Sandbags are a great alternative to more traditional strength training tools like barbells and dumbbells. Unlike barbells and dumbbells, every sandbag exercise you do is also a grip exercise and, as the sand shifts inside the bag, you’ll also have to work harder to stabilize the load. This makes sandbag training more functional than many regular free-weight exercises. Sandbags are also cheaper than most free-weights and are ideal for home or outside use; it doesn’t matter if you drop them either as they won’t damage your floor.
You can replicate many free-weight exercises with sand bags but, in case you are new to this type of training, here are some excellent sandbag exercises to get you started.
Note: Start out light and perfect your technique before adding more weight. The instability of sandbag training means that many exercises feel harder than their free-weight equivalents. Always remember to warm up before you work out to reduce your risk of injury.
1) Sandbag Burpee, Curl, and Press – using almost every muscle in your body, the sandbag burpee, curl, and press is also an effective conditioning exercise.
Stand with your toes against your sandbag and your feet together. Bend down and grab your bag with both hands. Jump your feet back so that you are in the push-up position. Perform a single push-up. Jump your feet back in and then stand up, lifting the sandbag off the floor as you do so.
Bend your arms and curl the sandbag up to your shoulders and then press it over your head to arms’ length. Lower the sandbag to your shoulders and then to your waist before bending your legs and placing the sandbag on the floor. That’s one rep – keep going!
3) Sandbag Clean and Press – the clean and press is a classic full body exercise that resembles the clean and jerk performed in Olympic weightlifting.
Place your sandbag on the floor and grasp it firmly with both hands. Bend your knees and lift your chest while keeping your arms straight—your butt should be lower than your shoulders. Stand up quickly and lift the sandbag off the floor.
As the sandbag reaches waist height, pull with your arms and bring it to your shoulders. Rotate your hands under and push your elbows forwards to catch the sandbag on upturned hands. Bend your knees slightly and then push the sandbag overhead to arms’ length. Lower the sandbag to your shoulders and then to the floor and perform another rep.
3) Sandbag Thruster – this exercise is an excellent way to work your legs, core, and arms all at the same time. Use heavy weights and low reps to develop brute strength or light weights and high reps to improve fitness and endurance.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your sandbag held at shoulder-height. Tuck your elbows down and into your ribs. Push your hips back, bend your knees, and descend into a squat. Try to get your thighs parallel to the floor. From this position, dynamically extend your knees and use this momentum to drive the sandbag above your head to arms’ length. Lower the sandbag back to your shoulders and repeat.
4) Bear Hug Sandbag Carry – sandbags are also a valuable tool for developing cardiovascular fitness. This exercise will help boost your fitness as well as your upper body endurance.
Wrestle your sandbag up and wrap your arms around it in a bear hug. Clutch it tight to your chest without leaning back too much. With your sandbag in place, go for a walk. Walk as far as you can and then drop the bag. Rest a moment, pick it up again, and continue walking. Walk for a set distance e.g. 200 yards, or a fixed period e.g. ten minutes. This exercise makes a great finisher for your workout.
5) Sandbag Floor Press – the barbell bench press may well be the king of upper body pressing exercises, but the sandbag floor press comes a close second and works your chest, shoulders, and triceps muscles.
Lie on your back with your sandbag resting across your hips. Grab the bag and curl it over your chest, so your upper arms rest on the floor and your forearms are vertical. Keep your legs straight or bend them and place your feet flat on the floor as preferred. Press the bag up until your arms are straight and then slowly return to the starting position. On completion of your set, dump your bag overhead.
6) Sandbag shouldering – this exercise is unique to sandbag training and works your arms, forearms, shoulders, abs, and lower back all at the same time. It’s a great exercise for wrestlers, football players, rugby players, and anyone else whose sport involves grappling.
Lift and hold your sandbag by the ends. Don’t grip the handles but, instead, grasp the material. Bend your knees a little and then quickly stand up and pull the sandbag up your body. Maneuver the bag up and onto one shoulder. Lower the bag and then hoist it up to the other shoulder. Continue alternating sides for the duration of your set. Make this exercise harder by starting each rep from the floor.
If you want to develop real world strength and power, sandbag exercises should be part of your workout program. Inexpensive, effective, and fun, sandbag training is ideal for all levels of fitness and training goals.