Sand Storm: Beginners Guide To Training With Sandbags


Something that most people associate with flooding, particularly here in the UK.

However, more and more people are using sandbags as an alternative to traditional dumbbells and barbells for a great full body functional workout.

Throwing around a moderately weighted sandbag is about as old school as it gets and is a great way to hit all the muscles you’d typically train with cable stations and the aforementioned free weights, plus others that you wouldn’t usually hit.

Despite its recent resurgence in popularity, sandbags have been around as a training tool for hundreds of years, especially wrestlers and combat athletes. Due to its very nature, sandbag training hits the core muscles extensively, as the unstable load causes the muscles in the core to react to maintain control. This is particularly beneficial for those that compete in MMA based sports, in fact all of my BJJ & MMA clients have performed sandbag training during the strength & conditioning sessions at some time, to great effect.

“You feel as sore as you do because the bags worked your body in ways you could not approach with a barbell alone. You get into the muscles you normally don’t work. You worked the ‘heck’ out of the stabillisation”

                                                          Brook Kubrick – ‘Dinosaur Training’

So why are sandbags so effective?

 There are plenty of methods out there that will hit the stabilising muscles and the concept itself is nothing new. Dumbbells are more demanding of the stabilisers than just barbells, just as kettlebells and one arm exercises such as Turkish Get Ups are ‘next level’ movements that will further challenge the body.

Sandbags are like the ‘Child with the terrible twos’; Uncooperative & Demanding!

You see, when you lift a sandbag, the sand inside moves around throughout the movement, whether that be a lift from the floor or an overhead press. The sand just doesn’t stay still, this makes the movement much more challenging, particularly for any stabilising muscles involved in the movement.

Basics movements such as cleans, throws, snatches and simply lifting the bag onto the shoulder becomes a much more challenging exercises simply due to the awkward nature of the sandbag.

Like kettlebells, one-arms movements with sandbags will load the body in such a way that deeper, less superficial muscles in the trunk will be forced to work to a much greater level, just to maintain correct spinal alignment.

Anyway, less of the WHY and more of the HOW!

We’ve put together a basic sandbag workout that will test all aspects of your body in a minimal amount of time. This is a tried and tested workout, and has been used on numerous occasions on clients here in the studio.

Select a moderate weight to begin with, this workout has a definite cumulative effect and you will feel it as the workout progresses.

Perform each exercise for 1 minute, with no rest period between each movement.

Once you have completed a circuit, rest 90 seconds and repeat x2.

As you get better, increase the number of circuits to 5. You can also reduce the rest period down to 60 seconds, and then 45 seconds or even 30 seconds.

There are 10 exercises all together, make sure you follow the sequence as stated.

  • Zercher Squats
  • Clean & Press
  • Step Ups (or Lunges if a bench/step isn’t available)
  • Power Clean Throws
  • Deadlifts (Bent Over Rows)
  • ‘Over the Shoulders’
  • Snatch & Catch into a Zercher Squat
  • Shoulder Presses
  • Back Squat
  • Shoulder 2 Shoulder

The workout above is designed to flow from one exercise to another, so for example the last shoulder press should end with the bag on the back of the neck, straight into the back squats etc. 60 seconds between each circuit should give you just enough time to stretch out & catch your breath. If you don’t feel you can complete 3 full circuits, then record where you got to and aim to improve the next time.

Just don’t mention that you quit and gave up to us on the Facebook page, we reserve the right to ridicule you excessively! And we will!

Tag us on Instagram with your best times for completing 3 circuits! The challenge is on!