Beginner’s Guide to Sandbag Training

For many people, sandbags are those things you use to strengthen the beach defenses when there’s a tidal wave incoming. Yet, those in the know have been using sandbags to get phenomenally fit, strong and coordinated for more than a hundred years. In recent times, sandbag training has become popular in gyms, CrossFit WODS, and OCR training around the world. Yet, sandbag training is no passing fad; it is a proven method of training that can get you fitter, stronger and more athletic faster than most other training techniques.

In this article, we provide an overview of the benefits of training with sandbags.

Sandbag training provides some unique benefits that you can’t get with any other form of resistance. Let’s run through them.

The main reason that you should train with a sandbag is that it is a dynamic and unstable form of resistance. It is also awkward to use. At first glance, these might seem like reasons NOT to use them. However, when it comes to making your body bigger, stronger and fitter, you want the exercise to be as challenging as possible. The more stress you put on your body, the more opportunity it has to respond by growing back better than it was.

Working out with sandbags forces the body to train through multiple planes. It also makes the body bring stabilizer muscles into action.

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The instability of lifting a bag filled with sand is far more functional than picking up a perfectly weighted implement. This is not to say that sandbags are better than perfectly weighted equipment like barbells and dumbbells. Each of these tools has its own purpose. However, one thing that makes the sandbag shine is that the sandbag enables us to train multi-planar movements which is a far more realistic way to train and translates well to physical activities we perform outside of the weight room and in our daily lives. In other words, a better way and a great opportunity to train for all this real-world strength and conditioning and to be functionally fit.

Heavy things outside of the gym are not evenly weighted. When you lift them you need to adjust your body to accommodate to the unstable resistance. This involves the core, trunk, shoulders, back and lower body working together in a coordinated manner. Every time you lift a sandbag, you are working all of those muscle groups, while also improving your body’s proprioception and coordination.[1]

The sandbag offers so many different ways to progress any exercise. The amount of load of an implement is one way to progress in any resistance training regimen. However, we cannot approach the use of a sandbag in the same way we use the barbell.

Of course, you can do barbell moves with the sandbag, but if we look at the unique nature of the sandbag as a training tool, we find that there are many options to make the same weight of the sandbag feel more challenging to lift. This is accomplished by changing how we hold and position the sandbag during our lifts. This means that with the same weight, we can progress a sandbag exercise by either changing the body position (example is going from a bilateral to a unilateral / staggered stance) or changing the holding position. There are just so many variables that we can consider when progressing an exercise using a sandbag.

Sandbags are very versatile. Whether or not you want to train heavy, go light, do plyometric training, train in circuit fashion or tackle traditional powerlifting moves, you can do all of them with sandbags. Every trainer, coach, or fitness enthusiast advocates a training philosophy. Sandbags can be incorporated into any training method, allowing you total flexibility to switch between different training goals.

Here’s a workout you should try:

Another clear benefit of training with sandbags is that they are extremely cost and space effective. You can invest in a set of sandbags for much less than you’d pay for most other forms of resistance training equipment. Sandbags also take up hardly any room, so even the most space deprived home trainer can easily find room for them. No gym membership fees, commute, or interminable wait for equipment to become available.

Sandbag training can help both men and women to achieve the following training goals:

  • Weight loss
  • Muscle gain
  • Cardiovascular improvement
  • Sports skill training
  • Functional development

Sandbag training is one of the most challenging forms of resistance training that exist. For that very reason, it is also one of the most productive and rewarding. We strongly encourage you to give the sandbags a try. The versatility of sandbag training means that you are able to incorporate it to train for a specific goal. Whether your goal is to build muscle, get real-world strength, lose weight, or simply become a better all-around athlete or individual, sandbag workouts will get you there faster and more effectively.

Do this workout as a circuit. Rest for two minutes once you’ve completed all five exercises then repeat the circuit. Work up to a total of three rounds.

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Steve Theunissen is a freelance writer living in Tauranga, New Zealand. He is a former gym owner and personal trainer and is the author of six hardcopy books and more than a hundred ebooks on the topics of bodybuilding, fitness and fat loss. Steve also writes history books with a focus on the history of warfare. He is married and has two daughters.
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