Monday, November 30, 2009

Not Just a Kettlebeller

"You can't base a philosophy around an implement"-Alwyn Cosgrove

At first I actually disagreed with Alwyn's statement. There is so much you can do depending upon the implement you are using. It is hard to perform functional based training if all you have is machines. Yet, I then thought about it more and thought about the rise of kettlebells. The more they grow in the maintstream the more poor use and implementation I see. That is when I began to see Alwyn's point. It still all comes down to coaching.

That is why I recently asked Strength Coach, Stefanie Tropea, to sit down with me and go over some of her training programs and coaching. Why did I ask Stefanie? Besides having a very successful training business in Norwalk, CT, Stefanie has began being successful in the sport of strongman. When a coach can balance business success, personal training success, and client success they are someone we can all learn from.

One of the things I learned from Stefanie was simple, yet perfect. Even though Stefanie is a big kettlebell enthusiast she explained to me it wasn't about lifting kettlebells, it was about using kettlebells to learn better movement. That is exactly how I feel about the Ultimate Sandbag, but she put it so much better.

Take time to listen this great interview with Stefanie Tropea where we discuss all things related to strength training!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

More Than Screaming and Yelling

Unsophisticated, "hardcore", basic, easy, all these are terms I have heard various people use when refer to sandbag training. You see there is a HUGE difference between using a sandbag exercise and using sandbags as a systemized form of training.

I have seen many jump on board the sandbag bandwagon, but that isn't always a good thing. Seeing the random assignment of sandbag exercises to workouts or techniques being anything BUT good, I don't know if these people help or hurt our efforts. A sandbag by itself does not help you training, using a sandbag with great technique and purpose makes a world of difference in one's performance training.

Trust me, when you see the videos of athletes performing crappy sandbag exercises with the mindset of this being "hardcore", or "toughness training" it is anything but!

During the growth of my Sandbag Fitness Systems program I have had the wonderful opportunity to meet many coaches that I normally would have never spoken with. One of these coaches is Vince McConnell of McConnell Training in Fairhope, Alabama. Vince has been a leader in the fitness community for many years. So, I was really excited when he showed interest in the sandbag program.

Recently Vince sent me two videos of two VERY different athletes. The first is a high level athlete performing one of my favorite Ultimate Sandbag drills, the one legged goodmorning. As Coach McConnell told me this athlete can typically perform this drill with over double the weight with the bar on two feet. Yet, it is very obvious that this athlete is struggling to do less than half the weight on one leg with the Ultimate Sandbag.

This is a perfect example how good coaching can identify the needs of an athlete rather than just trying to "smoke" an already strong athlete. Now, the performance of the athlete, rather than the training of the athlete gets priority.

The next athlete is on the opposite end of the spectrum. Here is a young man that needs to build a base of training and instead of just "making him sweat", Coach McConnell provides a well balanced training program that hits patterns and muscles that makes this not just a preparation program, but definitely will provide this young man an edge in performance. It needs to be pointed out that this young man is not rushing through rep after rep, rather much more attention is spent with technique and performance. This may seem obvious, but how many times have you fallen for the trap of racing against the workout rather than remembering the objective of training for a specific purpose! Are you training or working out?

Friday, November 27, 2009

New German Volume Training

About ten years ago one of the most popular strength coaches, Charles Poliquin, wrote about a revolutionary muscle building program known as German Volume Training. Coach Poliquin based the program off of the off-season training program of German Olympic Lifters that took the off-season as a time to put on functional muscle mass. The program was relatively simple on paper. Ten sets of ten repetitions with a weight you could do 20 repetitions with. Although simple on paper, this was a brutal training program.

Coach Poliquin had a split of:

Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5
Chest & Back Legs & Abs Off Arms & Shoulders Off

This program would definitely put some mass on, but had two main issues.

1. It was great for bodybuilding, but how about those that wanted to have more athletic based training and focused on compound lifts?

