Sandbag workouts are a great way to get in shape, build muscle and lose weight. They’re also a lot of fun and can be done almost anywhere.

What is a sandbag workout?

A sandbag workout is any type of exercise that uses a sandbag as the main source of resistance. This can include exercises such as pull-ups, push-ups, squats and lunges. You can also throw the sandbag around and perform exercises like overhead slams or cleans.

Why do sandbag workouts?

There are several benefits to doing sandbag workouts:

  • They’re easy to do in almost any setting. You can use your backyard, local park or even your garage for these exercises without having to buy special equipment or invest in expensive gym memberships.
  • They’re extremely effective when it comes to building muscle mass and burning fat at the same time. Because they require you to stabilize yourself while performing the exercises, you’ll engage more muscles throughout your entire body than you would with other types of workout routines that don’t require much stabilization work on your part (like running). This means that most people will be able to start seeing results after just a few weeks

Sandbag Workout For Weight Loss

30-Minute Sandbag Workout to Burn Fat & Build Strength

You’ve probably seen sandbags in your local gym or watched someone awkwardly try to squat while bear-hugging these giant sacks of sand. Heck, some sandbags are even bright pink, so it’s impossible to miss them.

If you haven’t used them yet, you might be wondering a few things about sandbags – why you should try sandbag training, how you can use them to get lean, some exercises to do with them, and where you can buy them.

What is a Sandbag?

sandbag-brute-force

Sandbags are exactly what you’d imagine them to be – large bags made of heavy-duty material filled with sand. You can make one for as little as $15 or buy one for over $150. They can be filled with anywhere between 10 lbs. to over 200 lbs. of material.

Sandbag training has been around for hundreds of years (probably even longer) as a method used by wrestlers and martial artists. More recently it has made it into mainstream fitness as part of the “functional training” movement.

3 Benefits of Sandbag Training

There are many benefits to incorporating sandbag training into your workout routine, here are a few:

1) Unstable Load Training = Good Functional Strength

Training with unstable loads simply means that the weight you are lifting is constantly shifting as you lift it. The idea is that the unstable load recruits more muscle stabilizers thereby making your body stronger in a functional way – one that mimics the lifting of a kicking child, picking up a heavy bag of groceries, or grabbing a large suitcase off of a moving conveyor belt.

Josh Henkin, the founder DVRT Training Systems explains, “sandbags can be thought of as the most ‘uncooperative’ pieces of equipment. They are different because they will change their form as you lift them. Unlike many other training tools, it is almost impossible to develop a specific groove for any lift. This makes sandbags a constant challenge as every repetition will be vastly different.”

This is in stark contrast to free weights where the load of the weight moves in a very predictable pattern allowing the body and nervous system to get comfortable lifting that same exact pattern every time. If your goal is absolute strength (being able to lift as much weight as possible), stable weights are most likely your best bet.

But, if you want to be more athletic and develop functional strength, then using unstable load training like sandbags works really well.

2) Great For Conditioning

Sandbag training can be done anywhere with just 1 piece of simple equipment making it one of the better conditioning tools on the market. There’s even evidence showing that performing a basic set of lunges with a sandbag significantly increased participants’ heart rate when compared to the same lunge with equal weight in dumbbells.

According to researcher David Cornell, a doctoral student in the University of Milwaukee’s department of kinesiology, the 22-person study “found significantly increased heart rate when subjects did lunges holding sandbags compared with the same amount of weight in dumbbells.”1

While this one study is not conclusive by any means, it does show promise for sandbag training. Using a sandbag in a well-designed circuit like the one below can generate a huge caloric expenditure and improve your cardiovascular system.

3) Inexpensive and Versatile

Sandbags are relatively cheap and versatile making them a great option. The possibility of getting an awesome full-body workout with a piece of equipment you can make for under $15 is hard to beat!

Full-Body Sandbag Workout

Here’s a sample sandbag circuit designed to improve your conditioning and burn a ton of calories.

Sandbag weight recommendations:
Beginner: 10-15 lbs.Intermediate: 30-40 lbs.Advanced: 50-60 lbs.

Warm-up:

Choose the warm-up of your choice for 5 to 10 minutes. Get a sweat. Consider this full-body dynamic warm-up.

CIRCUIT A

Move from one exercise to the next with as little rest as possible between exercises. After the circuit, rest for 2 minutes, then repeat for 3 more rounds. Perform each exercise for the specified reps before moving to the next exercise.

Complete a total of 4 rounds before moving on to Circuit B.

