Coauthored by Dr. Eric Serrano, MD, and Scott H. Mendelson

Holding a 40-pound bag of salt in different positions while performing a rear leg elevated split squat is a great way to build multiple aspects of functional strength. The squat and deadlift will always reign supreme as lower body exercises; however, they are limited by the requirement of using both legs at the same time with traditional execution. Improving compound lift performance often comes down to bringing up the strength of one limb to catch up with the other, which can also reduce the risk of many injuries.

Increasing Muscle and Burning Body Fat at the Same Time

The high density of the sequence, combined with extended duration of the set, creates excellent conditions for both muscle growth and body fat loss simultaneously. Dr. Serrano has had many of the world’s best powerlifters give him the evil eye during appointments when he confirms their body fat is too high and aerobic capacity is too low to reach their full potential. Consider that a large cross-section of the upper body and core work the entire duration of the set even as the working leg changes. The fresh stimuli add up to a significant time under tension of approximately 48 seconds per leg.

Manage Rest Periods

Short rest periods between each set support a favorable fat-burning hormonal response, especially when the correct nutritional fueling and supplemental recovery measures are taken. The aerobic challenge feels very similar to a series of wind sprints, which tests the willpower of many trainees. Fatigue levels can be accommodated by dropping the load safely during the set and expanding the rest periods if necessary.

3 Unique Loading Positions

The series will include three different positions holding the bag, which contains salt, sand, shredded rubber, or even water if you want a tremendous challenge. Keep the traps down when extending the bag outward and focus on maintaining an upright torso throughout the entire set to promote proper posture for the bag out in the front position. The overhead and bag hugging positions offer unique loading angles, which impact each trainee differently pending their weaknesses. Nearly all clients report a surprisingly intense back and core recruitment for what they initially perceived to only be challenging for the lower body.

Dropping The Load

There is no shame in dropping the load during the set in order to perform the prescribed number of reps with proper form. Over the course of six weeks, aim to improve to the point where the entire sequence can be executed without dropping the load. For example, if you have to drop the load at rep six of a set of twelve during Week 1, then aim to get seven or eight reps the following week before having to drop the bag. It is also OK to start with a bag that weighs less than 40 pounds.

Heavier Than It Looks

Do not let the 40-pound bag deceive you. Yes, 40 pounds seems like a small load considering top athletes are squatting 500 pounds or more raw. The unbalanced nature of the salt shifting around in the bag and the three different holding positions add tremendous resistance for the lower body, core, and the entire back. Gradually increasing the weight load as the form is perfected is always a good idea.

The Extra Inches on Bottom

Have a partner watch from the side to make sure the front leg reaches parallel with every rep. Considering the complexity of the movements, as it is very easy to shorten the range of motion while combatting fatigue. Do not cheat yourself with half-assed reps. The good news is that every set not only builds up leg strength but each set also contributes to a razor-sharp six-pack without doing a single wimpy crunch or using an infomercial torture device.

Time for Action

Heavy Bag Split Squat Functional Position Series can be positioned at the end of a leg workout as a finisher so the generated fatigue does not interfere with compound movements. Many clients have earned great success using the sequence on a functional conditioning day, which can also include fat-burning intervals and additional functional core training. We suggest implementing this particular complex at the start of a conditioning workout while the muscles and the nervous system are fresh to take on the challenge.

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Scott H. Mendelson, director of InfinityFitness.com, is a highly regarded performance nutrition and training specialist. In addition to designing customized programs for his celebrity, weekend warrior, and executive clients, Scott works daily with professional athletes from the NFL, NHL, MLB, NBA, and NCAA. Scott has built an excellent reputation providing effective supplements, cutting-edge information, and unmatched service to thousands of clients worldwide since 1999. As an assistant to Dr. Eric Serrano, MD, Scott helps with the design of training, nutrition, and supplementation trials to confirm the effectiveness of protocols and expand his expertise.

Dr. Eric Serrano, MD, is the ace sought out by elite athletes and business professionals around the world for help with the most difficult of problems. Dr. Serrano spends a majority of his time promoting the success of his family practice in Pickerington, a suburb of Columbus, Ohio. Amongst the thousands of patients are elite athletes from around the globe who will travel to the ends of the earth to consult with Dr. Serrano.

General Disclaimer

Exercise, nutrition, and food supplements may affect you differently from another person, depending upon your choices, combinations, intensity, timing, general health, and genetics, among other factors. Scott H. Mendelson, managing director of InfinityFitness.com, can't offer you specific advice on your fitness program or guarantee your results, as we intend merely to get you thinking about your fitness, nutrition, food supplement, and bodybuilding choices. We recommend that you discuss your exercise, nutrition, and food supplement choices with your physician, trainer, employer, organization, governing bodies, and/or dietitian. We make no representation or warranty as to the accuracy of the information provided; in particular, and without limitation of the foregoing, any express or implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose, merchantability, warranties arising by custom or usage, and warranties by operation of law are expressly disclaimed.