You’ve heard of sandbag workouts. Maybe you’ve seen people squatting, lunging, and pressing sandbags at your gym. They’re popular among Ruck Clubs and if you ever do the GORUCK Challenge, you’ll get familiar with our training sandbags.
So what's the big deal with sandbags?
Well, training sandbags are a complete home gym in one piece of equipment.
They're durable and fun to use. There are few exercises you can't do with a sandbag.
Sandbags travel better than weights. Also, a training sandbag is a compact way to build a home gym. If you live in an apartment or don't have a lot of space, all you really need is one sandbag to train strength and cardio. They make perfect additions to rucking workouts, too.
Let's look at these compact, versatile tools and build some sandbag workouts.
What is a training sandbag?
Simply put, a training sandbag is a durable exercise bag that you fill with sand for working out. Compared to barbells and dumbbells, you get extra balance and stability benefits from the shifting sand. Training sandbags will have handles for lifting, carrying, and pushing, so your movement options are unlimited.
Benefits of sandbag training: why workout with sandbags?
Sandbag workouts are a team favorite at GORUCK HQ. Just like rucking, sandbag training has tons of benefits you can’t get elsewhere. Free weights and exercise machines have their place, but sandbags should be used in every workout program, or for anyone who just wants to torch calories.
Here are 3 benefits of working out with a sandbag:
1. Sandbags are more versatile than other strength equipment
Strength and muscle, cardio and endurance. We call that Active Resistance Training™. It means that your lungs and heart are tapping into all the benefits of a strength workout. Active Resistance Training™ often looks like covering ground with weight. Sandbags let you do that, and much more.
They don’t take up much space, can travel with you, and are relatively inexpensive. The perfect home gym? You won’t hear us argue with that.
Squats, presses, deadlifts, carries, and many more exercises can be done with sandbags. Even your favorite kettlebell workout can be done with Sand Kettlebells.
2. Sandbag workouts are perfectly functional
Training with weights is functional because being strong is functional. But sandbag workouts build everyday strength in new ways. The shifting mass of sand hanging over your shoulder, pressed over your head, or lifted off the ground will challenge your core stability. Your balance and coordination will be tested—and improve. Sandbags can be hard to grip, so your hands and forearms will strengthen.
Sandbag workouts are like working on a farm, or in a warehouse. Lifting, shifting, moving, adjusting. Sandbags train your bodies with strength and conditioning while moving forward and backward, side-to-side, and in rotation. Functional fitness, perfected.
3. Sandbag workouts are fun
This is worth mentioning. Go ahead: toss your sandbag over your head, slam it on the ground in front of you. Throw it up that wall. Drag it up the stairs and carry it back down. Do it again. Don’t be afraid to beat up your sandbag. Whew. Talk about stress relief.
You can drag, toss, carry, and lift sandbags. Get creative, get sweaty, and have some fun.
Choose the best workout sandbags
If you’re going to do sandbag workouts (and you should), you’ll need something durable with handles. We build the best Training Sandbags on the planet. We’ve got different sizes and weights, and all our sandbags have padded handles where you need them.
GORUCK Training Sandbags: Indestructible & Functional
- Our handles are the best around because we reinforce neoprene padding into each one. This provides a more secure and comfortable grip that you can hold as long as you need to.
- Each sandbag comes with a triple locking Velcro filler bag. Sand cannot escape these.
- Our filler bags are sewn up the middle with interlocking fabric for unrivaled durability. We dropped them off our 45 foot office building. They’re fine.
- Built with Special Forces grade materials to survive anything.
- Our training sandbags are tested at GORUCK events all over the world, and GORUCK Selection, the toughest endurance event on the planet. We’ve proven their toughness, and our Scars Lifetime Guarantee backs it up.
We beat the hell out of our sandbags, and you can too. That’s what sandbag workouts are all about: pushing yourself and your gear and having some sweaty, calorie-burning fun.
Get started: 8 beginner-friendly exercises you can do with sandbags
You can do almost any exercise with a sandbag, but you'll want to start with some simple ones. Get familiar with sandbag squats, lunges, and presses before moving onto advanced movements like the Bradford Press or lateral pulls.
Here are some great intro exercises for sandbag training...
- Sandbag forward lunges: hold the sandbag in a front rack position or place it on your back, across your shoulders. Your knee should gently touch the floor. Finish your lunge with both knees at 90 degrees, feel your front heel press into the floor, and keep your pelvis neutral. Stay in place or walk forward with your lunges.
- Sandbag back squats: press your sandbag overhead and place it across your shoulders. Keep your chest up, let your knees track out, and keep your core muscles engaged. Your weight should be in your heels. Descend with control.