2. The recovery from these workouts was brutal and often hard to accomplish.

I had been thinking thought this program could potentially be modified to have some solutions. What I did was create several options that would work for those that were interested in using this style of program with just kettlebells and The Ultimate Sandbag.

1. Still use the 20 repetition weight option as your determination of the correct weight. Alternate sets of kettlebell lifts with the Ultimate Sandbag. For example, if you are alternating Clean and Press and Front Squats perform first series with kettlebells and the second series with the Ultimate Sandbag and Zercher squats.

2. Only perform this GVT once a week and focus on those big lifts that give you the most bang for your buck.

3. Only do 10 sets of 5, where the first 3 sets are with the 20 repetition weight, then move the weight to 15 repetition weight for 3 sets, then four sets of a 10 repetition maximum weight.

I recently used this program with the Ultimate Sandbag rotating the following:

Clean and Press for 5
Shoulder Squat Right for 5
Bent-over Row for 5
Shoulder Squat Left for 5

I used the third option for my program and gave about 60 seconds in between sets. You will find this is perfect for building functional muscle mass, and yep, burning some serious calories! Try it out and send us your results!

Josh Henkin, CSCS

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Armory Challenge

I have gotten a ton of emails from people over the last few military based workouts. It seems people have always been fascintated with the fitness level of those in the military. When people think of being "in shape" they want the endurance and strength that soldiers are able to demonstrate. Yet, even the military has had to update their techniques to keep up with an ever more demanding and challenging world. That is why I was honored to help out our military with a specific program to get their best through the selected process.

The ideas and concepts though that are used in these workouts can be used by anyone. Some of the keys is to "fill in the holes" where most training fails. That is why the TRX and Ultimate Sandbag are so important as they allow us to train ranges of motions and patterns that are impossible with most common implements. Using our "Tough Enough" or this weeks' "Armory" workout can really not only enhance your fitness, but resilency to injury as well.

Check out our Military Sale Special

Friday, November 20, 2009

Do You Really Have All Round Wellness?

Being fit is more than just how strong you are, how much endurance you possess, or how flexible you are. In fact, fitness and health are not necessarily the same thing. Many "fit" people are very unhealthy because they don't manage all the components of health well. What is the solution? Recently I got to interview Paula Owens who is an expert in developing both high levels of fitness and health. If you ever wondered the following:

1. I am doing everything I think is right, but I am not losing weight, why?

2. Why do I workout but still feel like crap?

3. Am I doing the right things?

Then you will have to listen to this interview. Don't miss out either, Paula is running a special only on November 20th for her book the Power of 4 which outlines all these important details. This great book will only be $11.99 for this day and it is a steal!!

Listen to Paula Owen's Interview Here: Click Here

Want to pick up the book at this special price? Just go to on the 20th and get this great resource that can really change the way you live your life! I have personally seen Paula work her magic on every body from elite athletes, to those frustrated by not getting results!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Take the "Tough Enough" Challenge

So many people wanted to see the types of workouts I created for the Special Forces candidates. Watch the video to not only see a great workout, but why we are using these exercises and tools! Get the secrets to being elite!

Don't forget about our Military Special going on now!!! Click Here

Friday, November 13, 2009

7 New Exercises=1 Killer Workout

It is back to work at Sandbag Fitness Systems, all the family and events are done and we are creating new exciting things for 2010. My first job, leave all the poor imitators in the dust and show you more great and exciting workouts and exercises with the ORIGINAL Ultimate Sandbag.

Today's workout does just that! This isn't just random exercises, but those that all compliment and build different aspects of functional fitness.

1. Shoulder to Shoulder Suspended Lunge Press: Not a circus trick, in fact, this is one of the fastest and easiest ways to increase overhead pressing strength. By destabilizing the body, but still allowing an appreciable load to be lifted, the body increases the stabilizers and nervous system to allow for more muscles and motor units to be used when you attempt a more stable press. This exercise also teaches the important principle of rooting in overhead pressing and creating a strong foundation. The lower leg training hits one of the most commonly missed areas of training that can give you a huge return in performance!