ExerciseReps
Bear Hug Squat10
Push-up15
Rotational Lunge10 each side
Bent-over row15

CIRCUIT B

Tabata training – 20s/10s work-to-rest circuit for 8 rounds.

ExerciseSetsReps
Sandbag Shouldering820 seconds work
10 seconds rest

Sandbag Exercise Descriptions

1) Bear Hug Squat

sandbag-bear-hug-squat

Hug the sandbag in a vertical position against your body. Maintain a straight back as you sit back and down into a squat position. Actively keep your core engaged and try to keep a neutral spine throughout the entire movement.

2) Push-up

sandbag-push-up

Set up for a strict push-up with your hands on your sandbag underneath your shoulders, your feet together, and a nice straight line from head-to-toe. Squeeze your butt to create tension in your body. Lower down without letting your elbows flare out wide. Think about pressing into the ground as you push yourself up in a controlled tempo. For an instructional push-up video, check this out: How To Do A Push Up.

3) Rotational Lunge

sandbag-rotational-lunge

Stand tall gripping the sandbag in front of your body. Step back into a reverse lunge as you rotate the sandbag to the outside of the front foot. As you step forward, rotate the bag in front of your body. Step the other foot back into a reverse lunge and rotate the sandbag to the outside of the front foot. Keep your trunk engaged and try not to let the sandbag pull you off balance.

4) Bent-Over Row

sandbag-bentover-row

Set up with the sandbag on the ground just in front of your toes. With a slight bend to your knees, bend down to pick up the sandbag maintaining a neutral back. Grab the handles and pull the sandbag into your chest. Avoid rounding your back as you pull the sandbag.

5) Shouldering

sandbag-shouldering

Bend at the knees and hips and grip under the middle of the sandbag with both hands. Lift the bag up quickly and swing the front/top end of the bag back over one shoulder. Drop the weight down and repeat to the other shoulder. Avoid rounding your back and/or trying to pull the sandbag with the arms. The hips and legs should be the main driver to get the sandbag onto your shoulder.

Sandbag Shopping Guide

You have a number of different options when it comes to buying a sandbag for training. From most affordable to most expensive, here’s a list:

Budget Option – Build One Yourself

It’s pretty straightforward to make a basic sandbag. A quick trip to your local hardware store should do the trick. All you need is sand (pea gravel works as well if you don’t have access to sand), an old duffel bag, some heavy-duty trash bags, and duct tape.

Here’s a good video on DIY sandbags.

The only downside is that most duffel bags aren’t built to withstand the constant beatings of sandbag training and will most likely start to wear down quickly. You’ll also be limited by the lack of handles.

Mid-Range Option

Most big box sporting goods stores (Sports Authority, Big5, Dick’s, or Modell’s) will sell basic training sandbags. These are OK, but are not going to be very durable if you plan on using the sandbag often, especially if you train outdoors. I trained clients with one of these bags on the beach and the zipper broke within a few months of use. I made it work with extra duct tape, but it was kind of a pain to use.

High-End Sandbag

If you want to get serious with your sandbag training, I would recommend either of these bags. Both are high-quality, very durable and perfect for the above circuit.

If you’ve never used a sandbag, you’re in for a real treat. You’re going to feel muscles you never knew you had.

Benefits of a sandbag workout

  • A sandbag is easier to use than other weights
  • A sandbag is comfier to hold and carry than typical weights
  • A sandbag may be readily available to buy than dumbbells and kettlebells – both of which saw sales soar during the pandemic when home workouts had a moment
  • A sandbag comes as an adjustable weight
  • A sandbag is versatile and easy adaptable to suit a range of workouts

How to buy the best sandbag for you

Sandbags come in a range of sizes and weights, from the lighter, small sandbags at around 3 to 5kg to the much heavier and large sandbags which sit at 40 to 50kg. ‘Look for the sandbags that come in adjustable weights’, recommends Stephens. ‘That way you don’t have to splash out on lots of different bits of kits, but just the one.’

Beginners sandbag workout

According to PT Jamie Ray, the sandbag weight is the don of one-kit workouts due to its versatility. This means that his sandbag workout can be adapted to challenge even the strongest of exercisers, while it’s also perfect for those new to working out with a sandbag. Ready?

How to do this workout:

  • Repeat each move 12 times
  • Do the 5-move circuit 3 times in total

1. Rotational lunges

sandbag workouts

WOMEN’S HEALTH

Do: 6 reps on each side to make the total of 12

a. Start with feet hip-distance apart, hold the sandbag with two hands close to chest. Step right leg back into a deep lunge with shin parallel to floor.

b. Once stable, rotate upper body around to left leg and rotate back to centre. Power yourself back to standing and repeat on opposite leg.

