By Rob Shaul
For several months in my own programming, I’ve been experimenting with extended, multi-modal, sandbag-based, chassis-integrity focused, grinds.
These are 40-90 minute efforts, generally involving 2-4 exercises. For the sandbag exercises, I’ll work to chose primarily from our “Total” chassis integrity movements.
“Chassis Integrity” is MTI’s proprietary functional core training methodology and it breaks down core movements into five movement patterns: Total, Flexion, Rotational, Extension (low back), and Anti-Rotation.
A key element sandbags bring to chassis integrity programming that is difficult to replicate with free-weights are rotational movements and total body movements.
Total body chassis integrity exercises combine two or more of the above movement patterns. The Sandbag getup, for example, is a total body chassis integrity movement which starts with a flexion and rotation movement to get to the low squat or lunge position, then combines anti-rotation and extension movements to come to standing.
Total Body Chassis Integrity Exercises I find myself choosing for these grinds include:
- Sandbag Getups (Flexion, Rotation, Anti-Rotation, Extension)
- Sandbag Cross Cleans (Extension, Rotation)
- Sandbag Twist and Toss (Extension, Rotation, Anti-Rotation)
- Sandbag Clean & Press (Extension, Anti-Rotation)
- Sandbag Getup + Run (Flexion, Rotation, Anti-Rotation, Extension)
- Sandbag Clean + Run (Anti-Rotation, Extension)
- Sandbag Keg Lift (Extension, Rotation)
- Sandbag Toss & Chase (Extension, Anti-Rotation)
- Sandbag Mr. Spectacular (Extension, Anti-Rotation)
In addition to one or two sandbag-based Chassis Integrity exercise, these grinds generally include a single mode effort such as shuttle (75m-100m), 200-400m run, step ups, sled push/pull, 250-500m row, box jumps etc.
Finally, often I’ll add in an upper body, bodyweight exercise – i.e. pull ups, chin ups, mixed grip pull ups, or push ups if the chassis integrity effort doesn’t include a press. Overall, these circuits include both an upper body pull and press.
Know that these circuits never include a pure squatting movement. These are essentially extended work capacity efforts and including a lightweight squat would violate our prohibition against Garbage Reps.
So … the circuits each have 2-4 exercises, including at least one total body sandbag-based chassis integrity exercise and extend from 40-90 minutes. I don’t program a warm up – these aren’t “for time” or AMRAP efforts, so it’s okay to use the first couple of rounds to “warm up” – also, the sandbag loading (40# for women, 60# for men) isn’t heavy.
Example 1 – 40 Minute Grind
- 5x Sandbag Clean & Press @ 40/60#
- 2/4x Pull Ups
- 5x Sandbag Keg Lift @ 40/60#
- 80-foot Backward Sled Pull
Example 2 – 40 Minute Grind
- 2x Sandbag Getup + Run @ 40/60#
- 5/10x Push Ups
- 5x Sandbag Cross Clean @ 40/60#
- 20x Step Ups @ 16-20″ Box
Example 3 – 50 Minute Grind
- 10x Sandbag Mr. Spectacular @ 40/60#
- Row 500m
Example 3 – 60 Minute Grind
- 5x Sandbag Twist & Toss @ 40/60#
- 2/4x Pull Ups
- 200m Run
Example 4 – 75 Minute Grind
- 5x Sandbag Getup @ 40/60# (alternate shoulders each round)
- 5x Sandbag Toss & Chase @ 40/60#
- 100m Shuttle (Down 25m, Back 25m, Down 25m, Back 25m)
- 2/4x Chin Ups
“Grind” = pacing. These efforts aren’t designed to be completed at a “frantic” as fast as possible pace, but rather as a grind, which means work hard and steadily, but not frantically through these circuits again and again for the prescribed time.
I’ve yet to complete a specific study on these efforts, but anecdotally, the training effect feels right and make sense for multi-modal tactical and mountain athletes which substantial load carriage responsibilities.
Chassis integrity programming, especially using sandbags, has proven its effectiveness for over a decade now in training, transferrable, functional core strength to city streets, fire grounds, battlefield and mountain environments. Many traditional “core” strength movements isolate the midsection, and don’t integrate the lower and upper body in ways which transfer to the way athletes use their midsection outside the gym.
And this is the goal and purpose of our Chassis Integrity programming.
Another element of Chassis Integrity programming, especially these long grinds, are their duration. Often low back and other midsection or midsection-related injuries occur when the athlete is already fatigues. These longer grinds not only train functional core strength, but functional core strength endurance – hopefully keeping the athlete stronger, longer, and thus reducing chance of injury.
As well, I’ve found there’s no substitute for sandbags when it comes to chassis integrity programming. No other piece of training equipment is as awkward to move, hard to grip, and naturally, but safely, unbalanced as sandbags.
You’ll note that these circuits as designed deploy just 40# sandbags for women, and 60# sandbags for men. This is plenty heavy for these longer efforts. It’s truly amazing, how much heavier a hard to grip, bulky, unbalanced 60# sandbag is than an easy to grip, perfectly balanced barbell or pair of 30# dumbbells.
The addition of a single mode exercise to these circuits (run, shuttle, step ups, row, etc.) adds an unloaded, cardio-focused element which keeps the heart beating fast while the core and other muscles get a short rest from the sandbag. Also – the sandbag exercises certainly train the midsection, but unlike situps, they come with a significant, metabolic hit. There’s no real “break” from breathing hard in these efforts.
You might think these efforts wouldn’t have the mental fitness demand of short AMRAP or “for time” efforts, but this isn’t accurate. The pacing for AMRAP/For Time efforts is faster, but those are also much shorter efforts. Complete one of these total body, sandbag-based, chassis-integrity intensive “grinds” for 60+ minutes, at a hard, but steady pace, and mentally, you’ll find yourself watching the clock hoping for an end.
When to Deploy These Circuits
In some of MTI’s older-athlete programming, SF45, SF50, SF55, etc., I’m deploying these circuits 1-2 days/week, and for some other “base fitness” plans, about once/week.
They also work well for times when because life or travel get in the way and you can’t train at a fully-equipped gym.
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