- Front squats: bring your sandbag to your shoulders in a front rack position. Push your hips back, keep your chest up, and lower into a squat. Elbows up, core engaged, and weight in your heels.
- Sandbag rows: deadlift your sandbag with your preferred grip. Hinge forward with a straight back and engaged shoulders. Begin the row movement with the handles at knee height. Pull the sandbag into your chest. Lower slowly and repeat, engaging your lats, shoulders, and arms to raise the sandbag.
- Shoulder press: lift the sandbag into a front rack position. Keeping a neutral spine, push your sandbag directly overhead.
- Sandbag shoulder to shoulder press: bring your sandbag to one shoulder. Gripping the sandbag, press it away from your shoulder and shift it to the other.
- Sandbag burpees: burpees, but bring the sandbag with you.
- Carries: pick it up, hold it, and walk. Strengthen your entire body and toughen your mind.
Step it up: try these 8 advanced sandbag exercises
Eventually you'll want to turn it up. When you feel confident exercising with a sandbag, try some of these advanced exercises...
- Sandbag thrusters: lift your sandbag to the front rack position. Perform a front squat and, as you rise, push the sandbag overhead, finishing in an upright position holding the sandbag overhead. Thrusters are a compound movement that work the whole body. Your legs drive this exercise.
- Single leg sandbag deadlift: improve balance with deadlifts on one leg. Keep a slight bend in your standing leg and hinge at the hips, sending your other leg back until your upper body is parallel to the floor. Engage your lats and use your hamstring to pull your upper body back into an upright position, deadlifting your sandbag.
- Lateral pull + mountain climber: start in a plank position with your sandbag on your left side. Using your right arm, pull the sandbag beneath your plank to the other side. Keeping your torso and hips square to the floor, touch your right knee to your right elbow. Repeat on the other side.
- Sandbag power clean: taking your sandbag from the ground to the front rack position, using the power of your hips and legs. Check out the video below.
- Sandbag overhead squat: with a wide grip, bring your sandbag to the shoulders and press it overhead. Push your hips back and down, and lower to the bottom of the squat, keeping your lats and core engaged.
- Deadlift high pull: grip your sandbag with a close grip and deadlift it, using the full extension of your hips for power. This power will carry the sandbag to chest height. Keep your back straight and chest up for good posture.
- Bradford Press: from a front rack position, push-press your sandbag overhead. Lower it behind your head, bending your knees to absorb the landing. Repeat the motion, back-to-front, keeping your core engaged.
Sandbags don't limit your workouts, they expand them. Remember, sometimes your sandbag just wants to go for a walk. Pick it up, throw it across your shoulders, and get moving.
How to Build Your Own Sandbag Workouts
Now that you've seen some sandbag exercises, you may want to build your own workouts. Remember, with sandbags you can train your legs, upper body, and core all at once. You can work on pressing, pulling, rotation, and carrying. Or you can focus on specific groups of muscles. Sandbags are amazing tools for core workouts, leg day, and smoking your upper body.
Tips for Building Sandbag Workouts
- Wearing a rucksack during a sandbag workout is a great way to prepare for The GORUCK Challenge, and to become a well-rounded athlete. This kind of workout isn't for the faint of heart.
- When training upper body, include pushing AND pulling exercises. For every set of overhead presses, add a set of rows. When mixing in bodyweight exercises, don't focus just on pushups. Pullups, dead hangs, and dragging your sandbag will ensure your workout is balanced.
- Lower body sandbag workouts require special attention to form. Keep a neutral spine (AKA don't stick your butt out), your chest forward, and your eyes up. Your core muscles, shoulders, and lats should be engaged when you're holding your sandbag.
- A full body workout (our favorite kind of workout) can focus on repetitions, time, or distance. Sandbags are versatile, so get creative.
- Every sandbag workout will challenge your stability and balance, and we recommend adding a rotational exercise like American Twists or lateral pulls. Rotational exercises improve core stability and build power for explosive movements like sprinting and weightlifting.
Tools for Sandbag Workouts
- Obviously you'll need a sandbag (and maybe a patch to go on it).
- Wearing a rucksack during sandbag training is something tough people like to do. Put your rucksack on, go for a walk, and bring your sandbag with you.
- A step-up box will improve anyone's home gym setup. Useful for hero WODs like the CHAD 1000X or everyday sandbag training.
- Sand Kettlebells can be folded up and taken to the beach or added to your rucksack for extra weight. They're as versatile and fun to use as full-size training sandbags.
- The GORUCK Training App is your home for daily sandbag and ruck workouts. Choose the time, place, and who you bring along. You can do the workouts anywhere and they're scalable to all abilities.
