“The loaded carry does more to expand athletic qualities than any other single thing I’ve attempted in my career as a coach and athlete. And I do not say that lightly.” (1)
Our purpose here is not to discuss the overall benefits of carries. We will discuss these in more detail in coming articles. Our purpose here is to illustrate how to make your carries more effective regardless of the space you have available to you.
Much has been written on the benefits of carries; however, we have found a small gap in the literature that we will fill in this article. A comment often heard is: I do not have space to perform carries. Space should not be issue when considering including carries in your sandbag training and sandbag exercises.
There are five essential components that will make your sandbag carries more effective during sandbag workouts and your sandbag training regardless of the space that is available.
Sandbag Carries are often ruled out because there is not enough space to perform them in.
An essential element to performing carries of any kind is core stiffness.(2)
On the performance side, “Core Stiffness” is mandatory. It is absolutely essential to carry heavy loads, run fast and change direction quickly. (2)
If we are able to achieve and maintain core stiffness while carrying a load, does it matter if we travel a distance or march on the spot? Travelling a distance will introduce our gait into the carry (3) while marching on the spot will not. The gait is essential to the carry; however, we should rule out carries if space is an issue.
The carry is an exercise where we secure a load in specific position for a period of time; a specific distance; or a while performing a specific cadence (100 step/100m in a specific period of time).
"When space is limited, it is not the limiting the factor for your carries"
Knowledge is the first component to making sandbag carries more effective in your training because traveling a specific distance is not necessary. We need to understand and effectively implement the principles of the carry: ensure the load is being secured; you are maintaining a neutral spine; your balance; and stabilizing your hips.
Once these are applied, we can successfully perform a sandbag carry exercise while marching on the spot.
We spend the majority of time on one leg when we walk and the carry increases our demands for core stability, balance, postural control and hip stability. (3) If space is an issue, you can make it work in our favour: spend more time on one leg and stabilize yourself as much as possible moving in and out of that position.
Marching on the spot is more than lifting one foot off ground. When we start to look at each step and place specific demands on it, we can increase the intensity of our marching by increasing our intention and expectations of the movement.
"If space is an issue, you can make it work in our favour."
Step #1: Secure the sandbag in its position. Squeeze your glutes and brace your core.
Step #2: Drive the heel of your base leg into the ground ensuring that weight distribution is going evenly through your foot.
Step #3: Slowly raise the foot of your moving leg. Once your foot is slightly elevated, flex your ankle so you feel the muscles on the front of your lower leg contract. Maintain this position for your ankle until your foot returns to the ground.
Step #4: Slowly flex your hip to elevate your thigh. This can be done for time; for example a three second count on the way with three second pause at the top. Incorporating this into the exercise will increase the overall demands for endurance and focus for the exercise.
When space is limited, it is not the limiting the factor as we can actually program for an increase in the amount of work being done: we can move slower with more objectives in mind - maintaining specific joint angles for examples.
Conclusion: Make the most of your space
If space is an issue for your sandbag carry exercises, what we have described should be considered for your sandbag training. Marching on the spot removes the gait from your carry; however, the demands for core stiffness, balance and postural control are still present. In the best case, performing these marches will increase the quality of your carries when space is limitations are no longer present.
1 .Dan Jon, The Secret of Loaded Carries https://www.t-nation.com/training/the-secret-of-loaded-carries/ 01/31/2011
2. Dr Stuart McGill, Why Everyone Needs Core Training
Take your sandbag through a post=workout cool down and it will last for a long time. Making Post-Session Care part of your training will ensure that you always make time for it.
Inspection will be the most important of this process as this will let you know how much care and attention your sandbag will need to get it back into working order before the next session.
Performing sandbag exercises with the intention of developing strength in Real World activities can bring great results, especially when it comes to picking i up off the ground; loading and securing it to your body; and carrying it. Fitness sandbags shouldn't be brought into resistance training void of specific purpose. Sandbag training exercises in resistance training programs can complement your existing programming and make your strength more versatile.
The difference with lifting and carrying sandbags is that its centre of mass is different from most other resistance training tools we use. Additionally, the relatively awkward shape and it's shifting weight load pose addition add challenges which may bring measurable benefit ts to your training.
Which fill works the best for your sandbag? Pea gravel? Sand? Rice? Playground sand? Rubber Mulch? In our last article, we outlined some of the pros and cons of sand, rubber mulch and play ground sand.
In this article we dig a little in to the different types of fill that can be used; when they might be used; and some ways to make chaning your fill easier.