate Sandbag

Two e-manuals that have over 4 months of programs and exercise descriptions. These are lengthy and packed full of great training materials!

Two one hour interviews with a top goal-setting expert and a gentleman that lost over 130 pounds using this type of program!

The Elimination Diet: learn the secrets on how to shred fat really fast and how to improve your performance.

Then the best part!! 10 1-hour interviews with some of the top kettlebell coaches in the industry. This is over 10 hours of amazing training material from rehab, nutrition, fat loss, sports performance, to the Pavel himself speaking about kettlebell training.

If you want to jump over to take advantage of this special go to the link:

This sale will only be good till Thursday night! Don't worry if you already have the DVD you can purchase the bonuses themselves.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Fitting Everything In

Options, there almost seems like there are just too many of them. Trying to fit in strength, power, speed, stability, corrective, and endurance work altogether seems virtually impossible. This is especially true when you are not a professional athlete and get paid to train. I'll be honest, with things getting busier and busier for me there seems to be only so much in the tank.

It isn't a desire, but like many people, we only have so much in the tank for our energy and making sure we are balanced individuals and achieve all our goals isn't so easy. Yet, that isn't an excuse, it simply means we need to find better and more efficient ways to train. It isn't about doing all strength, or all conditioning. Having balance in training is just as important as life.

So, how can you do it? I think Synergy is a great example how! We can simply focus on three training implements, tools you can have in a gym, outside, or at home. Simplicity doesn't mean an inability to get great results. In fact, I have found using the special Synergy Complexes you can feel and perform better. How do I know? I have used these very complexes to maintain my maximal strength and conditioning during these busy times. See what they can do for you!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Optimizing Synergy Fitness

Strength coach Charles Staley has a great saying, "everything has a cost, not everything has a benefit." This is especially true when it comes to determining different implements to train with. I would have to say most training implements do have some benefit, but they can vary greatly to how much. EVERY training tool has a cost to the body, whether it is to the nervous system or some risk to the health of the joints and muscles. 

One inherent risk to every training tool is that you become very good at one form of training. Your body does "groove" to each training tool and becomes more efficient with the movements. This is actually a good thing as you do want some level of adaptation to cause positive changes to your body's systems. 

This is a big reason I was so excited to create the Synergy program. Many people have already seen the great behind kettlebells, but fell for the trap of performing a high amount of repeated movements. This has the same downfalls as jogging, or other very repetitive movements. We already know that cyclists, runners, and swimmers develop repetitive stress injuries, yet, for some reason people don't think it will happen when they perform high rep swings or snatches day after day.

That is why combining sandbags and kettlebells can be so important in not only performance enhancement, but injury prevention as well. By challenging the body with new stimulus' one could potentially avoid a lot of common overuse injuries that comes with this form of training. 

Now, it is obvious that sandbags and kettlebells are amazing combined together in various programs as I outlined in the Synergy DVD. However, another favorite method of mine is to alternate sets of similar patterns between sandbags and kettlebells. This not only prevents those overuse injuries, but can improve the performance of specific lifts. In the video below I have demonstrated how easy, yet, powerful such training can be. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Beating The Gym's Ass!

I have long used sandbags in my training programs, however, it has only been the last few months they have really taken center stage. Having so many toys in my training facility it is often hard to use only one, however, I have found as I got busier and busier that I did tend to drift towards the sandbags. Yes, I have TRXs, Jungle Gyms, and kettlebells, I also have bands, sleds, and a ton of other great toys, but why the sandbags?

The best reason is that I know that any exercise I perform I am going to be challenged more than I could by any other tool, yes, even more than a barbell. One arm kettlebell snatches with a 32kg bell is a vacation compared to snatching with two hands a 90 pound sandbag! A 250 barbell front squat is no big deal compared with a 150 pound sandbag zercher squat. You can see that it is hard to find a equivalent for sandbag work. More muscles=better results!

It could also be that sandbags are so amazingly versatile. With a kettlebell you can hold it in the rack position by the shoulder, overhead, or by your side, however, with a sandbag you can have it on the shoulder, overhead, in the zercher, in the clean position, bear hug, or even on the back. Instantly you have six different variations of almost any exercise.

Grip work? Oh yea, sure lifting heavy bars helps your grip, but digging into a sandbag is like nothing else. The constantly shifting weight and awkward nature of the sandbag makes it an unusual grip tool. Just ask grip expert John Brookfield who recently became a fan of our sandbags!

Of course nothing can say more than movement over muscles. The quality and number of movements one can perform with the sandbag are endless. Feeling athletic is so far underrated and is really what makes people feel strong and powerful. The athletic drills you can create and perform truly make you feel half your age, or that you can compete with anyone!

The key is how you put it all together. This is the first video shot at my new facility and demonstrates how to put together all these great properties of sandbag training!