10 Ways to Get Stronger With a Sandbag

Perform exercises with a sandbag instead of a barbell or dumbbell for more muscle activation and greater balance & stability.

Every athlete has probably heard his or her coach use the term "sandbagging it," referring to somebody taking it easy and not pushing himself to the limit. For years that term as been used in a negative way, but now it has a whole new meaning.

Adding a sandbag workout to your training program can switch up your normal routine and work different muscles. The sandbag has come into its own as  great new tool for athletes to use in place of conventional equipment such as barbells, dumbbells and machines. Sandbags are oddly shaped and have straps, which makes them difficult to move, lift or carry. They require an athlete's muscles to work harder and more efficiently to stabilize the bag while performing the exercise.

To maximize your strength gains, regularly incorporate this sandbag workout into your routine in place of your regular equipment.

RELATED: Not for the Weak: Sandbag Complexes

1. Sandbag High Pulls

A power version of the Upright Row, this exercise builds strength in the biceps, deltoids and traps. It's essentially the first half of a Clean, focusing on the pulling motion and greatly benefiting rowers, wrestlers and football players.

How to Perform:

  • Stand over the sandbag with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Pick up the the sandbag and explode up powerfully, fully extending your hips and pulling the weight quickly up to your chin.
  • Use the power generated through your hips to do most of the work.
  • At the top of the movement, your elbows should be high, your chest should be out and your shoulders should be retracted.
  • Return the sandbag to the floor; that's one repetition.

Sets/Reps: 3x12

2. Sandbag Clean and Press

This one builds explosive power in the hips, quadriceps and glutes. Using a sandbag in place of a bar generates better grip and forearm strength and challenges your balance due to the rocking of the bag.

How to Perform:

  • Stand over the sandbag with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Lift the bag from the ground and, as it gathers momentum, explosively pull it up.
  • Use the power generated through your hips to do most of the work.
  • Do not throw the bag up; hold on to it—it should become almost weightless.
  • Hold the sandbag with a Zercher grip, or at either end of the bag.
  • Quickly transition into pressing the bag overhead without leaning too far back.
  • Perform the whole motion in reverse to the starting position; that's one repetition.

Sets/Reps: 3x10

3. Sandbag Deadlift

The Deadlift is a staple exercise for almost any sport, building solid hip, glute and hamstring strength. Substituting a sandbag for a barbell requires you to slow down and reduce the use of momentum when you let the bar drop.

How to Perform:

  • Stand over the sandbag with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Grasp the bag either by the handles or the bag material.
  • Set your back in the correct position with a neutral spine and bend your knees slightly.
  • Stand upright, keeping the sandbag close to your legs and your shoulders over the bag.
  • Return the sandbag to the floor; that's one repetition.
  • Make sure to open your hips fully between lifts.

Sets/Reps: 3x10

4. Sandbag Zercher Squat

The Zercher Squat is another great exercise for athletes, because the weight is in front rather than on your back, forcing your muscles to work differently to balance the weight. When you use a barbell, it can be difficult and uncomfortable; but the sandbag shifts as you move, preventing you from speeding through your reps. The holding position front-loads the weight on your body, requiring additional core strength as you squat.

How to Perform:

  • Set your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width.
  • Clean the sandbag up into the Zercher position and rest the bag in the crook of your elbows.
  • Keeping your shoulders back and your core flexed, drop your hips toward the ground, as if you were sitting down in a chair.
  • Focus forward with your chest up as you descend beyond where your thighs are parallel with the ground.
  • Without rounding your lower back, pause briefly at the bottom of the Squat.
  • Using a slow and controlled motion, stand back up, keeping your glutes and abdominal muscles tight to protect your back and stabilize the sandbag; that's one repetition.

Sets/Reps: 3x10

5. Sandbag Single-Shoulder Lunge

The Lunge is a terrific exercise for strengthening the quadriceps, glutes and hips, helping athletes in any sport. Placing a sandbag on one shoulder while you perform a Lunge requires more core and leg strength to balance yourself.