5 Sandbag Workouts Built For You
Now that you're on board with sandbag training and have seen some popular exercises, let's look at 5 badass sandbag workouts, built by the team at GORUCK HQ. We think discomfort is a good thing, and we love tossing around sandbags. We'll do most of these workouts wearing a ruck, but feel free to do them slick (no ruck) and scale according to your experience and fitness.
Sandbag Workout #1
1 mile ruck
Sandbag overhead lunges [50 steps]
50 4ct flutter kicks [sandbag or ruck pressed away from chest]
20 sandbag tosses
40 sandbag front squats
Sandbag overhead lunges [50 steps]
20 lateral pull + mountain climber
10 sandbag tosses over each shoulder [20 total tosses]
20 sandbag burpees
20 sandbag thrusters
1 mile ruck
Sandbag Workout #2
4 minute ruck
30 sandbag thrusters
4 minute ruck
30 lateral pull + mountain climber
Sandbag Workout #3
1 minute plank
30 lateral pull + mountain climber
20 ruck pushups
10 sandbag thrusters
20 sandbag rows
30 sandbag power cleans
Sandbag Workout #4
4 mile ruck with PT at each mile
(return to sandbag at each mile, not necessary to bring it with you)
Mile 1: 25 sandbag burpees
Mile 2: 25 sandbag thrusters
Mile 3: 25 sandbag deadlifts
Finish: max overhead sandbag hold
Sandbag Workout #5
2 minute plank
30 bear hug sandbag squats [hug your sandbag and squat]
2 minute plank
30 sandbag front squats
2 minute plank
30 sandbag back squats
2 minute plank
Daily Sandbag Challenges
Sandbag training is a simple, inexpensive way to improve your fitness. Any training sandbag is small enough to keep around your house, and they travel well by car.
In other words, sandbags leave no room for excuses.
In fact, sandbag workouts can be a daily ritual. Take a few moments each day and strengthen your mind and body. Your core strength, grip, and balance will improve. Consider sprinkling these exercises throughout your day for a Daily Sandbag Challenge...
- Overhead sandbag hold: start small and build up over time. This is a quick challenge that is easy to track progression on. How long can you hold your sandbag overhead? What will that time be one year from now?
- Sandbag wall sit: with your knees bent at 90 degrees, lean your back against the wall. Place your sandbag across your thighs and hold the wall sit for as long as you can. When you think you can't take it anymore, toss the sandbag off. Keep going. What's your total time? Were you surprised at the difficulty?
- Sandbag or ruck plank: this daily challenge is easier with a rucksack, but a friend or family member might enjoy placing a sandbag across your back (inflicting a little suffering, you know?). Simple planks just got a whole lot harder. Can you hold it for a minute? Two minutes? What's your long-term goal?
- Sandbag grip test: pick your sandbag up with one hand. Use a handle or grip the bag itself for more challenge. When you've had enough, switch hands. Can you last 5 minutes, switching hands when you're fatigued?
Sandbag Workout FAQs
Are sandbag workouts effective?
Yes, sandbag workouts are effective. They engage pushing, pulling, rotational, and carrying movements. Sandbags strengthen your balance and coordination, build muscle, and work your heart and lungs. Anything you can do in the gym you can do with a sandbag, and you can take it anywhere.
Can you build muscle with just a sandbag?
Absolutely. You can squat, deadlift, and overhead press sandbags. And those strength exercises are just the beginning. Carry your sandbag over distance, build your own sandbag PT workouts, or bring them on a ruck march for extra challenge. Your legs, back, shoulders, and arms will all get stronger from sandbag training.
How much weight should I use for sandbag training?
Start lighter and build up. Sandbag training is unique, and you want to give your body time to adapt. We recommend starting with 30-40lbs and sticking with that weight for at least a few weeks, making sure your form is solid. When you feel comfortable with the balance and coordination of sandbag workouts, add weight.
What exercises can you do with a sandbag?
Squats, lunges, deadlifts, overhead presses, cleans, tosses, and carries are some of our favorites. Anything you can do in a gym, you can do with a sandbag. Just ask our Tribe ‘n Training subscribers about their daily sandbag workouts. Even better than a gym, sandbags can travel with you and don't take up much space. Check out these sandbag exercises and best training sandbags.
How often should you do sandbag workouts?
Sandbag workouts can be done everyday, used a few times a week, or done as hard challenges once a month. You can use them for leg day, an upper body workout, or as a daily core workout. Volume and intensity will decide how often you use your sandbag. We use ours everyday, and we love Daily Sandbag Challenges.
Can sandbags replace weights?
Every tool has its place, but sandbags are a good substitute for weights. Sandbags are less expensive than a gym membership or garage gym, can travel with you, and can be used to work the same muscles. Go heavy for strength or lighten the load for endurance. Carry your sandbag, toss it, press it, pull it. You'll never get bored with sandbag training because the options are unlimited.