January 27, 2020 10 min read

The sandbag workout is growing in popularity, even though it has already been used for hundreds of years in a non-formal setting. In the past, farmers and other workers didn’t go to the gym to get fit, they lifted heavy equipment and did manual labor like lifting hay bails and other naturally heavy objects. The sandbag is a simple piece of equipment but has massive results. 

Now, gyms are adding sandbags to their gear vaults and the method is becoming more and more popular among people who are looking to diversify their body strengthening routine. This underrated bodybuilding method is coming to the forefront and making waves by changing up an otherwise stagnant routine, expanding the body’s capacity in a new way beyond kettlebells, barbells, and dumbbells. 

Benefits of Using Sandbags In Your Workout

If you’re into compound muscle workouts, you’re going to love the sandbag exercise routine. Working with sandbags offers your body the benefit of dynamic variable resistance. When you work with traditional stationary weights like barbells, the force used to propel these weights stays constant throughout the exercise. But with sandbags, the weight is constantly shifting, making your body to adjust the ever-changing resistance and shift your muscles to match the external force. 

Why Sandbag Workouts Help Strengthen Mental Concentration Skills

An important dynamic that often gets overlooked when working out is the power of good mental concentration. Your mind is constantly shifting to deal with the changing dynamics of the sandbag, which strengthens your concentration powers and allows you to focus in the middle of an ever-changing tempo. 

In a world full of screens and electronics, human brains are having a harder time with the ability to concentrate. We get distracted by every flashing light or beeping notification. It can be hard to focus on even simple tasks for long lengths of time. A priceless skill is the ability to multitask and still maintain your quality of work while doing it. Some may say that instead of doing a thousand mediocre things at once, you should do just one thing right. But what if you could a thousand excellent things at once? 

Okay, maybe a thousand is an exaggeration. But certain mental exercises combined with physical strength can coordinate your mind and body to start concentrating better and enabling you to multitask in a much more effective and productive way. How is this possible? The first step is to identify what causes chaos in our minds. Harvard Business Review says the answer is, frenzy. 

Your amygdala, the part of your brain that processes feelings, faces many different emotions, all at the same time, all throughout each day. This creates a feeling of frenzy, or panic, that makes your amygdala overwhelmed and unable to sort out all these different feelings in an organized way. The sandbag workout can help with this because the key to dealing with this panic is to take a rational approach to sort out positive and negative emotions. When you practice with a tangible, external object that shifts in varying directions, you strengthen your brain’s ability to balance opposites and extremes and take them in stride. 

Guaranteed Sandbag Training Results

People who consistently train with sandbags once or twice a week get serious results that show up loud and clear. Here are some positive results these dedicated trainees are reporting. 

1.Dedication: Since a sandbag can be purchased cheaply or even made DIY, there’s no huge money commitment involved in the workout. It can also be done at home, either in the basement or out in the front yard for all the neighbors to see your dedication to mastering your muscles. It can save you a lot of time since you don’t even have to go to the gym to complete the workout. Before a busy day at work, jump start your body and your mind with a quick sandbag workout, without even having to get up early. That’s the best way to accomplish dedication. 

2.Confidence Booster: There’s nothing more gratifying than the satisfaction of lifting something heavy and raising it successfully above your head in victory. Sandbag training creates adversity. Hard work is an underestimation when it comes to raising a heavy, sometimes frozen sandbag up in the air. It is a totally different experience than lifting weights in an air-conditioned gym with the option of a swimming pool or sauna to relax afterward. It’s hard work and there’s no getting around that. That makes you confident. 

3. Rugged Grip: Dealing with the awkwardness of a sandbag will give you a killer grip, unlike any other weight or machine. You will have to train your arms and hands in ways that go beyond lifting a barbell above your head. If you’re using the sandbag to do squats or lunges, you will have to manage it by balancing it on your shoulders and then shifting the rest of your body weight to adjust. That’s going to strengthen your grip and help you accomplish things you didn’t know your body was capable of. 

