Sand-based training

Sand-based training

Living in the BOP means we have a large choice of venues where we can exercise or do some training, be it inside on a court, or outside on the grass or beach. This raises the question – is all training the same? Being summer I am going to look at sand-based training.

The first obvious thing when looking at sand-based training is not all sand is equal. Running on the wet firmer sand is a totally different experience to that of the loose dry sand. (They actually have a device to measure sand qualities when doing studies.) The wet firmer sand has properties more similar to grass training, so everything below is about dry sand.

Because sand is mobile, it creates a different effect than grass, which we can use to our benefit. Like most things there is a flip side, so you need to consider what outcome you are looking for.

The energy cost of running in soft sand is typically up to 25% more than running on grass. This means you do more work than on grass for the same length of time exercising. There is also less muscle damage, less peak forces involved, and the recovery time of a session is quicker. This may all sound positive. You do more, recover quicker and there is less stress. However, how our body adapts is through stress. You challenge the body, then let it recover, challenge it again, and it starts to adapt.

Studies however show that training on sand does see improvements in a number of things, including speed, agility, fitness and some jumping measures. What is positive is that these improvements are not just for activities on sand, but they also transfer over to your ability on grass as well. So, if during summer you want some variety in your training, it still will be beneficial to your goals. The thought is that as the workload is higher, this counteracts any loss of stimulus from lesser peak forces. However, the evidence for the reverse is not out there. Current thinking is land-based training doesn’t have the same impact on sand activities.

Sand training is not the answer for everything. As I mentioned above only some jumps improve. The improvement seen is largely from increased muscle stimulus. However, some jumping requires a ‘bounce or spring’ effect. As we land a stretch happens in our leg tendons, then as we jump this energy is released springing us up. But when you land on sand the movement in the sand slows your decent, then when you go to push off there is no solid base under your foot to push quickly. This means spring type jumps don’t improve with sand training, so if your sport or activity involves lots of these then you still need grass or other land-based training.

Running on sand requires a different technique to that on grass. Some of this comes down to the lack of spring effect mentioned above. Because of this running in the sand tends to change your movement pattern to that with smaller stride length and lower body position and higher overall muscle recruitment of the legs. If running technique is important in your sport, then this change in style would not be beneficial in the longer term.

In conclusion, sand-based training is generally a positive form of training, and its benefits in most circumstances will cross over to land-based training, so it is a good option for training variety. If you are a sand athlete, training on sand is needed to complement any land-based work, as the skill transfer appears only one way.

Hamish Ashton Senior Physio and ASCA S&C Coach


No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.