Boost Your Barbell Workouts With Sandbags

Combine sandbag exercises with your barbell workouts for better overall results. Check out these 9 sample sandbag exercises.

Sports aren't limited to moving forward, backward, up and down. Developing strength and power in the frontal (moving side-to-side) and transverse (rotational) planes is of utmost importance. Dumbbells and barbells provide a challenge, but mixing in other training tools can improve your in-game performance. Consider the simple sandbag. It requires you to control an awkward object that is difficult to hold while moving with precision, challenging you in ways more similar to what you experience on the field.

RELATED: 12 Must-Have Items In Your Gym Bag

Although training with a barbell or a sandbag can provide big results, combining the two provides even more benefits. The two tools complement each other and fill in gaps where the other falls short. Below, we look at ways you can improve your barbell workouts by adding sandbag exercises. If you've never used a sandbag before, be conservative with the weight. Incorporate sandbags slowly instead of changing everything all at once.

RELATED: Portable Pre-Workout Snacks

1. Front-Loaded Farmer's Walk

This is a phenomenal way to activate your core and get you dialed in before your main lifts. Front-Loaded Farmer's Walks can also be applied as conditioning tools at the end of a workout.

Use a weight you can control with good posture. Keep your elbows pushed forward and up while pulling the bag into you.

Warm-Ups and Activation: One set, 15-20 yards.

Conditioning Purposes: Multiple sets, 15-30 yards. Rest enough between sets to complete each with proper form.

2. Shoulder-Loaded Unilateral Farmer's Walk

Another great core activation exercise, especially for the obliques. As with Front-Loaded Carries, Shoulder-Loaded Carries are best used for core activation and strength, but they're also great for conditioning at the end of your barbell workouts. Use a weight you can control while keeping both the loaded and unloaded sides of your body as level and symmetrical as possible,with minimal leaning.

Warm-Ups and Activation: One set per shoulder, 15-20 yards each.

Metabolic and Conditioning Purposes: Multiple sets, 15-30 yards. Rest enough between exercises to complete each with proper form.

3. Sandbag Power Cleans

These are best utilized as a power exercise at the beginning of your training, right after your warm-up while you're fresh. You can also try them with lighter loads as a metabolic and conditioning circuit at the end of your workout.

Power Cleans are an advanced exercise that require technical skills and plenty of practice. The sandbag is more forgiving than the bar and can be easier to practice with, especially for those new to the Clean.

Power Purposes (Heavier Load): 2-5 sets of 3-5 reps with two minutes rest between sets. Repetitions should be completed with a slow and controlled downward motion into the Squat, then an explosive quick motion up from the bottom of the Squat to full extension of the arms and legs.

Metabolic and Conditioning Purposes: (Lighter Load): 2-5 rounds of 6-12 reps with minimal rest between sets.

4. Sandbag Shouldering

This is unique. Unlike the other sandbag exercises, it cannot be done with a bar, dumbbell or medicine ball. However, the application of Sandbag Shouldering is very similar to the Power Clean. When used at the beginning of your barbell workouts, the shouldering exercise will develop explosiveness and power with heavier loads. Sandbag Shouldering is also a great conditioning tool when dropped into a circuit.

To safely complete Sandbag Shouldering, you must be able to squat down and get your hands under the bag with good posture (deep squat with minimal rounding of your spine). If you are not able to pick up the bag from the floor due to lack of mobility, you can use a step to set the bag on before you pick it up.

Power Purposes (Heavier Load): 2-5 sets of 3-5 reps with 2 minutes rest between sets. Repetitions should be completed with a slow and controlled downward motion into the Squat and an explosive motion up from the bottom of the Squat to full extension of the arms and legs.

Metabolic and Conditioning Purposes: (Lighter Load): 2-5 rounds of 6-12 reps with minimal rest between sets.

5. Sandbag Squat to Press

This is another power exercise that can also be used for metabolic conditioning.

Power Purposes (Heavier Load): 2-5 sets of 3-5 reps with two minutes rest between sets. Repetitions should be completed with a slow and controlled downward motion into the Squat and an explosive motion up from the bottom of the Squat to full extension of the arms and legs.

Metabolic and Conditioning Purposes: (Lighter Load): 2-5 rounds of 6-12 reps with minimal rest between sets.

6. Front-Loaded Squats

This is an excellent main lift for your strength program, but it can also be used as an accessory movement for your Deadlifts and Squats. Programming the sandbag Front Squats as an accessory lift minimizes the likelihood of your upper body giving out before your legs do. Whether you program it as a main lift or accessory lift, you are guaranteed to strengthen your whole body.

Main Lift Purposes: 2-5 sets 6-12 reps; approximately one minute rest, depending upon your fitness level, goals and other exercises in your workout.

Accessory Purposes: 2-3 sets of 6-12 reps; approximately one minute rest, depending upon your fitness level.

Metabolic and Conditioning Purposes: Combine in a circuit with three or more exercises for 6-12 reps and minimal rest between exercises.

7. Shoulder Press with Sandbag

You can incorporate this move as a main strength lift to replace the Barbell Shoulder Presses, as an accessory lift in conjunction with either Barbell or Dumbbell Presses, or, due to the instability of the bag, as a metabolic component.

Main Lift Purposes: Follow the prescribed sets and reps that you complete with your barbell workouts.

Accessory Purposes: 2-3 sets of 6-12 reps, approximately one minute rest, depending upon your fitness level.

Metabolic and Conditioning Purposes: Circuit format with three or more exercises for 6-12 reps and minimal rest between exercises.

8. Rotational Reverse Lunges

If you want to develop rotational stability and strength in your transverse plane, this is king!

Main Lift Purposes: 2-5 sets of 4-10 reps (each leg), depending upon your fitness level, goals and pairing of other exercises.

Accessory Purposes: 2-3 sets of 6-12 reps; approximately one minute rest, depending upon your fitness level.

Metabolic and Conditioning Purposes: Combine in a circuit with three or more exercises for 6-12 reps and minimal rest.

9. Alternating Lateral Lunges

Front-Loaded Lateral Lunges with a sandbag trump other Lateral Lunges due to the muscles you use to stabilize the bag while moving in your frontal plane.

Accessory Purposes: 2-3 sets of 6-12 reps; approximately one minute rest, depending upon your fitness level.

Metabolic and Conditioning Purposes: Combine in a circuit with three or more exercises for 6-12 reps and minimal rest.


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: WORKOUTS | FITNESS | POWER | EXERCISE | CLEAN | PRESS | BARBELL | METABOLIC