3 Sandbag Workouts for Undeniable Full-body Strength

Feb 1, 2023 | Strength & Conditioning

Man in functional fitness gym doing a sandbag workout on top of a box for full-body strength.

Sandbags are a misunderstood workout tool. Why use a cheap, dusty heap of dirt over a beautiful, polished barbell set? When programmed correctly, sandbag workouts actually translate much better to real life than most traditional workout tools. If you wanna be a monster in the gym and unstoppable in everyday life, give these full-body sandbag workouts a try.

Brandon Robb is the founder and head coach of HEROIC Athletics @heroic.athletics and Golf HEROIC @golf.heroic. First responders (fire, police, military), golfers, functional fitness athletes, obstacle course racers, and hockey players all turn to him for performance gains, injury prevention, and competition prep.

In this blog, he explains the benefits of sandbag workouts, provides three thorough workout examples, and gives you guidance on how to program your own.

John Fasulo
brandon robb

Change the Way You Train

The Sandbag: A Timeless, Reliable, & Affordable Workout Tool

If the past few years taught you anything, it’s that you must be adaptable with your fitness routine. Flash back a couple of years ago, and finding a barbell for sale was like striking gold. But due to the rarity of at-home gym equipment at the time, you basically needed to take out a second mortgage to cash in on your lucky find.

Enter: the sandbag.

With an $8 bag of sand from Home Depot, or an old pillowcase and some duct tape, you had a myriad of workout options at your fingertips that offered WAY more than the typical bodyweight exercises like pushups, squats, and burpees.

Things calmed down quite a bit since then. The big equipment manufacturers cashed in on the garage gym trend, and the savior of 2020 – the sandbag – ceased to get any love.

While I myself love a good barbell workout (and consider it one of the best investments you can make for your home gym), I feel very strongly that neglecting to use sandbags on a regular basis can leave large holes in your overall fitness ability.

Sandbags are much more than awkward, heavy objects stuffed into the corner of the gym to be used as a seat in between reps. They are magnificent training tools that build muscle, strength, and power without needing to be anything fancy.

Benefits of Sandbag Training

So what’s so great about training with sandbags?

For starters, the simple awkwardness of using sandbags translates much better to the real world than a barbell does.

How many times have you tried to move a heavy object (like a couch? Or for my firefighters and medics out there, a patient?) and found a perfectly balanced setup with a 29mm handle perfectly placed in the center to make it easy to lift? My guess is probably zero times.

Simply put, sandbags offer many more real-world applications than traditional fitness tools. They are heavy and awkward. The weight shifts around on you as you move it. It requires you to move in a fluid manner.

This isn’t to say machines and barbells don’t offer any benefit (they do), but neglecting to use sandbags can leave a gap in your overall ability to live life outside the gymespecially if your job requires you to be physically capable in the real world!

Sandbag 101 - $35

This 8 week program teaches you so much more than just lifting weights for sets and reps can! Training with a sandbag teaches you how to create tension in the right places for a stronger, more capable body.

Professional female athlete performing forward lunge exercise with sandbag over shoulders

3 Full-Body Sandbag Workouts For Vicious Strength

I put together three full-body sandbag workouts that are great for when you’re pressed for time, low on equipment, or just up for the challenge! Try one (or all) of these sandbag workouts for total body strength and juicy gains.

WORKOUT #1

Strength

Every minute on the minute x 8-10 minutes:
4-6 Sandbag Zercher Squats; Tempo 33X1

Conditioning

Complete as many rounds as possible in 20 minutes:
400m Run
5/side Alternating Reverse Lunge with Sandbag on Shoulder
1:00 Contralateral Dead Bug
10/side Side to Side Plyo Push Ups Over Sandbag

WORKOUT #2

Strength

Complete 4-5 rounds:
8-10 Sandbag Romanian Deadlift

Rest 60s

MAX Strict Pull Ups

Rest 60s then start again at the top

Conditioning

Complete 8-10 rounds for time:
100m Sprint
3/side Lateral Burpee Over Sandbag
10 Sandbag Bent Over Row

Rest 30-60s between sets (utilize breathing techniques and aim to recover during this rest period fully)

WORKOUT #3

Strength

Complete 4-5 rounds:
10 Sandbag Floor Press
MAX Diamond Push Up (complete these to failure)

Rest 2-3 minutes before starting again at the top

Conditioning

Complete the following for time:
30 Sandbag Clean & Jerk

Rest 3-5 minutes, then complete the following for time:
100m Sandbag Zercher Carry
5/side Lateral Sandbag Toss
15m Bear Crawl
80m Sandbag Zercher Carry
5/side Lateral Sandbag Toss
15m Bear Crawl
60m Sandbag Zercher Carry
5/side Lateral Sandbag Toss
15m Bear Crawl
40m Sandbag Zercher Carry
5/side Lateral Sandbag Toss
15m Bear Crawl
20m Sandbag Zercher Carry
5/side Lateral Sandbag Toss
15m Bear Crawl

How to Craft Your Own Full-Body Sandbag Workout

Loved the sample workouts? Ready for more? It’s easy to put together your own sandbag workouts to keep things interesting and/or target specific muscle groups.

I recommend doing both a strength portion and conditioning portioning in your workouts. Start by selecting an upper-body movement and/or a lower-body movement for the strength portion. (If you’re limited with what’s available for sandbags, try using tempo to ensure you get enough time under tension.)

Following the strength portion, include some conditioning. I try to select movements that complement my main strength for that day.

To make things easy, I provided some sample upper and lower body movements that are GREAT for conditioning. Select both upper- and lower-body movements from each category, choose a rep range that seems reasonable for that movement and weight of the sandbag you’re using, and then get to it!

UPPER BODY

Push
Horizontal Push
Vertical Push
45° Push

Pull
Horizontal Pull
Vertical Pull
45° Pull

Trunk
Flexion/Extension
Lateral Flexion/Extension
Rotation
Anti Rotation
Bracing

LOWER BODY

Squat
Front Squat
Back Squat
Zercher Squat
Front Carry Squat
Offset Feet
Offset Load

Hinge
Bilateral Stance
Split Stance
Sumo Stance
Step
Split Squat
Forward Lunge
Reverse Lunge
Walking Lunge

Jump
Bilateral Jump
Single Leg Jump

Without getting overwhelming, while I listed out each MAIN category, I only listed out SOME of the sub-categories. But it gives you a starting point for crafting a well-rounded, full-body sandbag workout.

And there you have it. Whether you are a first responder or a weekend warrior who just wants to become more athletic, I hope you start to include more sandbag work in your workouts. Once you do, you’ll be surprised at how much stronger and capable you become both in and out of the gym.

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