Excerpted from SOLO TRAINING 2 by Loren W. Christensen
If you have been weight training for a while you can probably squat all day with a 100-pound barbell. And bench press? Fuhgeddaboudit: You could bench 100 pounds until the cows come home (ever wonder what the heck that expression means?). But carry a 100-pound human a short distance and you’re huffing and puffing like a hard rode yak. Human weight feels different than barbells, dumbbells and machines: It’s awkward, it’s uneven, and it shifts when you don’t want it to. The question then is what can you use in training that approximates human weight?
Of course you might find an actual human to volunteer to let you do sets and reps with his body, but if someone is that weird you probably don’t want to be lifting him, anyway. So that leaves a sandbag, a large bag of rice, or a large bag of flour. There are no handles on these bags and the weight isn’t distributed as it is in dumbbells and barbells. One hundred pounds of so-called dead weight feels like 200. Without a doubt, training with bags is different, challenging and productive.
Use a weight that fits your strength and level of fitness. Acquire or build bags in increments of 25, 50, 75 and 100 pounds. Progress slowly and systematically and be prepared to be happily amazed at your new strength.
Here are four exercises that target your core.
Technically the word “core” means “the innermost part.” Many fighters think of their core as only those muscles in their exact center: the abdominals, sides of the waist, and the lower back. Among fitness trainers, core means the deep muscles of the spine, pelvis, hip, and shoulders. I agree, and I also believe that the neck is equally important, so I’ve included strengthening exercises for it in this chapter. Refer to Chapter 1 for several abdominal exercises to build an iron-like midsection.
Clean and press
- Squat over a bag with your feet shoulder-width apart and grasp it by its sides.
- Shrug your shoulders as you come up on your toes and pull the bag to your chest.
- From here, bend your knees and rotate your forearms so that they are under the bag after you curl it to your shoulders.
- Be careful here because this action – the clean - forces you to snap your wrists and sort of catch the bag at the front of your shoulders.
- Straighten your knees and press the bag overhead.
- To return it to the floor, simply reverse the action.
- Lower it to your shoulders, rotate your arms and wrists back to the starting position and lower the bag to the floor.
- Tip: Don’t just drop your bag like Olympic lifters do with huge barbells. Bags burst and you will have a mess. Besides, lowering the bag is half the exercise.
Do 2 sets of 10 reps and increase to 3 sets of 10 when you feel ready. As your strength improves, get a bigger bag.
Lift a bag, turn and put it down
Be especially cognizant of moving smoothly with this exercise or your lower spine, which is getting the majority of the stress, is going to seek revenge on you.
- Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart before a table or any other surface that is about hip high.
- The bag is on the floor next to your left foot. Twist to the left, bend down and pick it up by its ends.
- Lift the bag across your body as you straighten your legs to stand, and place it on the surface in front of you.
- Don’t let go of it. Just pause for a two-count then reverse the motion and set the bag back down next to your left foot.
- Stand back up empty handed and congratulate yourself on doing 1 rep. Now do 9 more.
- After you have completed 10 reps on your left side, place the bag next to your right foot and do the same thing on that side for 10.
Begin with 2 sets of 10 reps on each side, increasing to 3 sets of 10 when you’re ready. Increase the weight when your strength has improved enough to handle it.
Hug and lunge
This exercise can also be added to the leg exercises discussed in Chapter 3 since the lunge phase attacks your upper leg muscles so intensely. I placed it here because it does such a good job conditioning you to physically and mentally handle an awkward, human-like weight. Use a heavy bag as shown or acquire a large sandbag which might be even more awkward. Awkward is good for this.
This is a rather unique exercise because each lunge advances you forward a step.
- Begin by cradling the bag in the crook of your arms and hugging it to your chest, your feet hip-width apart.
- Step forward with your right leg and lower your body until your thigh is parallel with the floor. Keep your upper body straight and tall, and keep hugging that bag.
- Push back with your right foot until your leg is mostly straight, then step forward with your left foot and place it next to your right so that you’re once again in the beginning position. This advances you forward a step.
- Now step forward with your left leg and repeat the above procedure (with opposite legs), again advancing forward a step.
Do 1 set of 10 reps with each leg, progressing over the weeks to 3 sets of 10 reps. When you feel you’re ready to add weight, move up to the next heavier bag.
Hug and lift
Before I elaborate on this one, allow me to imprint this in your mind: Use your legs to lift the bag. A back problem caused by poor lifting form hurts. One second you’re fine and the next instant you’re 95 years old, bent, grimacing, and complaining about smart-alecky young whipsnappers. Been there, done that.
This tough exercise works all your major grappling muscles: arms, legs, back and shoulders as you lift and move a weight similar to a human’s. This is a tremendous exercise that I got from my friend Mark Hatmaker’s video The Floor Bag Workout published by Paladin Press. I’m using it here with his permission.
- Place the heavy bag on the floor between your legs.
- Bend over and squat down enough to reach the bag.
- Wrap your arms around its middle and lift it straight up in front of you as you straighten your legs.
- Continue to lift until the bag is on your right shoulder.
- Lower it back to the floor (bend your legs).
- Lift it up again, this time onto your left shoulder, and then place it back down between your legs.
- Add-on 1: When you get the bag to your shoulder press it overhead for one 1 rep.
- Add-on 2: Each time you place the bag onto a shoulder, shuffle step to the right a few steps and to the left a few steps. Then place it back on the floor.
Begin with 2 sets of 10 reps and increase to 3 sets of 10 when you’re ready. Also increase the weight when you’re ready for it.