Build Full Body Functional Strength With These Sandbag Workouts

Sandbag workouts can be an amazing addition to your functional strength training routine.

This odd-object forces you to get strong in ways a barbell or set of dumbbells simply can't replicate. And it's also highly versatile, meaning you can get stronger and crush a killer workout with a bunch of different exercises from pretty much anywhere.

Here's what you should know about sandbag training, plus 7 functional strength workouts you can do with your sandbag.

What Is a Sandbag Workout?

As the name implies, sandbag workouts are resistance-training sessions completed with a heavy (20 to 100lb) sandbag. 

The sandbag usually replaces a barbell, dumbbells, or kettlebells. Strongman athletes use it as a warmup and competitive exercise as well. It also helps train that uneven strength necessary to perform in Strongman competitions.

CrossFit also commonly scales workouts up by adding sandbags into the mix. The 31 Heroes workout is a great example. Functional fitness is also a key driver of functional performance in older adults. So building in the strength in years when you can will truly have lasting benefits. 

Choosing a sandbag for your workouts depends on your fitness level and experience. Here are some guidelines:

  • Beginners should get a 20 to 40lb sandbag
  • Intermediate exercisers should use a 40 to 100lb sandbag
  • Advanced exercises can go to 100+ lbs on the sandbag, depending on the exercise.

The exercise being performed will also dictate the weight you need. Sandbag deadlifts, for example, are easier for beginners to use heavier weights with.

Fortunately, the best sandbags are closer to barbells than dumbbells when it comes to shopping for them. 

Most are adjustable or come in various weights, so you don't have to buy multiple sandbags at different weights unless you want to. 

You could make your own at home out of a duffel bag or with filler bags. But investing in a heavy-duty product is probably the best way to go.

Read Also: The Best Workout Sandbags in 2021

leg exercises with sandbag

Why Are Sandbag Workouts Effective?

Sandbags offer a dynamic form of resistance training. Users who incorporate sandbag training typically aim to build muscle and get good at being strong using equipment other than a barbell or other weightlifting equipment.

By training with sandbags or other odd-object implements, you force your body to get strong and stabilize itself in less-than-ideal positions. It also helps you develop more grip strength.

They're an amazing way to build total-body functional strength.

Our Top Pick: Brute Force Sandbag

Brute Force Sandbag is a well designed sandbag that deserves a review for anyone looking into purchasing a Sandbag. Key Features: 

  • 8 total handles and 1000D Cordura military grade material
  • Own App with workouts
  • Made in USA by a trusted Brand; 2 year warranty

For more on this product review and our other top picks, read our top workout sandbags review here.

Functional Strength Sandbag Workouts

Here are 7 total body sandbag workouts you can use to build functional strength.

Later, we'll share a 6-day sandbag fitness routine you can use to train with this piece of equipment.

Legs

Sandbag Deadlifts

Targets: lower back, hamstrings, abs, shoulders, biceps

  • Stand over the sandbag in the starting position. Get as close as possible (the further away you are, the more difficult it is to generate force).
  • Grip the sandbag handles with a double overhand grip—if there are no handles, use a flip grip.
  • With your back straight, drive through your heels to stand up with the bag.
  • Extend your hips at the top, then lower the bag to the floor.

Sandbag Squats

Targets: quads, glutes, hamstrings, abs, lower back

  • Position the sandbag on your collarbone. Use your arms to create a shelf so it doesn't fall.
  • Kick your hips back to the wall behind you; allow your knees to follow. 
  • Squat down to parallel—maintain a tight back and proud chest throughout.
  • Drive through your heels up to the top of a squat. Repeat.

Shoulders/Arms

Sandbag Curl To Reverse Press

Targets: biceps, triceps, deltoids, traps, lats

  • Start in a hang position with the bag with your hands turned outward.
  • Curl the bag up to your shoulders.
  • Press the bag overhead. Bring your head through to finish each rep.
  • Lower the bag and reverse curl it. Repeat.

Core Strength

Sandbag Plank Drags

Targets: abs, obliques, glutes, lower back, arms

  • Start in a plank position: four points of contact with the floor and a neutral spine.
  • Position the bag to your right or left side, level with your belly.
  • While maintaining good posture and without swaying side to side, slide the bag from one side to the other.
  • Repeat.

Full-Body/Cardio

Sandbag Thruster

Tips:

  • Use the momentum of the last sandbag thruster to create power for the next rep. Don't pause in between!
  • Find a grip that's safe and comfortable. Overhead pressing with sandbags can be difficult at first on the wrists.

Plug sandbag thrusters into one of our favorite 11 Thruster WODs.

Sandbag Clean and Press

Tips:

  • Focus on technique with the clean and press. The fundamentals of the barbell version of both translate well here!
  • Clean and presses make a perfect AMRAP or EMOM workout.
  • Try hang cleans if you're using these in a metcon to save transition time.

Burpee Over Sandbag

Tips:

  • Use these when you're on the road or working out with minimal equipment. 
  • Incorporate weighted sandbag runs or bodyweight strength exercises like pushups or lunges into a couplet full-body workout. It's a killer combo!
military use of sandbag for workouts

Sandbag Workout Routine for Functional Strength

This sandbag workout routine is great for beginners, intermediate, and advanced fitness enthusiasts. 

If you're doing it for a few weeks, try adding 1 to 2 repetitions per workout to keep driving gains!

Exercise

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Days 4-7

Deadlifts

3x10-20

3x10-20

3x10-20

Rest

Curl to Reverse Press

3x20

3x20


Rest

Plank Drags

3x 1 min max distance

3x 1 min max distance

1 x 3 min max distance

Rest

Squats

3x10-20

3x10-20

3x10-20

Rest

Thrusters

3x20

3x20


Rest

Clean and Press

3x10

3x10

3x10

Rest

Burpee over Sandbag

Max reps in 5 min (add 1 min every 2 weeks)

Max reps in 5 min (add 1 min every 2 weeks)

Max reps in 15 minutes

Rest

Final Thoughts

Sandbag workouts are a great tool for changing up your functional training and building lean muscle all over your body. Especially if you're joining the military, considering training for an outdoor event that involves lifting heavy objects, or just want rounded fitness.

Unlike barbells, they force you to get strong and stabilize in positions that aren't perfectly symmetrical. Look for an adjustable sandbag so you don't have to spend money on several.

For more CrossFit WOD guides and equipment reviews, check out the rest of our site!

Ben Kissam

Ben Kissam

I help college athletes maximize their 4-year sports window and succeed after graduation.

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