Weight Vests and SandBell Workouts for Athletes Build Core Strength
By Geno Pierce CSCS
Weight vests are like a foundation and a SandBell is like a building block. Developing an athlete to reach their potential is much like building a house. First, you must determine what kind of house, or athlete, you are building. Once this is determined, the builder or coach has to look at the materials, or athletic qualities, required for the finished product. You will need bricks, mortar, shingles, sheet rock, ect, or in an athletes case strength, power, speed, agility and so on. Developing the total athlete requires these essential tools that in the case of this analogy translate to functional gear like SandBells and Hyper Vest® PRO weight vest.
Laying the Foundation with Weight Vests
Whether you are building the Taj Mahal or a successful athlete you must start with a solid foundation. The foundation of an athlete can be expressed as their ability to control and stabilize the spine and must be established before any additional qualities can be addressed. When most people think of core training they think solely of crunches and developing the abdominals. The core actually consists of several muscle groups surrounding the entire midsection including the low back, obliques, abdominals, and all of the musculature surrounding the hips. These muscles connect the lower and upper body and act as a central link or energy transfer for any athletic movement. This is commonly referred to as the Power Zone.
Muscles in the Core
1. Rectus Abdominis – located along the front of the abdomen, this is the most well-known abdominal muscle and is often referred to as the “six-pack” due to it’s appearance in fit and thin individuals.
2. Erector Spinae – This group of three muscles runs along your neck to your lower back.
3. Multifidus – located under the erector spinae along the vertebral column, these muscles extend and rotate the spine.
4. External Obliques – located on the side and front of the abdomen.
5. Internal Obliques – located under the external obliques, running in the opposite direction.
6. Transverse Abdominis (TVA) – located under the obliques, it is the deepest of the abdominal muscles (muscles of your waist) and wraps around your spine for protection and stability.
7. Hip Flexors – located in front of the pelvis and upper thigh. The muscles that make up the hip flexors include: psoas major, illiacus, rectus femoris, pectineus, sartorius.
8. Gluteus medius and minimus – located at the side of the hip.
9. Gluteus maximus, hamstring group, piriformis – located in the back of the hip and upper thigh leg.
10. Hip adductors – located at medial thigh.
Step 1: Develop Stability Before Adding Weight Vests
The key to developing athleticism starts with the ability to control ones spine in a sustained static position. This is the precursor to any athletic movement and has popularly been coined core stability. Proficiency at stabilizing one’s spine in a horizontal position with the force of gravity is what we call static core stability. Any plank variation, glute bridge, or hip lift would all be considered exercises that develop core stability.
Step 2: Get Strong by Adding Weight Vests
Once an athlete has become capable of stabilizing their trunk we can now start to train for core strength. External resistance in the form of the adjustable Hyper Vest PRO weighted vest and free weights like a SandBell can now be added to enhance or reinforce resistance to movements used to improve core stability. This can be as simple as adding a SandBell or SteelBell to the athletes back while performing a plank or changing the angle of the movement. Using the SandBell or SteelBell over other equipment challenges the athlete’s core and stabilizer muscles even more because the user must work to control the shifting bag of sand or steel to keep it from dropping. Yet the athlete is safe if the SandBell or SteelBell is dropped. The Hyper Vest PRO makes adding resistance to exercises comfortable and easy because the vest is form fitting and won’t interfere with any type of core exercise. It is the only weighted vest with fabric that behaves like a compression shirt so you can expand your chest to breath too.
Step 3: Make it Functional
After the athlete has developed a strong core we can begin to train the Power Zone dynamically. Dynamic core strength can be developed through multi-joint movements that allow the core musculature to work together while maintaining core stability. This will add movement into Power Zone training and force the athlete to maintain a stable spine while simultaneously moving the arms and legs. Simple body weight movements such as inchworms, bear crawls, hand walkouts, ect. can all make up this portion of training. All of the movements can be challenged by added resistance with weight vests.
Step 4: Dynamic Strength
We can now incorporate explosive movements with added resistance into the program to prepare the athlete for their individual sport. These movements will be ground based and use the entire kinetic chain to develop power. This can consist of SandBell or SteelBell throws, slams, lateral tosses etc. working in all 3 planes of motion. The SandBell is preferred for these exercises because the athlete can train explosive power without damaging the product or floor. These SandBell exercises also activate and strength the grip, wrist and forearm strength, as well as targeted core and stabilizer muscles.
View the video below for examples of training progressions that build core strength with weight vests.
The saying “you can’t fire a cannon from a canoe” dates back to the 1800’s and early naval warfare but has been popularized by many strength coaches to describe the importance of core stability. Whether you are building a big squat or an explosive vertical jump, core stability must be established before anything else. Using the progressions above you will not only reduce the chance of injury but also establish core strength that will allow you to maximize you capabilities.