Sandbag training has been used by the military for decades to ready soldiers for dragging or carrying awkward loads, whether it’s an injured comrade or, well, a bunch of sandbags. Now more and more “fitness” sandbags are on the market—and functional-fitness trainers swear by them.
“There’s barbell strength, and then there’s brute strength,” says Rob Shaul of Strong Swift Durable, a Jackson Hole, WY, training center that caters to the military, mountain guides, and first responders. “Brute strength is for the real world.”
And “real world” doesn’t mean just life-or-death situations. Sandbags can prepare you for myriad day-to-day scenarios—say, reaching into a car to lift a bulky box—by adding instability to your training to provide a more intense core workout. “It’s amazing how much heavier 60 pounds of sand feels than an 80-pound barbell,” says Shaul.
BAG THESE MOVES
You can adapt strength exercises like squats, cleans, or even swings to work with sandbags. However, the following exercises better exploit the sandbag’s instability. Start with a 40- or 60-pound bag and work your way up.
1. SANDBAG GETUP
Based on the Turkish getup, this is a by-all-means-necessary exercise that transfers very well to real-life movements. “The nature of it is that it is awkward, so it’s realistic,” Shaul says.
DO IT: Hold the sandbag over your shoulder with one hand and lie down flat on your back on the floor. Get up any way you want until standing, keeping the bag pressed overhead.
2. WALKING LUNGE
A perfect swap for your favorite leg burner, the sandbag lunge makes this much more than just a quad hit.
DO IT: Drape the bag over your shoulders and do five forward-lunge steps, without letting your knee hit the ground. Switch sides and repeat.
3. SANDBAG THROW
Throwing objects—as is popular with medicine balls—builds explosive power and core strength.
DO IT: Heave the bag up to your chest, then throw it forward. Walk up to the bag and do it again.