4. All-Over, Titan Strength: Any exercise routine you do with the sandbag, whether it is a deadlift, a burpee, squats, or lunges, you’re not going to target just one muscle group. It’s going to be a full-body workout. You’re going to get core strength, mighty glutes, upper body, and lower back. Basically, it’s going to be a total body makeover. 

5. Complements Other Exercises: A sandbag is a great tool for stationary routines, but you can also use it to increase resistance when hiking, running, or even walking. Even though it’s an excellent way to get all-over body workouts, we don’t recommend that you use it to totally replace all other routines. If your goal is just to get stronger, it will be completely sufficient. But if you’re looking for that chiseled, defined body shape, you will need to spend some time working on individual muscle groups. You can’t forget to work on some areas of your body. You could end up with lopsided muscles or weak areas, which not only don’t look the greatest but also create health problems down the road. 

We still recommend spending a day on lower back and glutes, a day on chest and triceps, a day on the upper back and biceps, and of course, a leg day. You need these for a well-rounded, totally ripped body. Remember to think long-term when it comes to achieving your goals. 

People working out in a gym.

How Much Weight Should I Use for Sandbag Training?

There’s no solid rule when it comes to how much weight to use for sandbag training. The aim is for it to be enough weight that it’s a challenge, but not too much so that you end up with an injury.  The beauty of the sandbags is you can always adjust the amount. With a DIY sandbag, you can always add more weight or take some away and in a simple way. If you bought your sandbag, or are using one at the gym, you have a couple of different options. 

  • Customize your sandbag to fit your personal workout:Many sandbags have additional bags that can be added to increase the weight size or to decrease for the other way around. It’s usually as simple as an extra strap or chord. 
  • Grab a new sandbag:You will find that some gyms stock a big pile of sandbags, all with varying sizes and weights. If this is your gym, you’ve picked one that’s serious about training! If that’s the case, just grab a different size and carry on. 

If you’re still not sure what weights to use, keep in mind that most sandbags come with a base weight. Then, you have options for filler bags in sizes small, medium, and large. These are generally 7, 15, and 45-pound options. A general guideline is to take your typical kettlebell weight and choose a sandbag range that will fit that. If your kettlebell is 20 pounds, then you can use a medium-sized sandbag, which would be between 10-50 pounds.  Whatever your usual weight, try to adjust the sandbag accordingly. 

How to Make Your Own DIY Sandbag

Gym memberships can be pricey, so if you’re planning to use a sandbag at home as your main workout source, you can make it yourself and still achieve mind-blowing results. Making your own sandbag can cost you $20 or less, depending on what you already have lying around the house (and your proximity to the beach). After a trip to your local hardware or HomeGoods store, this is all you need to make your own sandbag. 

  • Canvas laundry bag
  • Sand (or small gravel as an alternate)
  • Heavy-duty garbage bags
  • Zip ties (or duct tape as an alternate)
  • Optional: duffel bag

Start by filling the garbage bags with sand to create an initial lining. Whatever you do, DON’T fill them all the way full! As soon as you start throwing them around, they will wear down and split immediately. Just fill it half or 75% of the way. Since the bag uptight and then close it with zip ties. You can use duct tape in a pinch, but zip ties are much more secure. 

Place the garbage bags inside your canvas laundry bag for protection and additional strength. Seal those in the same way as the garbage bags. You can also sew them up if you have a hefty thread and a big needle. This will make the bags extra secure. Everything depends on where you will be using the bags. If you’ll be mostly using them outdoors, it doesn’t matter if a bit of sand sifts out here and there. If you will use them in your basement or living room, you will want to be more thorough about sealing up and potential openings that could release the sand. 

If you have an old duffel bag or gym bag lying around the house, you can place the sandbag inside the duffel, and this will create a more comfortable and less itchy, user-friendly feeling when grabbing the sandbag. Et voila! Your sandbag is ready for use. 

