For the home workout aficionado, gym goer, and public park exerciser, there is one portable, variable tool that unites these groups. The sandbag! Sandbags are easily transported, filled cheaply, and have a large array of available exercises. Although throws and carries with a sandbag are popular, they’re also a great option for stationary exercise. Today, we’ll go over some sandbag moves you can do in a small area.
Generally, you will find sandbags shaped in a cylinder, either long or short . The long sandbags are more like a hot dog bun while the shorter, stouter ones are more like a thick hamburger bun. These different shapes will make different demands of you in movements but each can be utilized for this workout. So if you buy a workout sandbag from a company like Rogue Fitness, make your own with a sturdy duffel bag or figure it out any other way, I will cover how to do the exercises with each type of shape.
First, let’s go over each of the exercises.
Sandbag clean and squat
A “clean” indicates explosively getting an object such as a barbell (or in our case, a sandbag) up to the shoulders. The squat after the clean will be performed with the sandbag in this high position at the shoulders. With the variable shapes of sandbags, there are some more considerations to account for than with a barbell, so let’s break it down by sandbag type.
For a longer, skinny sandbag, lie the bag on its side width-wise in front of you. Hinge at the hips to reach down and grasp it on both ends, squeezing your hands towards one another to keep a firm grip on the bag. Squeeze the bag as hard as you can, and stand up tall, pulling it up with you to your waist. Now, pull the bag up and into your abdomen, and sit, pulling it up to your chest with your elbows pointed out. Now stand, and quickly punch your elbows under the sandbag, creating a shelf for it to sit on now that you’ve successfully cleaned it. Keeping a tight core, stand tall. Now squat, keeping the sandbag secure on your shelf, and keep your elbows high! This completes one rep with this type of bag. Now drop it to the ground, and repeat!
For a long sandbag with handles, simply grasp the handles, stand tall with long arms, and use an explosive hip hinge or jump to swing the bag up. Receive the bag across the shoulders, with bent elbows pointing high to keep the bag secure. From here, perform your squat then drop to the floor or hip height and repeat.
For a short sandbag, repeat the steps for picking up a handleless sandbag. Once it is in your lap, instead of reaching under the bag to secure it, reach around the front and slightly down so you can pull the sandbag up and into you. Stand tall to have legs locked out and the sandbag pulled into you at chest height. Now squat, and there’s your rep!
Description: Evan reaching under the sandbag, gripping under each side to pick it up.
Description: After taking his grip, he stands, keeping arms long and "deadlifting" the sandbag.
Description: Evan sits with the sandbag, pulling it tightly to his chest. After this, he stands, cleaning it up to his shoulders.
Sandbag over shoulder
For sandbag over shoulder, repeat the steps for a clean and squat. However, when you squat it up, be very explosive and pull it harder to one side of your body. You are aiming to roll or pop the sandbag up your body to one shoulder. This necessitates your same side hand and head out of the way quickly...trust me. There are many techniques depending on your type of sandbag, arm lengths, explosiveness, arm strength, etc. Just be sure you don’t lean back too much to get the shoulder up and pushed over your shoulder. Once you complete a rep, turn around, regrip your sandbag and go again! During your interval work, be sure you are always fresh enough to do a good, explosive rep and not struggle too much under duress. This will keep you much safer.
Description: After standing with the sandbag, Evan takes the same seated position, pulling the sandbag in tight to his abdomen.
Description: Evan stands explosively, pulling and throwing the sandbag up towards his right shoulder.
Description: Evan catches the sandbag on his shoulder, holding it securely with both hands.
For the sandbag squat, simply clean the bag up and squat as before. Instead of dropping the sandbag at the top of each rep, just descend and stand with the bag pulled into you still. Keep your back tight, and pull the sandbag in as hard as you can. Don't let it slip! If you need to readjust the bag, simply squat down as in the sandbag clean position, and readjust the bag on your lap, pulling it tight back up to your lower chest/abdomen.
March with sandbag at chest height
Pick up the sandbag and get it up to chest height, reaching your hands around and slightly under the bag to maintain a strong grip and pull into the body. Once stable, march in place to mimic a quick walk. For a short sandbag, you should be able to reach around the bag and hug it into yourself well. For a long bag, you can pick it up so it sits vertically (hanging down toward the ground) instead of across your arms. You could also pick it up so it will sit in the crook of one elbow and reach your other hand over to pull it into you. Additionally, if your long sandbag isn’t too wide or heavy, you can keep both arms under after popping it to chest height. You would then have to continue driving your hands up to keep from letting the sandbag fall forwards. All of these positions will be good and challenging.
Description: Evan holding the sandbag high, marching in place.
Static hold at chest height
For this move, simply repeat the manner you used in the previous exercises to pick the sandbag up to chest height. Now you are just going to stand still, maintaining a strong core. Be sure you don’t lean away from the bag too much or bend your knees too generously. Keep in a neutral position (remember our previous article?). If grip becomes the main issue, interlace fingers.
Now that we've built your arsenal of stationary sandbag exercises, let's put them all together for a challenging circuit workout. You can do this in your backyard, your gym, your living room, or haul that sandbag to the park to get some fresh air!
Clean and squat, 1 minute
Rest 1 minute
Sandbag over shoulder, 1 minute
Rest 1 minute
Sandbag squat, 1 minute
Rest 1 minute
March with sandbag at chest height, 1 minute
Rest 1 minute
Static hold at chest height, 1 minute
If doing multiple rounds, rest 2-3 minutes and get after it again!
Especially when you are fresh to this style of training, treat each minute of each movement as practice. Just use the minute to get high-quality reps of the exercise. As you get familiar with the movements, push the intensity more, resting when needed. Down the road, work up to going hard the whole minute of each exercise. Once you are to that point, even with a reasonably light sandbag, you will be a different monster than before. All without having to worry about hunting down equipment and running into folks. Let me know how it goes!