2. Double Sandbag Bent-Over Row: Rowing movements are important for maintaining muscle balance and the bent-over version trains the muscular endurance of the low back. This is one of the most important attributes of back health according to low back expert, Dr. Stuart McGill. I wanted to show there are many ways to increase the load lifted and this one is pretty fun! Stacking a smaller sandbag on top of our advanced sandbag makes this truly a strength lift!

3. X-Shoulder Squat: Again, some may think that they are limited in performing strength work by the load of the Ultimate Sandbag. While many may find our Advanced Ultimate Sandbag or Burly Ultimate Sandbag to be plenty of weight, some want more of a challenge. The X-Shoulder Squat does that by adding load to the hips in the bottom position and giving the additional challenge of grip strength. Coming out of the bottom of the squat you really have to burst out of the hole! Exactly where many lifters feel weakest.

4. Cable Overhead Throws: One of my favorite new drills for many reason. Showing how if you make a sandbag with cheap material (like many of our competitors) or use a homemade version (sorry you couldn't do this lift) you are just missing out! The cable overhead throw trains all the explosive muscles that usually get missed! People spend lots of time throwing downwards but little the extensors that protect the body and can create even more power!!! This drill may be more important than sledgehammer or medicine ball strikes because of it training all the muscles from head to toe of the backside of the body. The stabilizers and powerhouses of the body.

5. Loaded Suspended Push-ups with Mountain Climbers: Working all patterns of motion is an absolute must. Horizontal pushing does just that, but people often don't give push-ups their due. They either fall into the trap of doing mindless reps or progressions are far too crazy to get any type of strength benefit. Being suspended adds one dimension of load and the Ultimate Sandbag does the other. Adding in the mountain climber adds more core work as well as isometric strength in the arms, shoulders, and trunk. Isometric training is another commonly missed attribute of training.

6. Band Twists: Ok, why can't you just do this with a handle? Adding in our Ultimate Sandbag makes this exercise hard to control and emphasizes grip strength and coordination. Why is this so important? It will add stability to the elbow and shoulder, a problem all too many people suffer!

7. Squat Thrust to Shoulder Throws: I wanted a conditioning drill that did more than make you sweat. The squat thrust is a commonly used, but often incorrectly performed drill. Attention must be paid to the placement of the feet on both aspect of the hip thrust as well as spinal alignment. Done properly this does a great deal to enhance flexibility and power. The Shoulder Throw works the core in a unique way in both producing force, stabilizing, and integrating the hips to develop a well rounded core exercise.

You can perform this workout in a circuit for reps or time, take the challenge though and see how you hold up to our Inferno Workouts!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Modern Fat Loss Training

Today I wanted to provide another installment of our Inferno Fat Loss program. Holidays are here and so is intense training. You will notice we are integrating the TRX and kettlebells with our Ultimate Sandbag. These are perfect compliments to the Ultimate Sandbag and make training fun and challenging. Infinite variations are possible when you use these three simple tools.

Today we have the following:

Renegade Rows with One Leg Suspended: Adding one leg suspended causes the trunk muscles have to brace harder and uses the ab muscles even more. A nice progression on the classic renegade row, plus shows which side can stabilize. The use of the Ultimate Sandbag makes it more challenging to row without simply increasing the weight of the sandbags!

Alternating Kettlebell Snatch, Squat, Swing: A great hybrid with the kettlebell that gets you flowing fast and hits just about every muscle in the body! The alternating makes it a little harder to completely groove the lift so you have to work just that much harder!

TRX One Leg Burpees: Ok, a burpee is bad enough, however, being suspended and in sand makes it that much worse! If you don't have the sand available one leg being suspended is good enough. This adds more flexibility training, lateral instability, and exposes any weaknesses to your cardio, mobility, or lower body strength.