How to Perform:

  • Place the sandbag over your right shoulder.
  • With your upper body straight and upright, lunge forward with your left leg, keeping your knee and toe straight.
  • Drive back to a standing position.
  • Repeat for all reps on one side, then switch the bag to your left shoulder and lunge forward with your right leg.

Sets/Reps: 3x10, each leg

6. Sandbag Get-Up

The Get-Up is an exercise traditionally done with either a kettlebell or a dumbbell. Using a large, awkward and unstable object like a sandbag makes it a much more challenging movement—greatly benefitting wrestlers, football players and other athletes who require a strong core.

How to Perform:

  • Hold the sandbag either in one hand or across a shoulder.
  • Powerfully roll out onto your elbow on the opposite side.
  • Keep a wide base with your legs.
  • Push up onto your opposite hand.
  • Get your legs under you, preferably in a lunge position.
  • Stand up and return to the ground; thats one repetition.

Sets/Reps: 3x10, each arm

7. Sandbag Shouldering

This full-body exercise targets almost every muscle in the body, from the quadriceps and glutes to the core and shoulders. To catch and stabilize the  sandbag, you really have to focus on balance and stability, while exerting strength and power to lift the bag from the ground to your shoulders. This exercise is most beneficial to wrestlers and football players.

How to Perform:

  • Drop your hips down low and make your back as tight and flat as possible.
  • Dig your arms under the bag while extending them straight down from your body.
  • Pull the bag up onto your lap using your hamstrings, glutes and low back.
  • Bear hug the bag and get ready to explode with your hips.
  • Explosively drive your hips to launch the bag up onto one shoulder.
  • Keeping your back tight, explosively extend your hips while pulling with your arms.
  • Keep a tight bear hug on the bag until it gets set on your shoulder.
  • To finish the lift, stand up nice and tall.
  • Repeat the motion in reverse; that's one repetition.

Sets/Reps: 3x10, each shoulder

8. Sandbag Suitcase Carry

Many athletes perform the Suitcase Carry with a dumbbell, weight plate or kettlebell. Carrying a sandbag is more like an actual suitcase or dufflebag. The exercise has benefits similar to the Single-Shoulder Lunge, requiring great core strength to stay balanced and upright.

How to Perform:

  • Grasp the sandbag handle with one hand.
  • Avoid letting the bag rest against your side.
  • Maintaining an upright position, walk forward at a moderate to quick pace.
  • After 50 yards, drop the bag, switch hands and walk back to the starting point; that's one set.
  • Avoid the tendency to lean to the side opposite the bag.

Sets/Distance: 3x50 yards, each hand

9. Sandbag Around the World

Performing the Around the World exercise with a weight plate increases shoulder, core and grip strength. Using a sandbag requires even greater grip, shoulder and core strength, due to the bag's larger size and shifting weight. Benefiting golfers, basketball and baseball players the most, this exercise is great to incorporate into any workout routine.

How to Perform:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Holding a sandbag in front of you, pivot left and lift the bag in a circle behind your head in a continuous motion.
  • Brace your core and keep your back straight.
  • Repeat for all reps in one direction, then switch directions.

Sets/Reps: 3x10, each direction

10. Sandbag Single-Arm Swing

Like the Kettlebell Swing, the Sandbag Swing strengthens the hips, glutes, shoulders and lower back. But because of the bag's larger size and shifting weight, it engages the core and shoulders even more, increasing your strength gains.

How to Perform:

  • Grasp a sandbag by the handle with one hand.
  • Set your feet a little wider than shoulder-width, chest high, hips back and knees bent.
  • Keeping your core braced and spine neutral, explosively swing the bag forward and up to chest or head height.
  • As you swing the bag, transition from a squat position to a standing position.
  • Reverse the motion to starting position; that's one rep.

Sets/Reps: 3x10, each hand, continuously

RELATED: 3 Sandbag Training Mistakes Athletes Make


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: POWER | EXERCISE | SWING