I’ve used a lot of equipment – some great, some not so great.
In the equipment space, you see a lot of the same types of products, where construction, design qualities, and overall execution are the primary physical differentiators.
Every once in a while though, you’ll see a truly unique piece being introduced to the market.
Unfortunately, more often than not they’re a little (maybe a lot) gimmicky.
I won’t name names, but you know what I’m talking about. If you don’t, just check your 2:00 AM infomercials.
One such product that gained a lot of popularity at one point but later came crashing down (more or less), was the Bosu Ball. It promised balance, core strength, and overall more effective training because it simulated an unstable surface. The problem is that it pretty much sucks at almost everything.
When I first heard of the Sanddune Stepper, my mind immediately went there – to the Bosu Ball.
No offense – I was ignorant.
Having had the Sanddune Stepper now for several months, I can now see that I was so freakin’ wrong.
This tool is unbelievably effective, with benefits that are incredibly far-reaching.
From the everyday desk jockey… to the world-class athlete… to the victim of a traumatic brain injury… and everywhere in between, the Sanddune Stepper can (and does) enhance training, recovery, rehabilitation, and much more.
It has become one of my favorite tools in the gym, and I use it every single day.
In this review, I’m going to give you a detailed look at what makes the Sanddune Stepper so awesome. It will include practical applications that demonstrate its versatility and effectiveness.
I have no doubt that this tool can help you, so let’s see how.
The Sanddune Stepper
Before diving into all the benefits of the Sanddune Stepper, let’s first have a look at what it even is.
At its core, the Sanddune Stepper is a balancing implement that mimics the feeling of… you guessed it… SAND.
If you’ve ever been on a beach, you know that activity in the sand is a good bit more challenging than that of the same activity on a hard, flat surface. It requires strength through the toes, feet, legs, and core, among others.
The thing about sand though is that it offers resistance only on the way down. That is, it doesn’t push back once you’ve gotten through the initial resistance.
The Sanddune stepper sets out to accomplish just that. The actual stepper is built with a combination of memory foam and closed cell foam that offers a very rapid rebound effect. This rebound provides feedback and resistance to the body on the way back up, so you’re getting two-way resistance the entire time. It’s extremely durable too – 300lb offensive linemen use the stepper without bottoming out.
From a design perspective, the Sanddune Stepper was built very intelligently. Not only for the two-way resistance foam, but also in the following ways:
- Two Independent Platforms – The stepper was designed in a way that it offers two completely independent sections. This is a massive benefit because regardless of what happens on one side, the other is left unaffected. If you picture a Bosu ball or even another balance pad, movement on one side naturally causes some change on the other side. Having independent sections is multi-beneficial. One on hand, it allows for true unilateral training, and on the other, it allows for very dynamic movement (quick steps, high knees, etc…).
- High Side and Low Side – The stepper has a 5% grade change to it from one end to the other. This equates to exactly one half of an inch. This allows for some additional opportunities, as you can manipulate the amount of dorsiflexion or plantar flexion. Inherently this introduces different stressors as well as stretch responses depending on your positioning.
All in all, the Sanddune Stepper is a simple and very smartly designed tool.
In terms of measurements, see the image below. The stepper has a relatively small footprint and it’s lightweight, coming in at exactly 8 lbs.
Now that you have an idea of what it is/what it does, let’s break down the main ways this tool can help.
The Sanddune Stepper really shines when it comes to rehab, particularly with the feet, ankles, knees, hips, and shoulders.
Because it’s low impact, it’s ideal for those who are recovering from an injury or for those who are simply prone to injury. Those who have been injured can actually begin using the stepper in relatively short order after injury/surgery (obviously talk to your doctor/PT).
The stepper’s yielding surface is especially helpful during rehab because it significantly reduces the amount of stress impressed upon the injured area. This allows for less painful weight bearing movement while still activating the muscles and ligaments that surround the affected area.
As a personal anecdote, my wife has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS), which is typically characterized by joint hypermobility (among other things). As a result, she has had two very invasive knee surgeries in both knees. As such, she is very limited in what she can do physically. The Sanddune Stepper has given her an option that not only offers pain management, but also conditioning that she wouldn’t otherwise be able to perform on a flat surface. Balance and stability have also improved.
There is a slew of other success stories with various rehabs. Dr. Teddy Willsey of @Strengthcoachtherapy used the stepper to help rehab from a torn labrum in his shoulder. World-class track athlete, Trayvon Bromell, used the Sanddune Stepper to recover from a bone spur and grade 1 tear in his Achilles… he came back to run a 9.84 100m.
These are just a few examples of many out there. The Sanddune just works.
