Step away from the weights room (for a bit at least). There are plenty of benefits to be had from switching things up every once in a while and sandbags are an easy way to do just that.
“I love sandbags because they mimic real-life situations where you have to pick up and carry awkward objects, and they are a dynamic load that constantly shifts so you’re never limited to the same movement pattern as you are in the gym,” says Andrew Tracey, outdoor training expert and founder of youarenotyourgymmembership.com (opens in new tab). “They also work your abs muscles statically and dynamically at the same time, and force more of your stabilising muscles to switch on to help carry the load.”
Plus, they’re pretty easy to make, too. Put one together then try your hand at these routines or Tracey’s full-body EMOM workout.
How To Build Your Own Sandbag
- 1 x sturdy gym bag or duffel bag
- Up to 25kg playground sand or pea gravel
- 3 x heavy-duty garden binbags
- 1 x roll of duct tape
Fill a binbag with sand or pea gravel, which is less likely to leak. Wrap the top of the bag tightly and seal with the tape, then bag it twice more, leaving some room for the contents to move. Put it in your duffel bag and zip it shut.
Sandbag Workout Challenges
1 Sandbag sprint
OK, it’s more of a walk than a sprint, but the challenge is simple: pick up a sandbag and carry it for 400m. “A beginner should use a sandbag that’s 25% of their bodyweight, and an intermediate can use 50%, but once you’ve mastered it you can use 80-100%,” Tracey says. Pick up the bag and start moving then, every minute on the minute, do five sandbag squats. “This is a perfect finisher after legs day, or a great standalone workout if you’ve only got ten minutes to get a tough session in.”
2 Sandbag strength
Use a sandbag weighing the percentage of your bodyweight that’s suitable for your ability level, as suggested above. “This one is simple too – do 30 ground to overhead presses with the sandbag as quickly as you can,” says Tracey. “Do it once and you’ve set a time target to beat next time. You should be aiming to get all 30 reps done in under eight minutes.”
3 Sandbag pyramid
Choose the right weight of sandbag again and start the clock. “This is a 20-15-10-5 circuit where you’ll do 20 sandbag over-the-shoulder throws, then 20 burpees over the sandbag,” says Tracey. “Then do 15 of each, then ten of each, and finish with five of each, then stop the clock. This is a really fast drill that should take six or seven minutes, and track your time to measure future progress.”
- Sandbag Exercises To Build Strength And Challenge Your Core
- The EMOM Sandbag Workout For Rock-Hard Abs
Full-Body EMOM Sandbag Workout
This is a punishing 30-minute EMOM workout using nothing but a sandbag and bench. EMOM stands for “every minute on the minute”, meaning you lift at the start of every 60 seconds. This method ensures you don’t cheat yourself by resting too long between sets and keeps your heart rate high so your fat melts and your powers of recovery improve.
Set a timer for 30 minutes. On the first minute do 15 squats with the sandbag, then continue into alternating step-ups for the remainder of the minute. At the start of minute two, do ten cleans with the bag, then finish the minute with step-ups. At the start of minute three, do ten overhead presses with the bag and finish with step-ups. Continue this sequence until the 30 minutes is up. If you’re struggling then put the bag down for the step-ups.
Hold the bag tight to your chest or over one shoulder. Squat down, keeping your chest up, knees wide apart and heels down, then drive back up through your heels.
Squat down to pick up the bag, keeping your chest up and arms straight. Drive up through your heels to stand and use the power generated to raise the bag to one shoulder. Reverse the move to the start and repeat, raising the bag to your other shoulder.
Hold the bag at chest height with elbows tucked in to your body. Press it overhead until your arms are straight. If you need extra momentum, drop into a quarter squat to push press the bag up overhead.
With the bag held to your chest or over one shoulder, step up onto a park bench, keeping the whole sole of your foot on the bench, and drive up to stand. Step down with your leading foot and alternate feet with each rep.
Sam Rider is an experienced freelance journalist, specialising in health, fitness and wellness. For over a decade he's reported on Olympic Games, CrossFit Games and World Cups, and quizzed luminaries of elite sport, nutrition and strength and conditioning. Sam is also a REPS level 3 qualified personal trainer, online coach and founder of Your Daily Fix (opens in new tab). Sam is also Coach’s designated reviewer of massage guns and fitness mirrors.
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