Strongman Rob Kearney Teaches Sandbag-to-Shoulder Technique

Kearney covers how to perform the sandbag clean safely and efficiently.

The Sandbag-to-Shoulder event, which challenged athletes to clean a heavy sandbag to their shoulders with control and stability, is a move that has been featured in strongman and CrossFit competitions. Max lifts with heavy implements are commonplace in elite strongman contests, and similar events have steadily infiltrated elite CrossFit programming. A prime example is the Sandbag Ladder event at the 2022 CrossFit Games, won by Dani Speegle and Guilherme Malheiros.

On Jan. 25, 2023, strongman Rob Kearney took to his YouTube channel to teach his 18,600 subscribers how to perform the movement safely without compromising efficiency. Check it out below:

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Using a 200-pound sandbag in his demonstration, Kearney orients himself, so the bag is lengthwise between his feet in the starting position. He stands over the bag so his toes are on either side of the bag’s middle point. Like lifting an Atlas Stone, Kearney instructs to lift the bag with straight arms to prevent any tendencies to row the bag up toward the chest.

Performing a stiff leg deadlift to lift the bag past the knees is the first order of business once the grip under the bag is secured. Once it is past the knees, Kearney squats and positions the bag in the lap — again, reminiscent of lifting an Atlas Stone.

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Kearney recommends cueing similarly to power clean to achieve the up and backward trajectory of the bag to the shoulder, depending on the bag’s weight. If the weight is relatively lighter, performing the movement strongman-style involves maintaining the bag with the shoulder-side hand and guiding it with the opposite hand. For example, Kearney prefers loading to his right shoulder, so his right arm maintains the balance of the bag while his left hand helps push it up and back to the shoulder.
 
If the bag is on the heavier side, Kearney recommends power cleaning the bag and catching it to the shoulder from underneath in a squat position. All the same cues apply when picking up the bag from a horizontal orientation, except a 90-degree rotation is required during the clean from the lap to the shoulder. Two-time reigning Fittest Man on Earth® Justin Medeiros effectively used the rotation technique to great success in the Sandbag Ladder event at the 2022 Games.

Once the bag is loaded onto the shoulder, Kearney reminds viewers to hug the sandbag with the arm rather than supporting it from underneath. Clutching the bag to the delt can help prevent the bag from falling forward or backward.

Featured image: @worlds_strongest_gay on Instagram