Intelligent tools to enhance everyday movement

Asking yourself the simple question ‘Does my client’s program have carry over into their daily challenges?’ has the power to radically alter the training you deliver, says Ian O’Dwyer.

Our industry is a multibillion dollar market, heavily focused on helping clients achieve their goals. Yet observing how we continue to condition our clients prompts me to ask whether we are really doing our best by them. I am not here to preach against science, machines or isolated movement, but I am concerned that we are delivering limited success in conditioning client’s bodies for everyday challenges like opening jars, reaching high shelves, shifting furniture, vacuuming, playing social sport, washing the car or – perhaps the biggest challenge – lifting up and playing with your children.

These challenges may seem tedious and insignificant to the average trainer, as most of our clients’ goals are to lose weight, gain a lean body mass, improve sports specificity or to attain general wellbeing. Yet something as seemingly simple as the inability to open a jar may be a large clue to limited shoulder stabilisation that goes unnoticed by many. Limited shoulder stabilisation would have a major effect on many other areas; force mitigation, pain/discomfort and movement. Wouldn’t this affect your clients’ goals?
Maybe we are overlooking some issues in the conditioning of our clients, focusing too much on scientific rationales that have limited practical application. Maybe we are telling the body what to do, instead of asking it what it needs.

There is a very true saying; ‘If you can’t move it, you can’t load it!’ In other words, if the body can’t move efficiently to share the stress throughout the entire system, then you can’t load it with more force. Doing so will only create compensations, possibly increasing inflammation and pain/discomfort throughout the body.

One of the most important components that we may be overlooking in our conditioning of clients is ‘carry over’. This simply refers to the amount of application that our conditioning/training has for our clients in their everyday lives. Ask yourself; ‘Does the program that my client is doing have carry over into their daily challenges?’

There is an old saying; ‘If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck’! If I am creating a program for a client, it had better look like what they need or want to do.

When gathering information from clients about their goals, several factors need to be explored. Through the use of discreet questions we can find out what style and level of training is suitable for them and – most importantly – establish their emotional anchor, or reason for training.

Without this information, it is extremely difficult to compile a successful program that will engage and be successful for your client.

Case study

The client

Recently I had a retired corporate client in my studio who had been an avid surfer in his younger days but who had become very deconditioned. He wanted to lose a little weight and gain specific strength to enable him to spend quality time with his son in the surf. On a scale of ten, this rated ten in importance for him.


His prior physical health conditions included two hip re-surfacings (right and left), severe ACL damage (both knees), a broken right humerus and a broken left fibula. His movements were limited due to repetitive movement patterns over many years, but his mind was very clear and strong.


Initial questioning had uncovered his emotional anchor – his family – and I had also established that he loved surfing, so the tools and movements needed to look and feel like surfing. I am not a surfer myself, but to take a challenge, such as surfing, and break it down into its constituent parts isn’t difficult providing you understand the fundamentals of motion.

Goal analysis

We looked at the positions of surfing and kept it very simple; horizontal and vertical. We then looked at some of the fundamentals of motion;

  • Multi-directional reaction to the environment
  • Integrated system
  • Mitigation of stress – myofascial system
  • Bubble – keeping the movements within his threshold.

The tools

Next up was choosing the most appropriate tools to implement the program – equipment that would cover all the necessary fundamentals. ViPR, freeFORM Board, Power Plate, Cables, Fascial Freeing (foam roller), Games or Hyperwear SandBell are all powerful tools that would be well suited for helping achieve success; however, considering the client’s personal motivations and background, one of these tools – the SandBell – stood out.

These tools are filled with sand and have a cover made of neoprene, the material surfers’ wetsuits are made of. Because of these unique properties, this tool created a huge connection to the program for the client – the neoprene instantly giving him the sensation that it was enjoyable, just like surfing! The challenge of movement while using the tool only enhanced this feeling.

The SandBell, at its most basic level, combines strengths from some of the most popular pieces of fitness equipment – sandbag, dumbbell, barbell, grip bag, medicine ball, stability pod, gliding disk and kettlebell. The feel, texture and smell play a powerful part in the enjoyment of using these challenging tools on an emotional, mental and physical level.

The movements

The continuous shifting medium (sand) inside the SandBell stimulates a reaction from the fingertips (grip strength) through to the thoracic spine and hips, constantly challenging and up-regulating the system; loading the spine from the top down. In combination with various foot positions (as on a surfboard), gravity and ground forces challenged the body from the ground up. This was really starting to look like a duck!

These simple movements challenged the three major complexes (ankle/hip/thorax) and enhanced the communication of many of the systems of the body, dependent upon the goal of the segment of the session: mobilisation; hormone response/sports conditioning; or tissue recovery.

Below are some simple movements that we used to enhance the client’s program combined with the SandBell. We continually changed and challenged the body and brain by simply changing foot position, hand position, height, distance and direction of motion. What further enhanced the progress and enjoyment for the client was integrating other tools into the program. To see more training drills using intelligent tools, visit

Another major dual component enhanced by this tool – and one that is a necessity in surfing – is rhythm and timing. The better the timing of each of the main complexes (ankle/hip/thorax), the better the rhythm of the unit. This enables optimum performance and recovery by:

  • Decreasing energy leaks
  • Improving energy efficiency
  • Decreasing injury.

This is incredibly important for what may seem the most simple of tasks. In this situation the focus was on surfing, but it could equally be applied to everyday activities such as playing with children – an act that can have huge implications on a deconditioned body.

Children constantly challenge us when playing by expecting our bodies to do as theirs do – giving rise to the possibility of injuries. To replicate those challenges with intelligent tools (re-conditioning) will greatly improve our chances of enjoying those special times without painful consequences!

So now we have the moment of truth, where we have to really ask the tough questions. Did the client enjoy the program? Did they achieve their goal? Did the program have carry over?

Well I can say – on all levels – a big YES. By listening to the client and responding appropriately, success was achievable. Understanding his emotion anchor – family – was key. Then combining the brilliance of the tools like SandBell with surfing-like movements to replicate what his body and brain needed only further added to the enjoyment of the journey.

For information on a range of intelligent tools contact


Ian O’Dwyer
Hailing from a non-conventional fitness background, Ian’s education has come through experience, observation, intuition and learning from some of the best wellness professionals in the world. A business owner, educator, former athlete and Master Trainer for ViPR, freeFORM Board and Hyperwear SandBell, Ian constantly challenges traditional methodology to strive for optimal wellbeing through better fundamental movement. He works with a wide range of clients, from the sedentary to chronically injured and elite athletes.