TRX V-Flye and Biceps Curls: Hey, isolating muscles isn't a bad thing, it is only bad if it makes the bulk of your training program. Adding in some isolation movements can enhance the body's stablizers and "fill in the holes". Many great lifters have used this technique to bring up weaknesses and prevent injuries. Heck, who doesn't like good arms;)

Sandbag Hand to Hand High Pulls: No, these aren't your classic high pulls, you will want to deliberately throw them at angles to greatly challenge the core, hips, and grip! The sandbags are hard to grab and ripping them up is practical for just about anyone who wants great strength. Changing up the angles makes it impossible to groove this lift!

Sandbag Ski Jumps: No joke on this one, especially in sand!! However, if you are just using the floor it is still a powerful drill. Jumping laterally often throws people for a loop, however, adding in a rotational pull of the sandbag makes it one of the best exercises for building lateral stability of the body. Not to mention, doesn't take long to smoke the legs.

Just as with all our Inferno programs, it isn't about just making you tired. It is about making your body strong, mobile, and athletic. Take our challenge of performing these programs yourself and email me at!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

You Thought You Were Advanced

Alright, Halloween is over, but you know what that means! It means that the holidays are here along with all the temptations of poor food options, stressful family situations, and end of the year demands from work. All reasons that many people fall prey to gaining weight during this time of year.

That is why I wanted to start releasing our Inferno Fat Loss Program now!! The whole idea is to create 30 minute workouts that actually do some impressive changes. What is different about THIS fat loss program? For many, the exercises in these programs are brand new and hit the body in ways they never trained before. The mistake many fat loss programs make is the simply rely on "cardio" type of exercises which burn some calories but do little to improve strength, muscle, or reduce injuries. The Inferno programs implements exercises that do all of this.

Inferno also is the first time that the best training tools; The Ultimate Sandbag, TRX, and kettlebells have all been integrated into a systematic program that is designed for improved fitness in minimal time. Utilizing these tools gives us infinite exercises that we can perform and modify depending upon the various fitness level of the individual. All these exercises require all the muscles to be involved therefore, increasing the amount of calories burned and muscles strengthened.

These aren't circus exercises either! I know some of these might seem like "trick" exercises but let me explain...

Single leg clean and press: If you can progress to having a leg suspended this means we can focus on both stability of the hip and tap into the glutes and hamstrings more! The side to side movement the TRX allows for means the hips have to work harder to maintain balance. It also is a sign that the lower leg must work harder to stabilize the body. One of the biggest deficiencies is in the lower leg. Using the Ultimate Sandbag provides another unstable challenge. Because you can not groove this lift the body has to work harder to perform each rep. Lastly, the gripping challenge of a loosely filled sandbag means the hands and upper body are being challenged.

Single arm row to rotational press: Using the TRX we can make a bodyweight exercise incredibly intense for the elite or helpful exercise for those just starting a fitness program. Just by adjusting how close you stand to the TRX unit dictates the level of difficulty of the exercise. This one arm row variation is nothing like the dumbbell row. Here the TRX takes away a lot of the cheating that often happens on the dumbbell version. Adding in a rotational press of the Ultimate Sandbag gives us even more rotational abdominal training as well as intense arm training.

The Tactical Lunge: An amazing exercise to challenge both the legs and the lungs. The swinging and passing motion of the kettlebell changes the stability of the movement. The more the kettlebell moves the harder the exercise becomes. The tactical lunge should be fluid and smooth. Oh, btw, being in sand makes this drill a nightmare!

The Ultimate Sandbag Cyclone: There may be no other exercise the fills in the holes of the body's strength like the Cyclone. This movement takes in all of the body's core muscles, from the deep ones to the more superficial, no muscle is left unturned.

The Ultimate Sandbag Swing: The swing is known to be a great drill for the hips and low back, however, we can change the implement to add a new twist. Using a loosely filled sandbag makes this not only a great "cardio" challenge, but grip as well, yes more than a kettlebell!

These exercises give great synergy and promises not to disappoint. In only a few weeks our NEW Inferno DVD will be here for those that want to excel during the holidays.