Tag Archives: strength training

EXERCISE: DIY Fitness Gear – Sandbag 101

When I saw this 40 lbs bag of cat litter on sale for 3 bucks, I knew it was time to get to work building a sandbag.  For version 1, I went with a quick and dirty approach, because I really wanted to try the exercises and knew that a proper final version would require more time.  I vowed to be careful with the bag, as I did not want to be sweeping and vacuuming up cat litter for the rest of the day.

I grabbed a handful of plastic shopping bags, fitted bags on both ends, and duct taped them to form a secondary barrier if the main bag broke.  Then, I repeated the process to create a tertiary barrier.  A nylon gym bag that was not getting used served as the shell.  I lined the bottom of the bag with an old bath mat.  Inserted my wrapped cat litter, zipped up the bag and got to work.

I worked through several reps of each exercise in these MBody Strength videos.  I went slow and watched my form.  At 40 lbs, this is not a heavy bag, but I didn’t want a careless mistake on my first day out to ruin the experience.

So, how was it?  It was a blast.  I could feel these exercises working muscles throughout my legs, trunk, and upper body.  Because it is unstable, you constantly adjust and re-balance the weight, engaging all muscles, big and little within a given muscle group.  With the complex exercises, you engage several muscle groups.  I also felt it in my fingers, as grabbing the folds of the bag, really works your grip (Hey – Brazilian Jiu Jitsu guys I’m talking to you).

I liked it well enough, that I will be investing the time to create a more durable set up.  I will follow Ross Enamait’s plans, which you should download here.  For me, this means loading large Ziploc bags about 3/4 full, zipping them shut, duct taping the end of the bag, then double bagging, sealing, and duct taping the end of the second bag.  This should create enough of a barrier to keep the cat litter from leaking and the packages from rupturing.  An added benefit of this approach is that I will be able to add or reduce the weight of the sandbag by adding or removing packages of cat litter.  For added safety, I will stuff the bag with old beach towels or blankets.  This will cushion the packages and fill out the bag.  A quick visit to the local thrift store should take care of that.

Version 2 Under Construction

For an overview of the benefits of sandbag training read this article by Josh Henkin.  If you want to learn more about building your own gym equipment, you should read my previous post on this topic here.   If you are into projects like this, join Scott Bird and Keith Johnson for their twitter chat this Wednesday discussing DIY Combat Training Equipment, including sandbags.  For details on twitter chat 58 click here and spend some time exploring Scott’s website Straight to the Bar.

One last update.  If you have been following my workouts, then you are familiar with Max Barry from NU-FiT (btw Max helped Scott with last week’s twitter chat on Optimum Wellness).  Max’s 1500 challenge gave me a wake up call on my conditioning.  Since then, I have been creatively employing his MetCon routines to  get back to where I need to be.  All the while, Max and I have had some good conversations on twitter.  Max is always very positive, which makes him an excellent motivator.  This week, he paid me a great compliment by listing SEE on his blog roll.  Please repay the kindness – check out his blog for quality workout routines, nutrition tips, and healthy recipes.

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For related STRETCH EXERCISE EAT posts SEE:

EXERCISE: DIY Gym Equipment

EXERCISE: Strength Flows From the Hands

EAT: DIY Greek Style Yogurt

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You should follow me on twitter here.

EXERCISE: Mix It Up.

18-apr-2009-mix-it-up*Maintaining interest is a key component for successful physical training.  Working with a set routine for too long can become dull.  In the worst cases, it becomes drudgery.  Changing up your training is a good way to stay sharp and regain focus.  Additionally, mixing it up helps overcome the body’s natural ability to adapt to a particular workout.

*By January, as daylight dwindled and temperatures dropped, it got harder and harder to get motivated for outdoor work.  Rather than fight to maintain discipline, I decided to mix it up and move inside.  I had not done any significant weight training in a while and was curious to see where my body weight training had me on the weight pile.  At about the same time, I came across this article by Pavel Tsatsouline on Tim Ferriss’s blog.

*I have had some success with Pavel’s recommendations in the past.  Particularly with his advice on pull ups and stretching.  I also, have found lots of helpful articles at Dragon Door.  So, I was inclined to experiment with this program.  I liked the idea of cycling through five rounds of work with 5 rep sets.  Also, finishing with static stretches made sense, because I always get a better stretch, when my muscles are warmed up and a little tired.

*Because of work and other commitments, I had to tweak the proposed schedule.  I ended up with heavy Bench and Squats on Tuesday, heavy Dead lifts and Pull ups on Thursday, light Bench and Squats on Saturday and Light Dead lifts on Sunday.  As you can tell, I tweaked the internals of the workout too.

*I was not ready to totally commit to the three core exercises: Bench, Squat, and Dead lift and give up on other areas.  I ended up with the following program:

—Heavy Bench and Thrusters (I substituted Thrusters for Squats, because I prefer Thrusters)

5 Rounds of:

Bench x 5
Burpees x 7
Thrusters x 5
Wipers x 7

—Heavy Dead lifts and Pull Ups

Dead lifts x 5
Burpees x 7
Pull-ups x 5
L-sit Presses x 7

—Light Bench and Thrusters

5 Rounds of:

Bench x 4
Burpees x 7
Thrusters x 4
Wipers x 7

—Light Dead lifts and Pull ups

Dead lifts x 4
Burpees x 7
Pull-ups x 4
L-Sit Presses x 7

*With this program, strength gains were very noticeable.  I started out cautiously on January 1, 2009, doing pull-ups with a 10lb dumbbell and dead-lifts at 135.  Bench started at 135 and I did Thrusters with 15lb dumbbells.  I adjusted upward pretty quickly, moving bench and dead-lifts up to 155 on heavy days.  By February 8, I was getting through round 1 of my bench at 225 and then coming down from there to 205 for the last 4 rounds.   On March 21, dead-lifts were comfortable at 205.  Thrusters jumped up to 40lb dumbbells on March 24.  Pull-ups were getting done with a 35lb weight.

*I am very satisfied with the results from this program.  I would recommend it for those focused on strength gains.

*Now it is Springtime in Seoul.  The weather is getting nice and I want to be outside.  Yongsan Family Park is beckoning.  Time to mix it up again…