Monday, February 21, 2011

Sun, Sand and Alpha-Strong

...or, another heretical post since this is, in name, a Bodyweight Blog!
The mere sight of the Alpha Strong, Thy Beast, on the web site might make a lot of fans of improvised, underground strength training puke a little in the back of their throat. A $150 sandbag that can only be loaded to 80 lbs and has a bunch of handles? That stamps on some major sandbag traditions..

1. Its a cheap way to lift a lot of weight. By a lot, I mean 100-200 lbs.
2. Grabbing the bag is a great grip strength tool.
3. Did I mention its supposed to be cheap?

Or, maybe thats the way I viewed sandbags. Better still, thats the way that I viewed sandbag training before I actually got a chance to hold one in the flesh, work with it a little, and actually had the money in hand to buy one after trying it out. I guess poverty breeds pig-headedness!

Customer service is a major plus with Alpha Strong. My wife and I planned a trip to Peru after I finished up in Sacramento. At the last moment, her family decided to rent a beach house. I figured that sandbag training would be a great way to work out at the beach. So, at the last minute (and I mean the THE LAST MINUTE) I called Alpha Strong, got Cathy on the phone, and arranged to get one shipped to me ASAP so I could fly with it down to Peru. She came through for me and that was much appreciated.

The first impression about this bag (not to mention all of their other bags) is that it's seriously tough! Actually, there's the outer bag that you hold onto and an inner bag that holds the sand. Either way, this isn't yet another overpriced and underbuilt piece of exercise equipment. It's built like a piece of Samsonite luggage! Everything about it screams heavy duty, hard use, and throw-me-around-for-all-you're-worth!! This could easily pull duty at any commerical gym. Let me put it this way: I would have no problem checking this thing as luggage at the airport!

So, I threw it in my bags, along with two-1 1/4" ropes (I'll get to in a second) into my luggage and headed to Peru. A few days later, I hit the beach for a week, training with it pretty much every day for a week, sometimes twice a day. Since I was on vacaction, I freed myself from set routines and goals for a bit. Whatever seemed like a good idea to do that day, I just went ahead and did it.
Cards on the table time: I really beat the shit out of this bag. If I blew it apart, called Cathy back demanding a replacement after explaining what I did with it, I wouldn't blame her if she said something to the effect of:

Justin, you stupid shit! What the fuck were you thinking? Why don't you
just stick to bodyweight because you obviously don't know how
treat your equipment?
The first thing I did was overload it. According to the paperwork, this bag is designed for 40-80 lbs. I didn't ask if that was how much they estimated it could hold or how much they designed it to hold. Not all sand is the same coarseness, and the hills surrounding Punta Hermosa, Peru are nothing but super-fine, dust-like sand favored for cement-making all over Lima. The bottom line is that the first time I loaded and used this bag, it probably weighed well over 100 lbs. Still, no problems with the bag.

The beach house was constructed in a terrace-like manner into the side of the hills. The stairways are narrow and I found that it was easier to toss the bag from the upper deck to the lower deck if I wanted to bring it down to the beach for some improvised-sled dragging work.

That's what the ropes were for. The reenforced handles looked plenty tough enough for the task. So, I tied the ropes to the handles and did several types of drags and still the bag laughed this off too, much like the overloading and the floor-to-floor throwing. I'm not saying that you should do any of this with this bag. I'm just saying that I did and it survived without issue.

In addition to dragging the bag high pull, face pull and standard dragging, I did clean and presses, military presses, Sotts presses, Zercher squats, Cossack Squats, bear hug and behind the neck good mornings, bent over rows, and half-moon snatches (I adjusted the weight of the bag as necessary). The addition of the handles does take away from the grip training somewhat but it does add a lot of versatility to the bag. Plus, you don't have to be as consciencious about nail-trimming. If you're that much of a grip junkie, you could just grab the bag, old-school style.

In short, I could find absolutely nothing to complain about with this bag. It was a a great companion to the sun, sand and waves. Yes, it's a bit pricey but just like you wouldn't expect to pay less than $100 for a good suitcase, you probably shouldn't expect to pay less for a bag that's this well-built. Suggestions? I'd buy a bigger bag if they decided to make one. In the meantime, I think I may have found the ideal travel companion if I want to do some weighted training on the road.

I should have taken some pics of me using this bag. Sorry about that! After all, I am on vacation...

As you can see, in spite of the obvious drinking I did while at the beach house, I managed to stay in good shape. Thanks, Alpha Strong!

Not strength training, just gloating. MY SON, HENRY EMILIO!!! First picture...


Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Justin! The rewards of being a father outweigh any sandbag.

Chip said...

We're all jealous of your trip here at the Tribe.

Cameron said...

I have never done any dragging, myself but it sounds like a lot of fun.
My latest posts are somewhat similar to yours: minimalist training (on a budget.)

TR said...

Congrats on the baby. No wonder you're glowing haha.

John Cintron said...


Thats great being a father. You have to be the only guy I know that can go on vacation and still have abs. lol

John Cintron

Justin_PS said...

A-it most certainly is! Can't stop looking at the pic!

Chip-It was a good time, for sure, but I'm going to be glad to get HOME for a while.

Cameron-Just check for stones, or the like, that could rip the bag on the path you plan to drag it. I wouldn't do this on a regular basis with a lesser bag!

TR-Yeah, that may have played into it. Or, maybe it was the drinking and the sunburn. Not sure...

John-One thing I was looking foreward to when I got to Peru was... the fruit! Most everything was in season and I'd make a breakfast out of 4 or 5 fruits a day. There's some wild stuff that comes out of the jungles that I'd never heard of that are awesome!