2. Crunch to leg extension

sandbag workouts

WOMEN’S HEALTH

a. Lay on back, holding sandbag to chest. Raise knees to 90° angle with lower legs parallel to floor.

b. Engage abdominals, lift sandbag and shoulders off ground to a crunch position while extending legs out parallel to floor. Return to beginning position. Ensure you roll your tail bone under to avoid injury.

3. Clean-and-press throws

sandbag workouts

WOMEN’S HEALTH

a. To start, place sandbag between feet, which are hip-distance apart. Squat with straight back, looking forward.

b. Grab sandbag and press above head, extending legs and arms in one movement. Engage your lats (back muscles that start beneath shoulder blade) then throw bag explosively to the floor.

4. Bear hug squat

sandbag workouts

WOMEN’S HEALTH

a. Standing with feet shoulder-width apart. Hug bag to chest.

b. Slowly lower, pushing hips back into a squat position so knees are over feet. Pause at bottom for a beat or two, then return to standing.

5. Press-up bear switch

sandbag workouts

WOMEN’S HEALTH

a. Get in a press-up position (knees or extended legs – the former will be easier) with hands shoulder-width apart and sandbag on floor by left hand. Lower body down till chest nearly touches floor and press back up to beginning position, ensuring back is straight.

b. Once back in high plank, grab sandbag with right hand from left side and drag to place by right hand. Repeat on other side.

Intermediate sandbag workout

‘Sandbags force your body to work harder to control each movement, thanks to the shifting weight of the sand inside,’ explains Third Space personal trainer Risqat Fabunmi-Alade. ‘This means the oft-underused stabilising muscles in your core take a beating.’

Fortunately, the beating they take means you’ll be both strengthening and toning whilst you’re working hard – something we’re really here for. So, if you’re ready for this advanced workout, let’s get going.

How to do this workout:

  • Do 12 reps of each move, resting for 30 seconds before the next exercise.
  • Do three rounds, resting for 3 minutes in between.
  • Choose a weight you can lift above your head with control. 10kg is a good starting point.

1. Hammer curl

Shoulder, Arm, Standing, Weights, Muscle, Joint, Dumbbell, Exercise equipment, Fictional character, Sports equipment,

a. Stand upright with your feet hip-width apart. With your arms relaxed, hold the sandbag by the handles in front of your thighs.

b. Brace your core, then hinge at the elbows to lift the bag to your shoulders. Now, with control, slowly lower it back down to the starting position. Repeat, keeping your feet planted, elbows tucked in and back straight throughout.

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2. Burpee into overhead press

Recreation, Sports, Speed skating,

a. Start in a wide-legged squat, holding the handles of the sandbag – it should be resting on the floor slightly in front of your feet. Keeping hold of the bag, jump your feet back into a wide plank.

b. Now, jump your feet back in and stand up, using the momentum to lift the bag off the ground and straight above your head. Then lower it back down to the floor with control. That’s one rep. Only 11 more to go.

3. Reverse lunge with good morning

Recreation, Sports, Speed skating,

a. With your feet hip-width apart, place the sandbag on your shoulders and hold the handles. Take a big step back with your left foot and lower into a lunge. Then return to the starting position.

b. Slightly bend your knees and slowly hinge forward 90° at the hips. Then reverse until you’re upright and go again from the beginning, alternating feet on the lunge. Keep your spine aligned throughout and don’t allow your chin to collapse on to your chest.

4. Sumo squat into high pull

Muscle, Figurine, Fictional character,

a. Start with your feet wide and your toes slightly turned out. Keeping your back straight, squat down to retrieve the sandbag from the floor in front of you.

b. Now, squeezing your glutes, explode upwards to bring the bag straight up in front of your chest, until your elbows are in line with your shoulders. Then squat down to lower the sandbag back to the floor and repeat.

5. Glute bridge with pull over

Weights, Exercise equipment, Arm, Leg, Dumbbell, Bench, Physical fitness, Knee, Ball, Chest,

a. Lie on your back with your legs bent, feet planted on the floor and the sandbag across your hips. Keep hold of the handles as you thrust your hips upwards until your knees, hips and shoulders are in a straight line. Then slowly lower your bum to the ground.

b. Now, lift the sandbag up until your arms are straight above your shoulders. Then, in a controlled movement, keeping your lower back on the floor, lower it behind your head. Don’t let the bag touch the floor. Slowly reverse to bring the bag back to your hips, then repeat from the beginning.

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