We’re going to put down the bell for a minute (well okay, for about 15 minutes, but I swear we’ll pick it back up soon) to take a moment to appreciate another piece of equipment worth mentioning if you want a killer, full-body session in a short amount of time.
Enter the sandbag…
Working out with free weights instead of strength machines is a trend now. Free weights definitely engage more muscles in any strength workout. With this in mind, the use of unstable objects with a handled sandbag should increase the demand on the body’s core muscles and stabilizing muscles giving you the ultimate sandbag training.
Sandbags are one of my favorite pieces of equipment, simply because they’re so versatile. They’re even super easy to carry around with you if you need something portable that isn’t metal.
However, aside from ease-of-use, sandbags offer a few unique body benefits that few other pieces do. Let’s take a look.
1. Builds Stability
By nature, sandbags are asymmetrical, while their weight also shifts based on position and handling. Anything that we move around that doesn’t have a stable center of gravity requires that our bodies pick up the slack.
In other words, as the weight of a sandbag constantly shifts, our stabilizer muscles are constantly working to keep our body-centered. This of trying to maintain a perfectly upright position as the bag you’re holding falls to the left: the stabilizer muscles lining your core (particularly the right side in this instance) tighten in order to keep you upright while pulling the bag back into position.
In a similar way, if you lift the sandbag over your head and the weight shifts to either side, the small stabilizer muscles that keep your larger shoulder muscles in place are put to work so that your shoulders stay put.
Why is this important?
Strong stabilizer muscles are the foundation of not only preventing injuries but also for increasing strength. If you don’t train the small muscles that are stabilizing your larger muscle groups, they become weak. When it comes time to lift a heavier weight or move into a more challenging flow, your stabilizer muscles may strain to support the larger muscle groups, which could result in less power output.
When you work with a sandbag often, these muscles are constantly put to work so that you can be assured they’re strong enough to support your large muscle groups during the bigger lifts.
2. Builds Functional Fitness
Picking up a sandbag is like … picking up heavy trash. Carrying groceries. Moving furniture. Or perhaps even moving your body in MMA or other sports.
In this way, sandbags build functional fitness. This is the kind you use in sports and everyday situations that require a flexible, yet stable body. After all, how often are you going to do a static squat with a barbell in “real” life? Most likely, you’ll be squatting to pick up something with an uneven center of gravity, similar to a sandbag.
This also helps prevent real-world and sports injuries because you’re training for real human movement, not static reps.
As an aside, it also improves natural balance, since your stabilizer muscles govern how effectively you hold your center of gravity during certain movements.
3. Epic Core Workout
Every time you move that sandbag, your core is engaging. This goes back to the sandbag’s uneven weight distribution, which requires your core to compensate for keeping you stable. Most of our movements stem from our core, so if you have a sandbag in your hands, you can be assured your core is tight.
As I mentioned earlier, sandbags are extremely versatile. You can toss them in the car, take our sand, add sand in, and generally just use them anywhere. They can also be used for almost any type of movement since they’re so flexible.
Sandman Shred Workout
You know the drill – we have to give these things a cool name. This quick and effective HIIT workout uses just a sandbag and your body weight for a full-body flow. If you have 12-15 minutes, you have time to shred.
Repeat 4 rounds of each exercise for 45 seconds, followed by 15 seconds of rest between each exercise. Rest one minute between rounds.
- Sandbag snatch – 45 seconds + 15 seconds rest
- Sandbag reverse lung twist – 45 seconds + 15 seconds rest
- Sandbag clean – 45 seconds + 15 seconds rest
- Sandbag squat – 45 seconds +15 seconds rest
- Rest one minute, then repeat.
1. Begin by picking your bag up off the floor with both handles, keeping your back flat and knees slightly bent as you use your core and wrists to toss the bag up onto your forearms and chest.
2. Push the bag up into a thrust overhead, then lower the bag back down onto your forearms, and finally letting it overturn toward the floor. Keep your glutes engaged throughout the movement.
Sandbag Reverse Lunge Twist
1. Begin standing, hold the bag’s handles with both hands. Lower into a lunge leading with your left leg, while rotating your arms to move the bag over to the side of your left leg. Keep your core tight and forward.
2. Push to standing, then repeat on the other side.
1. Begin standing with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width, sandbag on the ground in front of you.
2. Bend at your waist, keeping your back flat, and grasp both handles of the bag.
3. As you deadlift the bag up, prepare to flip your wrists to send the bag up and over your forearms.
4. Lower and allow the bag to rotate as you bring it to the ground, keeping your chest lifted.
1. Begin by placing your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart.
2. Grab your sandbag and place it in a cradle between your biceps and forearms, holding it tight to your chest.
3. As you lower into a squat, keep your back straight and avoid bending forward. Keep your knees behind your toes.
4. Push to stand, then repeat.
Inspired to snag a sandbag? I personally stick to Onnit’s sandbag because it goes beyond the norm. For one, it has strategic handles (only four) that encourage you to grab the bag during fast movements instead of handles (which will further destabilize the bag to improve your own stability, and increase grip strength, while also containing extra stitching at stress points for durability.
Check it out here, and let us know what you think! Have you tried your hand with sandbags before? How did you like it?