A Few Thoughts on Sandbag Training


It's interesting how the burgeoning sandbag training community has picked and chose its favored adoptable movements from the standard barbell/dumbbell exercise repertoire -- some from "Column A" and some from "Column B."

Mimicking the Olympic lifts appears to be "in" i.e. cleans (or shouldering), the power snatch, doing squats once the sandbag is shoulders, etc. You know, traditional ground-based stuff which gets the bag to the shoulder, on the back or overhead in one or two movements. This all makes perfect sense, given the nature of the resistance employed.

It's interesting, too, to see "sandbaggers" reach way back in history for movements like the Get-up, and to gravitate toward repetition compound movements like the clean & press, squat and press (held in front of the shoulders or behind the head) and combining burpees and power snatch, for instance. All very old-school and productive, especially in terms of muscular conditioning.  It appears folks are less apt to apply sandbags to more "isolated" conventional bodybuilding exercises like curls, shoulders raises and the like. Still, I guess I'm a little surprised that some guru somewhere hasn't endorsed bench pressing sandbags, given the popularity of that movement.

Come to think of it, though, that notion isn't so far-fetched, or unadaptable to old-school, ground-based combination exercises. Modify the exercise to the floor press movement mentioned in Alan Calvert's time-honored Milo Barbell Course and ponder the possibilities:

Arbitrarily, shoulder a moderately weighted sandbag, place it back on the floor, IMMEDIATELY lie down flat on the floor, lift or roll the bag onto your chest and press it, replace it on the floor and IMMEDIATELY stand up and shoulder the bag again. Keep this up for at least 10-15 continuous repetitions.  Guaranteed just about anyone would be breathing hard and pretty well pumped muscularly (forearms, hands, arms, upper and lower back,and shoulders at a minimum).  Likewise, I'd think this movement would be a winner for those who want a good workout but who are constrained by a lack of time. Other than the sandbag, you don't need any other equipment. 

Perhaps modern day bench pressers would have trouble wrapping their minds around pressing from the floor (sans bench), and, more so, how
strenuously a "measly" 100 pounds (of sand) would be to
handle in the aforementioned manner.

John, at your leisure, any thoughts or comments regarding
my above outburst would be welcome.

                                            Jan Dellinger



Great to hear from you and, as always, you're right on the money. It's true that the majority of training information that we have seen on sandbag training tends to gravitate toward either traditional "free weight" movements (which is a good thing) or heavier shouldering/carrying techniques mentioned frequently in Dinosaur Training (also a very Lifting and Carrying heavy objects is good for youeffective kind of training.)

My thoughts have always been that sandbag training offers many more possibilities than most people give it credit for though. Every exercise you can think of is different when performed with a sandbag. As you touch on, there can be much more to it than simply mimicking the basic movements; a sandbag can provide a style of training that no barbell or dumbbell could ever match. One reason for this is the awkwardness of the sandbag itself. A chunk of iron is dense and concentrated - thus easier to maintain its center of gravity as it is moved through space.

A sandbag, on the other hand, moves every which way causing you to have to make constant adjustments even on a rep-by-rep basis. I have commented many times on just how "heavy" a 15-25-pound sandbag can feel for some movements. Not to mention the sequence/circuit training idea that you have lends itself more effectively to a sandbag than any other type of equipment.   The fact that any time you do any training with a sandbag, you also have to grab the material that the bag is made of which makes just about every sandbag exercises a particularly effective grip and forearm developer -- and you know how important that is...

Yes indeed, plenty of possibilities.

                                                                                                              John Wood


If you are interested in reading more about sandbag training, here are a few books and courses that we highly recommend adding to your strength library:

Dinosaur Training
by Brooks Kubik

The "Grand Daddy of 'em all" ... It was Dinosaur Training that single handedly kick-started the modern sandbag lifting revolution. You'll find a great deal about sandbag training and other form of "odd object" lifting throughout the pages of DT, but if you want to cut to the chase then flip right to chapter 15... Click HERE for More info >>>

 Dinosaur Training by Brooks Kubik

The Way to Live
by George Hackenschmidt

An item of particular interest in the life of "The Russion Lion" George Hackenschmidt is that his preparation for his second bout with "The Terrible Turk" consisted of carring a large bag of cement around the gym on his shoulders.  Hackenschmidt reports that he felt "particularly fit" and prepared for the match... Click HERE for More info >>>

 The Way to Live by George Hackenschmidt

How to Develop A Powerful grip
by Edward Aston

The famous strongman William "Apollo" had a special 280 pound "challenge sack"  which defined just about everyone including Britain's Edward Aston. Not taking the challenge lightly, Aston fashioned his own sack to practice with, and in 1907, accomplished the feat easily.  Aston's "How to Develop a Powerful Grip" is among our Classic Grip Course Collection:   Click HERE for More info >>>

  The Way to Live by George Hackenschmidt

Jan Dellinger

A Few Thoughts on Sandbag Training by Jan Dellinger