Not for the Weak: Sandbag Complexes

Build strength, speed and power and test yourself with this challenging sandbag workout.

Now that you've raided the garage for ropes and tires for your workout, it's time to haul out the sandbags. Sandbag complexes are growing in popularity as a training method for athletes who want to enhance their speed, stamina and explosive power. They improve strength and athletic performance in unpredictable ways, and develop and enhance grip strength.

RELATED: Boost Your Barbell Workouts With Sandbags

The Sandbag Challenge

Sandbag complexes are not for the weak.


  • Instability of the sandbag
  • Maneuvering the sandbag in various planes of motion while you carry it over hurdles and up a hill
  • Ensuring proper foot placement through each movement
  • Keeping breathing mechanics sequential. I cannot teach you that. Learn to breathe while performing these movements—or better yet, beforehand
  • Keeping your balance
  • Handling constantly changing loading patterns (e.g., Zercher Carry, Shoulder Carry, Walks Over the Hurdle)


  • These drills do not replace barbell or dumbbell complexes.
  • You can buy a sandbag from a sporting goods store or make or or borrow one. If you do not have a sandbag, use a medicine ball or a Dynamax ball.
  • Use adequate hurdles, preferably SPARQ. If you do not have them, you can use cones. They work just fine.
  • Make sure you have a good strength and power base—in addition to core strength, grip strength and stamina—to excel in these progressions.
  • Check out my YouTube page for a scaled version of this complex.


  • Find a nice grassy hill that is not too steep.
  • Set up eight to 10 hurdles about 2 to 3 feet apart for easy walk flow and progression.
  • With all the progressions, you need to squat using proper form, pick up the sandbag and carry it systematically (as described below) over the hurdle.
  • Find the best grip, tighten your core and balance your body for effective stabilization and completion of the complex.

Heavy Sandbag Zercher Carries

Hold the bag Zercher style (as shown in the video above), tighten your core and walk.

Sandbag Shoulder Carries with Continuous Lateral Mini-Hurdle Walks

Pick up the sandbag, put it on your shoulder and walk laterally over the hurdles and up the hill, switching the sandbag to the other shoulder at each end. Perform two or three trips up and down the hill, as shown in the video above.

Lateral Mini-Hurdle Stepovers with Sandbag on Back

Pick up the sandbag and put it on your back. Make sure you have a good grip or the sandbag will defeat you! Once you are in a good, stable position, start walking laterally, stepping over the hurdles, taking one or two steps between hurdles. Make one or two trips up and down the hill as shown  in the video above.

Mini-Hurdle Walks with Sandbag on Back

Pick up the sandbag and put it on your back. Once you are in a good stable position, step over the hurdle. Take some big steps between the hurdles. Make one or two trips up and down the hill as shown in the video above.

Learn about more non-traditional equipment you can use during your next workout.

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock