To create a truly functional training program, you need to incorporate odd objects from time to time. Objects such as tires, yokes and sandbags offer unique workouts and new stimuli.
Of all those objects, the sandbag is the most versatile and affordable (you can buy a plain old bag of sand at any home improvement store). However, most people prefer commercial sandbags since they typically have handles for better maneuverability. Use a weight that’s appropriate to your ability and activity: The lighter the sandbag is relative to your strength, the easier it is to train for cardiovascular fitness; the heavier it is, the more the focus shifts to strength and raw power.
Training with a sandbag might feel unbalanced and sloppy at first, so work into it slowly. Once you get the hang of it, try using it these five ways in your programming.
As a Barbell
You can perform many of the same movements with a sandbag as with a barbell, but as the sand shifts around inside the bag it gives your muscles a new challenge. For instance, try a sandbag clean and jerk: Use the handles on the top or sides of the bag to do the clean, then keep your wrists solid as you press the bag overhead in the jerk, since the weight of the sand will be behind your arms rather than directly overhead.
Try It: Using a moderate-weight sandbag, do one round for time of an 800-meter run, 30 sandbag clean and jerks and another 800-meter run.
Abdominal and core moves can be done using resistance to build muscle just like any other loaded exercise, so if you want abs that pop, a sandbag sit-up might help.
Try It: Hug a lightweight sandbag to your chest by hooking your arms underneath and do full sit-ups either with the soles of your feet together, knees splayed, or with your toes anchored beneath a set of dumbbells. As a warm-up, complete 40 total reps as part of a circuit or do 40 reps as one straight set with minimal breaks as a finisher.
To Train the Posterior Chain
When a deadlift is done with a sandbag it might feel awkward and unbalanced, but it engages muscles that don’t normally activate during a standard barbell version.
Try It: If the bag has handles, do a normal deadlift in terms of technique; if not, reach under the bag with both arms, bear hug it and perform your deadlifts. Perform 20 rounds for time, alternating between one sandbag deadlift and one 25-meter sandbag carry.
In a Metcon
A squat clean and burpee combination is all about trying to manage your breathing while continuing to work at pushing your cardiovascular threshold and burning fat.
Try It: Use a medium-weight sandbag and perform 50 squat cleans for time, then drop the bag on the floor and place your hands on top of it to do 50 burpees.
A light sandbag can substitute for a weighted vest during cardiovascular work such as running or carries. It’s also a brain buster trying to figure out how to carry the bag comfortably over long distances or how to move it from one side of your body to the other without putting it down.
Try It: Do a sandbag chipper composed of a 400-meter sandbag-over-the-shoulder run, 50 lateral burpees over the sandbag, a 400-meter sandbag run (bear hugging the bag), 50 sandbag-over-the-shoulder walking lunges (50 total steps) and a 400-meter sandbag-over-the-shoulder run. Try not to put the bag down at any point except during the burpees.