Strength Training Preparation
My personal favorite use of the Sandune Stepper is with pre-lift preparation. To put it simply, it works amazingly well, and it’s ultra-efficient. By that I mean I am ready to lift after just a short time on the stepper. I start with a short blood-pumping conditioning warm-up (see below) and then move to a more concentrated prep complex depending on the day’s programming.
Donnie Thompson calls it “the largest kept secret in the world of sports preparation.”
Lower Body Sessions
On lower body days, I put a heavy emphasis on ankle work, foot work, and general motor patterning to get in the rhythm for my actual working sets.
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Great captions!!! Ryan trying #sanddunestepper out smartly for the first time. What he is doing isn't a lot to the eyes but excellent for the feet, ankles, proprioceptors, and lyphatic system. Excellent post. Great warmup. Follow @ryanhorn45 obviously Ryan likes listening to his body's neurofeedback. A sign of intelligence
With ankles, I’m a huge fan of banded dorsiflexion. When combined with the Sanddune stepper, I’ve seen great improvement. The stepper’s surface, coupled with dynamic movement through dorsiflexion, is a fantastic way to mobilize the ankle joint and prepare for load.
With foot work, simply compressing the foot along with the toes is a great way to not only prepare for load physically, but also neurologically. The feet, and by extension, the toes, play an integral role in optimal movement and power output. Unfortunately, they’re also quite often overlooked. By compressing the feet into the stepper, you’re literally signaling the brain to utilize all points of contact. The carryover to squats and deadlifts is evident after experimenting with and without the stepper on lower sessions.
Putting the body through specific motion is arguably the best way to prepare for load. While I’m a huge fan of getting under an empty bar on solid ground and hitting a few sets before gradually increasing load, utilizing the Stepper has become a staple. I like to perform goblet squats with a kettlebell, but even without any weight, it’s very effective. My personal favorite sequence goes like this:
slow descent to quarter squat –> pause –> slow descent to full depth –> pause –> explode to full hip extension.
After a few sets, my body is prepared for load.
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More experimenting with the @sanddunestepper, working on balance and proprioception… and getting a little quad pump in the process. I’ll have a review of this soon. – My wife is a pediatric occupational therapist… I’d love see the @sanddunestepper in more clinics. It’s a great tool for generating vestibular input and creating an overall sensory experience. – #GarageGymLab
Other movements I like in preparation for working sets include Bulgarian split squats, snatch to full flexion, and banded hip distractions.
Upper Body Sessions
The Sanddune Stepper isn’t just a lower body implement. It can just as effectively be used to prepare for upper body work.
One of my favorite movements is the fist walk in a pushup/plank position. By starting on one edge of each side and walking around 360 degrees, you’re preparing the shoulders for load. It naturally packs the shoulders, and the constant feedback from the stepper makes for a killer warmup.
Alternating palm presses and fist presses is another favorite of mine. It’s a simple movement that, again, preps the shoulders nicely. Similarly, alternating elbows-to-palms is an extremely effective warm-up that I do regularly.
Combining the three of these into one complex for sets of three is what I normally do, and I feel so good afterwards. I combine this with Donnie Thompson’s banded shoulder protocol, and I’m good to go. Push-ups and push-up pluses are two other effective movements.
Lastly, because you’re in a push-up/plank position, your core will get lit up.
One of my favorite uses of the Sanddune Stepper is with conditioning work, which is saying a lot because I hate cardio. You can use it in the traditional sense of more of a steady state cardio option or you can really dial up the intensity with quick bursts or interval training.
I personally hop on the stepper prior to every training session to get the blood pumping. I start off with a brisk walk, transition to a jog, then to high knees, and lastly to quick feet. All you need is 3-5 minutes. It’s incredibly effective at getting the heart rate up. I own a Rogue Echo Bike, which is a great piece of equipment, but I find myself using the Sanddune Stepper much more frequently.
Check out legendary coach, Mike Burgerner using the Sanddune. He’s a huge advocate for this tool.
Interval training is also highly effective on the stepper. You can, of course, structure the intervals in an endless number of ways. I personally like quick feet and/or high knees for 30 seconds on/30 seconds off for about 10 minutes. Experimenting with shorter bursts/pauses and longer bursts/pauses each yieled similarly impressive results, but I prefer the 30/30 the best.
I’m out of breath just writing about this thing.
If you’re looking for an all-in-one active recovery tool, the Sanddune Stepper has your back. I absolutely love to spend a few minutes during off-days working through some empty and light-load movements.
In addition to the above sections on strength preparation and conditioning, there are a couple of additional movements I like to incorporate.
My favorite is the weighted march. This is something that I’ve commonly seen on a belt squat, where a piece of foam is placed under the feet to march on with weight attached at the hip. I’ve found the Sanddune Stepper to be incredibly useful in this regard. By attaching a kettlebell(s) or plate(s) to a belt, or even holding dumbbells/plates, you can easily incorporate weighted marches on the stepper.
