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SandBell Training for Athletic Performance

November 5th, 2012

By Geno Pierce, CSCS

As a strength and conditioning professional that works specifically with athletes of all developmental levels, I always lay a foundation for team and individual athlete training plans. Generally, the foundation of the programming is set in 3 blocks:

Block 1:  Reduce the likelihood of injury through a well-conceived prehab design.

Block 2:  Develop protocols that bridge block 1 and 3 together by improving functional strength, especially as it relates to the core/trunk musculature.

Block 3: Improve athletic performance by designing progressive, principled strength and movement programs to meet the demands of the particular sport.

Once the blocks are set, the art of the programming comes into place.  At this time we look for tools that allow us to practice principles and create training protocols.

Today, I want to talk about block 2 and introduce you to a new tool, the SandBell®, which has been incredibly functional and helpful in developing core strength musculature in our athletes. Improved core stability and functional mobility is the underlying starting point for athleticism. Bruce Lee would talk about how his power came from the center of his body. We try to take this same approach in developing all of our athletes regardless of age, gender or sport. In simple terms, we look for core strength to be first expressed statically in the forms of bridge and plank body-weight holds where the spine has to stabilize. The second form of strength is seen dynamically where energy, or force transfer, runs through the powerful muscles of the lower back, glutes and trunk. This dynamic movement allows for more functional training in which sport movement can be mimicked and tends to relate closely to sport in that it is ground based, external forces are in action, and all 3 planes of motion can be used.

Training tools claiming to improve a dizzying array of athletic qualities seem to come across my desk every day.  It has come to the point where the number of products available, rival the number of trinkets that you can find inside the local Toys-R-Us. So, when I was introduced to the Hyperwear SandBell, I was naturally skeptical at first. However, the skepticism quickly transformed to genuine excitement as I started to grasp the full scope of its potential, especially as it relates to block 2 in our training foundation. This simple, yet effective product, is literally the Swiss Army knife of training tools. It’s safe, durable and can be used anywhere, and its power lies in its simplicity. You can apply all of the fundamental training principles using this one tool.

Athletic movement, regardless of sport or developmental level, occurs in all three planes (sagittal, transverse, frontal) and typically on your feet. Whether you’re jumping up to grab a rebound (sagittal), swinging a baseball bat (transverse), or shuffling on the football field (frontal) your body is moving through these planes.

Consider the diagram above. The sagittal plane is vertical, slicing from the back to front.  Jumping straight up as you would in basketball is an example of a movement performed in this plane. The transverse plane slices horizontally through the waist. When baseball players swing a bat they are performing a movement in this plane. The frontal plane, cuts vertically through the woman’s shoulders down to her knees. Movements in this region such as shuffling or cartwheels are in the frontal plane.

As you think about all three planes of motion, which training tools do you use on a daily basis that function in all three planes. Can you think of any? Probably not, because there aren’t many.

Most training routines call for you to be either lying down or stationary while training for sports.  Despite the fact that some of these movements may be necessary to maintain certain strength levels, performance training should occur while moving through the various planes of motion. The SandBell allows you to move through all planes of motion and even mimic the movements you perform on the field, court or whichever surface your sport demands.

Click to watch the SandBell performance training video!

As you observe the video and notice the sample movements demonstrated it is amazing to see so many important principles and thoughts play out:

  1. The athlete is ground based (on his feet).
  2. External and unstable forces must be overcome with the SandBell.
  3. Energy has to be transferred through the kinetic chain to complete the movement, which is instrumental in all athletic movement.
  4. All 3 planes of motion are utilized.
  5. Grip strength, which is so important for many sports, is developed.
  6. The movement can be performed in a fast “explosive manner” similar to sport movement.
  7. The SandBell allows for total body training and synchronization of movement.
  8. Programming for energy system development can occur by manipulating the rest/recovery ratio without doing a lot of the traditional running eliminating wear and tear on joints.  This can be especially useful if you have athletes that are overweight or have injuries the lower extremities and have limitations with traditional running.

The importance of developing the kinetic chain and transferring force through the body is paramount to athletic performance. Creating protocols and methodology to do this can be tricky because of the functional nature of the movement. The Hyperwear SandBell has become a great tool for us to pull it off and I love it!

About Geno Pierce

Geno Pierce, CSCS is the president and owner of Performance Course, and widely respected among coaches and athletes as a top expert in the athletic performance field. Geno’s extensive experience as a Strength and Conditioning Coach has helped develop Performance Course into the best athletic performance program in North Texas. Performance Course graduates can be seen on every level of sports, including professional leagues.

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