Training with sandbags can be rewarding for so many reasons, and considering its simplicity relative to other forms of exercise, it’s one of the best ways to train that we can thing of.
Here’s the quick run down of what you’ll need for sandbag training:
- A sandbag
…and that’s it.
Hence, the ‘simple’ side of it. Now let’s look at the benefits:
- Full body conditioning – there’s no area you can’t hit with a bag full of sand
- Aerobic, Anaerobic and Muscular development/improvement
- Power and Explosiveness Improvements – where the traditional gym workout might not always give you this, sandbags can – and will
- Versatility – you can do it anywhere you have room to swing a cat!
- Time Effective – just half an hour on the sandbag can be an extensive workout; it’s perfect for busy people and new parents
- Inexpensive – see equipment needed, and no gym memberships (if you don’t want)
- Supplementary or Complete – you can supplement your existing workout schedule or you can make sandbags your life’s training
The more I think about it, the more I can come up with benefits to sandbag training. One of the best is from a health perspective for people that don’t normally add much metabolic conditioning to their regular workout.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to do strength sets and move between each one slowly and methodically, but there is not much advantage to your CV system. Because sandbag training lowers the overall weight being lifted, you can compensate with intensity and stamina. The results are often unexpected, as you tend to improve your other areas of training in the process.
Watch this space for some example training videos
Purchasing a Sandbag
You don’t have to get one of the expensive military-spec sandbags to get into it, but there are some advantages to getting a decent one. If nothing else, getting a poor quality one that either breaks or has no hand holds is going to put you off before you get into the real golden period of sandbag training. It’s true that you don’t know if you are going to like it, but going in half-assed is just another way to not commit.
I do recommend buying a purpose-built training sandbag, but I won’t recommend one particular type. There are a few manufacturers and you can find something that suits. However, if you do decide to go the route of duct-taping up a bag of industrial sand then be aware that your range of exercise movements might be limited.
The weight you begin with is another decision you will have to make based on your experience and fitness so far. It is also something that will grow almost organically as you do. Some people have several sandbags for different things but I think that actually removes some of the appeal. For me, chucking the bag over my shoulder and walking over the road to the little park is great. With that one bag I can do a complete workout, then throw it back over my shoulder and walk home.
If you’ve been working out for a while then you might be able to start with something around 50 to 60 lbs – or – a quarter to a third of your bodyweight. If you are new to working out then perhaps go with a lighter 30 to 40 lbs. There’s no point in starting too big, you will only impede your own progress.
From my own experience, I’ve found that multi-joint movements and ‘power-lifting’ movements elicit the best muscle, metabolic and neurological conditioning results overall. What that basically means is that I don’t envisage using my sandbag for single isolation exercises like curls. If you are the type to concentrate a large portion of your workouts to developing large biceps then sandbag training is going to be either a disappointment, or a welcome change.
Sure, you may want to really ‘finish off’ the muscles with a few reps of isolation exercises (rows and military presses are particularly awesome with a sandbag) but the major portion of your workout should have many muscle groups and both upper and lower body engaged.
Examples of sandbag movements include:
- Squat Cleans
- Jump squats
- SB Burpees
Switched-on people will already realize this but if you’re like me then you need to be told: all these exercises are open to variation, and a lot of them can be bolted together – combo style – to create strings of exercises within a set.
The longer you go the more tired you will be of course but it adds to the sandbag’s versatility. As you get into the more dynamic movements where you let go of and catch the bag or bounce it from shoulder to shoulder, you’ll start to get the uniqueness of this type of training, and that you simply can’t cover it all in the gym with a barbell.
I don’t exactly go out there with my SB, mindless of what I’m going to do, but planning it down to the letter just isn’t my style. The beauty of the sandbag is that, depending on how you are feeling physically, and what sort of mood you are in, you can have two completely different workouts. Unlike at the gym when it’s probably better to be more structured, even though the availability of equipment sometimes dictates that, the sandbag gives you a lot more freedom.
I found 30 minutes to be a good duration. You can really get a good workout in in half an hour. In that time, I tend to do as much as I can, while trying to last the duration and no have too much ‘downtime’. It’s a skill in itself to fill that time as well as possible without overdoing it.
With all that in mind, it’s a really good idea to know the moves, as it were, and then combine them into a more fluid workout.
Watch this space for some exercise videos