Another favorite is a slow eccentric one-armed pushup with an explosive two-armed concentric. This is a fantastic way to build additional stability in the shoulder girdle without taxing the body too much. It’s difficult for sure, but lower volume is a great recipe for active recovery.
There are certainly other active recovery modalities you can incorporate on the Sanddune Stepper – use your imagination and you’ll never be short of options.
This benefit of the Sanddune Stepper is one of my favorites, and it’s something that is near and dear to mine and my family’s hearts.
For those who have suffered traumatic brain injuries, suffer from disorders such as Cerebral Palsy, MS, Parkinson’s, etc…, or suffer from sensory aversions/over-stimulation/autism, etc… the Sanddune Stepper is amazing.
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@neurofit360 new level of balance barely touching with finger tips for stability excellent progression #Sanddunestepper #doubleamputee #amputeerecovery #physicaltherapy #noexcuses #spinalcordinjury #neurorehabilitacion #paralysisrecovery @danielstraus @major_rick_carter @virusintl @underarmour @dmoney1017 @just_quan_t @wyclefjean @therock #natifnatal #truth
There have been numerous accounts of success in these cases with the Sanddune. By using the stepper, you’re literally sending neuropathic signals throughout the body that can be translated into near-term progess that can, over time, result in longer term success.
The stepper’s ability to enhance proprioception and provide vestibular input is paramount to creating awareness in the body. With this awareness, the body can begin constructing new neural pathways in addition to repairing existing ones.
My wife is a pediatric occupational therapist – she works closely with children who suffer from autism, sensory disorders, and other life-altering neurological issues. In her clinical opinion, the Sanddune Stepper is a fantastic tool for those reasons listed above (namely proprioception, vestibular input, and spatial awareness).
Who’s Using the Sanddune Stepper
As I mentioned earlier, the Sanddune is useful for anyone.
NFL teams, including the reigning Super Bowl Champs, Philadelphia Eagles, utilize the stepper in their training and rehab. In fact, the stepper can easily be adapted to satisfy just about any demand a sport requires. The specificity is very high.
Desk jockeys can use it for posture improvement, balance integration, and general movement to reset the body. It’s easily portable – take it to your office (it comes with a carrying bag).
Professional boxers and MMA fighters use the sanddune frequently to master power transfer & output.
As mentioned, those who suffer from neurological issues can use the Sanddune to see a marked improvement in proprioception, spatial awareness, etc… it offers constructive and restorative qualities.
The elderly can use it to improve balance and enhance cognition.
Strength Athletes can use it for preparation & rehab. There are some seriously strong and high-level athletes regularly using the stepper in their training.
The list doesn’t stop there. Basically anyone can use this tool and have success with it.
Sanddune Stepper – Pros and Cons
- It’s extremely multi-functional and it can be used by anyone.
- From a strength preparation perspective, it’s incredible. Body tempering is also up there, but that’s a bit like comparing apples to oranges.
- Its low impact nature is excellent for rehabing injuries and preparing the body to avoid future injuries.
- You can use it effectively for active recovery on rest days from training.
- It works very well for people with neurological disorders including, but not limited to, Parkinson’s, CP, MS, TBI, Autism, etc…
- It’s lightweight and easily portable. Its small footprint is good for tight spaces or if you’re traveling with it (it comes with a nice travel bag)
- The design is intelligent, headlined by two separate platforms and a high/low side.
- Construction quality is very high. The cover is durable and the foam shows zero sign of permanent indentation.
- The individual platforms may be a little narrow depending on how you’re using it. If you’re doing lateral quick feet drills, you’ll sometimes miss.
- Some may find the price tag to be a little steep, but I believe it’s worth every penny.
Someone recently asked me to name the top 5 items I would add to my gym that aren’t sport specific (powerlifting, weightlifting, etc…).
The Sanddune Stepper is without question one of them.
This tool is so multi-functional and it’s applicable to so many people. I use this as my primary warm-up, as a conditioning piece, as a prehab tool, and as a preparation tool. My wife uses it as a rehab piece, a pain management implement, and as a conditioning tool.
You can use the Sanddune Stepper in a seemingly limitless number of ways.
This is nothing like a Bosu ball, nor is it like any other balance system out there that I’ve seen.
I’m a complete believer in this tool, and I highly encourage you to check it out.
If you have any questions about the Sanddune Stepper, please leave a comment below. Likewise, if you own the Sanddune Stepper and you want to chime in with your own thoughts, please do so!
As always, I appreciate any feedback.
If you found this review useful, please feel free to share it on social media!
The bar is loaded,