Thursday, July 26, 2012

Stacking Sandbags at LTS

 “It’s not that it’s heavy, it’s just…cumbersome”

           Cumbersome was the word of the week during our move from Blue Fish Fitness Club in unit 200.  Fortunately there was enough help around for us to be able to move thousands of pounds of machinery down stairwells, into elevators, through narrow doorways, and onto trucks without incurring any serious injuries.   Aside from the difficulty figuring out how to best manipulate the equipment in order to get it out safely, it was also tricky learning how to arrange ourselves in order to best lift and carry things from point A to point B.  Calling it “cumbersome” is one way to describe it but there’s no way to get an adequate feel for this kind of work other than going out and doing it. 

            Even though you may have not had to move commercial exercise equipment you probably have done similarly complicated work before when you moved furniture, worked on the lawn, or even unloaded the car after a 5-hour errand run.  It’s no walk in the park but it’s no regular gym workout either.  These activities already require a greater demand of energy and neuromuscular activity simply from their unpredictable nature.  You can’t repeat or recreate these patterns over and over again with standard free-weights or machinery limited to single planes of motion.  You can however train in order to perform better when the time comes to move.

          There are a number of different tools and techniques being introduced to the fitness industry in order to improve performance of complex activities and reduce the chances of injury.  Usage of Free Motion® equipment and kettle bells are just a couple of examples of how training is evolving to help people meet the demands of real life.  Nowadays people can almost expect to find kettle bells, medicine balls, or power bands sitting next to dumbbell racks.  What they may not expect to see yet are bags of sand.   

          That’s right, bags of sand.  Don’t worry, there’s no flood to worry about, though we still can prepare for one by lifting some of these sand filled shells which were featured in Men’s Health Magazine® (see for article) as well as in other health and fitness news sources.  The malleability and “cumbersomeness” of sandbags makes them one of the best ways yet to provide resistance for movements with greater complexity and physical demand than functionally isolated types of exercises.  One of the features that allows them to be applied to a wide array of movements is their ability to be handled anywhere with any grip position.  They can be grasped by pre-installed handles for alternate grips or they can be held by grabbing a handful of the bag casing itself in order further increase muscular activity.

          Aside from providing the basic challenge of grabbing and lifting unbalanced objects the bags can be implemented in a variety of movements ranging from simply flexing your elbows to dynamically resisting a rotational force using your entire body.   When the complexity of movement increases so does the amount of muscular activity.  When more muscles are activated the body uses more energy in order to sustain the work.  The heart has to work harder in order to pump more blood to muscles used while the lungs work to provide oxygen to that blood.  These are aerobic effects coming from anaerobic work.    Consequently, another effect of this training is the increase on the body’s metabolic demands both during the workout and into the hours following.  This is just from minutes lugging around an unwieldy bag of sand.  You get all of the benefits of both cardiovascular and resistance training packed into one…bag.
           If you’re still unclear of what to expect from a trainer-approved bag of sand or are even doubtful about the effectiveness of this type of training then go track down something similar to a 20-pound bag of potting soil and chuck it on your shoulders.  Do lunges with it, press it over head, walk up the stairs with it, or just slam it on the ground angrily.  Play around with it like this for 5 minutes and see how you feel.  Then imagine doing the same thing for 30 minutes with a safely guided order of exercises performed with the camaraderie of others and you’ll get a good picture of what we’re doing at Long Training Studios.

- Noel L. Poff, CSCS, CPT, LMT, X, Y, and Z.  

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