The Ultimate Sandbag Workout

Now that you have all your equipment and have done your research, it’s time to get into the actual nitty-gritty. 

Squats: Bear Hug Squat

Using the sandbag during a classic squat provides your body with extra resistance, improving your balance and adding weights. Does it have many more benefits than a classic barbell or dumbbell squat? the difference is minimal. A more effective version is the bear hug squat. This is where you grab the sandbag in a big bear hug and squeeze with your shoulder blades as you go down into the squat. It maximizes all the muscles in your car and shoulder blades, activating more muscle groups than if you were to do simple squats with weights. 

Alternative Version: Single-Leg Squats

For this one, hold the bag over your head during the entire exercise. Lift your left leg and perform the squat on your right leg. Then, switch legs and do the squat on your right foot. Depending on the weight of the squat, this will be a leg killer and may even cause you to lose your balance because of the shifting weight of the sand. Once you get the hang of it though, you will come out victorious and have maximized your balance and individually strengthened both your legs in the most efficient way possible.  

A girl doing lunges in a gym.

Lunges

Complete the lunges as you normally would, but holding the sandbag over your head. This gives you better results than simply holding a barbell on your shoulders because you are also gaining arm strength at the same time by holding it high above your head. 

Overhead Press

Stand with your legs should-width apart, while holding the sandbag in front of your shoulders. Your arms should be at a 45-degree angle. Lift the bag above your head so your arms fully extend and the bag is directly over your head. 

Make sure you perform this with an explosive motion because it needs to be a speedy movement. When the bag is overhead, give your shoulders and chest a squeeze for maximum results, then lower the bag. Again, you will find it hard to balance the sandbag during this movement, but it’s a prime example of that sweet dynamic variable resistance. 

Burpees

There are two ways to use the sandbag for this move. 

1. Jump Over the Sandbag: Perform the burpee as you normally would. Your starting position has your arms fully extended above your head. Move down into a pushup position. As you come back up to the standing position, jump over the sandbag for extra oomph and additional cardio to the exercise. Feel the burn. 

2. Combine With a Deadlift: Start the burpee in a normal position. Go down into your pushup. When you go back to standing position squat down, keeping your shoulders straight and your eyes facing in front of you.  Grab the sandbag with a strong grip off the floor from in front of you. Pull it upward to your waist, keeping your arms and knees fully extended. You can use a heavier sandbag for this one then what you would use for an overhead press. Place it back on the floor and continue to the next burpee. 

Russian Twist: This move is classicly done with a weighted ball or a kettlebell, but can also be done with the sandbag. The sandbag should be pretty compact since it will be hard to keep a tough grip during this move. Sit on the floor or on a mat with your feet lifted off the floor and your weight focused to keep yourself balanced in a sitting position. Grab the sandbag with both hands and move it from your right side to your left. Don’t set it down, but keep it (and your feet) of the ground the whole time. 

Shoulder Hoist: This one will really get you, especially if you save it until the end. Place the sandbag in between your legs, standing over it with a foot on each side. Bend down and reach for the bag, hoisting it up through the middle and landing on your right shoulder. Put it back down in the beginning position and do it again, this time hoisting to your left shoulder. 

Sandbags for Crossfit or Injury Recovery

Now that you have your itinerary for a full sandbag workout, keep in mind that you can adjust the list to fit your fitness goals and needs. If you prefer to use it during Crossfit for burning fat, you can do high-intensity reps with a smaller sandbag to emphasize cardio and speed. If you are recovering from an injury and cannot jump straight into regular weight lifting, a sandbag is an ideal way to ease yourself back into the game. You can simply hold a sandbag while walking or jogging to give extra resistance and build some strength back. Eventually, you can take it hiking and then work your way up to the exercises given in this post. 

Whatever your goals are, sandbags are a versatile and adjustable means to help you get there. Do the workouts and push your limits. Then sit back and watch the life-changing magic unfold.