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This is Your Quick Training Tip, a chance to learn how to work smarter in just a few moments so you can get right to your workout.
NOTHING BEATS PUMPING iron for packing on lean muscle mass and building rock-solid strength—but it’s not without limitations.
Perhaps the greatest knock against strength training with traditional implements (think dumbbells, barbells, and the like) is that many of the objects you train with in the gym don’t resemble or handle like those you lift in real life. Grocery sacks, cement bags, toolboxes and buckets, and even unruly toddlers are just a few of the everyday implements you might be forced to lift that possess a distinct lack of perfectly textured grips and stable, unmoving, evenly distributed loads.
That’s why smart trainers incorporate “odd object” training into their clients’ programs with tools like sandbags and another increasingly popular load using an everyday material: aqua bags.
What Is an Aqua Bag?
An aqua bag is exactly what it sounds like: A large, semi-solid but still somewhat flexible container filled with water. Sometimes handles adorn the outside (other variants serve the same role as weight plates for barbell landmine exercises), and they come in multiple shapes, sizes, and colors. But what they all have in common is that—unlike a barbell, dumbbell, or kettlebell—an aqua bag presents the lifter with an inherently unstable and constantly shifting load.
Whether you’re squatting it, pressing it, lunging it, rowing it, swinging it, or tossing it, the relentless sloshing of the water inside the bag continuously challenges your stability. That, in turn, increases muscle recruitment and engagement, and makes your entire core work overtime to keep your form on point and the bag from controlling you instead of the other way around. The result: Greater total-body strength and stability that translates far beyond the gym.
How to Incorporate an Aqua Bag into Your Workouts
If your gym has an aqua bag, use it in place of a barbell for several of your lifts each week. The implement also works particularly well for dynamic moves such as chops and swings, just like a Bulgarian bag.
If your gym doesn’t have one, buy your own—it’s one of the smartest investments you’ll ever make. You can pick up a premium aqua bag for about $110 (we like the HydroCore Bag from Onnit), but if you want to save some cash, you can find a basic one on Amazon for as little as $35.
Either way, the key is to make it an element of your program—not the focus. You still want iron to rule your regimen, but weaving some water into your training can inject the kind of variety and functionality that helps you avoid plateaus, reduces your risk of injury, and builds strength that more effectively translates to everyday life.
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