Since posting some videos on different Ultimate Sandbag Training exercises for mountain biking I have been getting some really good questions about them. I wanted to take a second to address them because I think that a lot of riders might have similar questions which might stop them from trying sandbag training for themselves.

Rotating is part of our natural movement patterns, we just have to make sure we are rotating at the right areas and stabilizing with the right areas.

Q: The rotational deadlift and rotational lunge look good for hip/knee stability as well as core work. Not sure why a sandbag is required.

A: Those exercises require you to move the implement around the body, which inevitably results in that implement making contact with the body. The sandbag is soft and allows you to move without worrying about getting smacked by a weight or medicine ball. I have tried those exercises with other tools and they don’t work as well. It is like using a dumbbell for swings or Turkish Get Ups – you can do it but something about the kettlebell changes the whole dynamics of the exercise that once you experience you realize how inadequate the dumbbell was. Same thing with those exercises and the sandbag – something about the instability and nature of the sandbag add something unique to them.

Q:  As a former spinal surgery patient promoting rotational weight exercise has me scratching my head. i realize you want to try and keep a neutral spine throughout the movement when doing rotational deadlift etc. but it seems like a way to ASK for lower back issues for most people as the ability to do this wrong is quite high and the consequences are large.

A: Rotating is part of our natural movement patterns, we just have to make sure we are rotating at the right areas and stabilizing with the right areas. The low back is meant to stabilize, not move, and if you substitute rotation at the hips for rotation at the low back you run into big problems. Using a 35 pound (it can be even less if you need) sandbag to groove and strengthen those rotational patterns is an essential part of a training program.

While I understand where you are coming from my opinion is that as long as your lower back is not moving then it is fine. In fact, it is a movement you do on a daily basis when picking up a kid beside you or getting a bag of groceries out of the car. It is a great way to teach you the mechanics behind proper rotating and bending and perhaps help riders avoid low back problems in the future.

Q: When you are doing the Rotational Deadlift and you are about to pick up the bag, your right foot is planted unlike the left which twists. I cringed. Not because of poor technique, but I get the impression someone with a reconstructed ACL might not be able to plant his/her foot like that and putting what seems like torsion on the knee. My cringe aside, what is the impact of that sort of movement for those with reconstructed knee ligaments. Is it advisable?

A: The twisting is through the hip, not the knee. There is very little added pressure to the knee joint in that position. In fact, lack of mobility at the hips, which is essential for that exercise, is one of the main reasons people blow out their ACLs. Your knees want to be stable and you want to move from the hips but if the hips don’t move then the knees have to take up some of the slack. It is a great way to teach the movement pattern needed behind moving rotationally at the hips without driving that rotation through the knee.

Do you have a question about sandbag training? Post it in a comment below and I’d be happy to address it as best I can.

-James Wilson-

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