THUR: Why Sandbags and Rope Pulls
November of last year saw us introduce strongman implements to our training in a manner consistent with a lot of other implements that we do. Since then, a rare week has passed where we haven’t included these family of movements in some form, and that trend is not going anywhere.
If you are new this year, or if you simply need a refresher, we’ll quickly touch on the benefits of days like today so we can understand the great opportunity we have when we see sandbags and rope pulls.
First, I really hate that it’s called strongman. That’s not an easy sell to humans who aren’t men or humans who don’t have peak strength at the top of their goals sheet. While these movements will no doubt get you stronger, understand that the primary purpose of these movements is not strength, but balance.
The overall philosophy of these movements is best explained using Julien Pineau’s arch concept, whereby the body acts as an arch in movement and both sides of any given task operate in equality in order to support the structure.
Where the concept really boils down and concentrates is the idea of torque. Pineau believes that all movements are either performed with External Torque (ET) or Internal Torque (IT), and that both torque chains must be accessed regularly in order to create balance and performance health in the human body.
When we get out of torque balance in our overall programming, we see injuries, stalled progress, etc.
It may be that many injuries occur due to too much time spent in ET and not enough in IT. Modern day functional fitness, and strength and conditioning are all largely dependent upon ET movements like back squats and Olympic lifts. They are great movements, highly effective at creating stress which causes adaptation, but a stress can also go from good stress (eustress) to bad stress (distress) depending on a variety of factors.
- Back Squat
- Push (Full Overhead)
- Olympic Lifts
- Bodybuilding Pull-Up & Dip
- Improper Running Mechanics (duckfoot)
- Most Traditional Barbell Movements
ET Muscles (Sympathetic NS, “Fight, Flight, or Freeze”)
- Upper Traps
- Lower Traps
- Pec Minor (big chest muscle)
- Long Head of Biceps (outer)
- Glute Medius (outer)
- Lumbar Erectors (spinal muscles)
- Outer Hamstrings
- Outer Quads
- Push (Horizontal Push, Partial Overhead Push)
- Sandbag Squats
- Conventional Deadlift
- RKB Swing
- Hollow/Gymnastic Pull-Up & Dip
- Rope Pull
- Sled Drag/Push
- Proper Running Mechanics (inner toe)
IT Muscles (Parasympathetic NS, “Flow State”)
- Middle Traps
- Teres Major (important shoulder muscle)
- Pec Major
- External Obliques
- Short Head of Biceps (inner)
- Glute Maximus
- Inner Hamstrings
- Outer Quad (VMO)
Because ET muscles activate the Sympathetic NS (“fight against”), they have a natural tendency to “freeze” up and spasm over time. This could be a large reason why some get spasm from these movements over time while others do not. It is also why we very rarely see any injury when we are Parasympathetic (“flow with”).
IT is not good or bad. ET is not good or bad. They are both beneficial in their own right for their unique person but most of us will overdose ET movements and under-dose IT.
The moral of the story is that we all need to access IT more in order to keep ourselves balanced.
If you’re making an effort to hit the days where we we have IT work such as hollow position, sandbag squats, rope pulls, and sled drags, and you’re making a point to engage the big toe on hinge pattern movements, it will go a long ways towards keeping you healthy and strong.
First, for Structure.
8 Sandbag Squats
1 Rope Pull to Drag
8 Sandbag Squats
1 Reverse Sled Drag
Complete 1 round every 5 minutes
for 25 minutes.
Then, for Conditioning.
A: 200m Run
B: Max RKB Swings
C: Max Push-Ups