Strength coaches are always looking for new and effective training tools and program options to help players achieve consistent results, provide variety and train through potentially rough spots. One option that is gaining traction among many coaches is the sandbell, an extremely durable neoprene bag designed to be filled with sand or steel shot. Because they come in a variety of sizes and weights, sandbells can be used to improve performance in a variety of exercise movements. Lighter 2-6 pound units, for example, can be used for both concentric and eccentric shoulder and rotator cuff work, medium (10-15 pound units are good for core training and heavier 20-50 pound units can be used to increase single-limb strength and total body strength and power.
Sandbells are functional, low-tech, portable tools that can be used for both indoor and outdoor training and as an alternative to a variety of traditional exercises and training tools. Some of the more common exercises that can be performed with sandbells include farmer’s walks, chest passes, single-arm rows, RDLs, power cleans, slams, overhead throws, lifts and chops and rotational twists, throws and slams.
Sandbells are an effective alternative to medicine balls and kettlebells and, because they are free form, the weight (sand) is consistently moving which increases the proprioceptive demand, grip strength and wrist torque needed throughout most exercises. In some instances they can also be a safer option than medicine balls. In slams, for example, rubber medicine balls can bounce up or back and strike you in the face or jam a finger. The free form sandbell does not bounce. It flattens out when thrown against any surface. Another advantage is that you can use them in all kinds of weather. Unlike leather and rubber medicine balls that get slippery when wet, sandbells have a heavy duty, water-resistant neoprene outside and leak-resistant stitching that make them safer when the ground is wet or the hands are soaked with perspiration
While there are a number of excellent exercises that can be performed with sandbells, the following (standing side-twist throw) is one that has practical application to the sport of baseball. To perform this exercise, stand in a ready position with the hips and shoulders perpendicular to the target, holding a 4-6 pound sandbell in front of the waist, with both hands. Keeping the trunk erect, rotate the torso away from wall, taking the sandbell behind the hip before initiating the throw by driving the back hip toward the target, followed by the trunk, arms and sandbell. For best results, work with a partner who will catch the sandbell as it falls off the wall and return it for the next rep. To increase stability, perform the exercise from a split-squat position. To make it more explosive do a jump back throw, i.e., jump backwards 6-12 inches, land on the back foot and then drive forward off the back foot before releasing the sandbell. Perform the required number of reps on one side, rest and repeat from the opposite side.
To see a video of this drill click on Standing Side-Twist Throw with Sandbell by Eric Telly on this website.
Joel Raether, MAEd. CSCS*D, is the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Colorado Mammoth Professional Lacrosse Team and Performance Coach at Steadman Hawkins Sports Performance – Denver, Colorado.