Sandbag Training Basics

One may think that sandbag exercises are reserved for only athletes competing in strongman competitions.  This does not have to be the case, in fact, sandbag training benefits not only the seasoned strongman athlete but can be an equally effective training tool for athletes of all ability levels.

Benefits of Sandbag Training:

Sandbag training offers several benefits in strength and conditioning programs including:

  • Easy and cost effective to make
  • Can be used by both beginner and advanced athletes
  • Challenges the stability of the athlete in ways traditional weight training typically does not
  • Excellent to use in both traditional strength training and in conditioning circuit sets


In this article I am going to show you how to incorporate basic sandbag training into a strength and conditioning program.

Sandbag Construction:

Sandbags are very economical when compared to other strength training equipment.  Go to your local surplus store and purchase a heavy duty duffle bag.  You will also need some trash compactor bags, duct tape, and sand all of which you could get at the local hardware store.  Fill a few trash compactor bags with 15-20lbs of sand, tape them up so they are compact, place them in the duffel bag and then you are ready to begin your training.

Basic Sandbag Exercises:

Sandbags offer up a nice variation to traditional exercises.  I use sandbag training to build lower body power, strength, and stability by using squat and lunge variations.  You can perform either of these movements in place of a barbell by placing the sandbag on the back; however I tend to have my athletes hold the sandbag in front of their bodies in the crux of their arms which is known as the Zercher position.  This position takes the pressure of the weight off of the spine and challenges the core muscles by forcing the athlete to keep the body upright while the weight of the sandbag tries to pull them forward.

To perform the squat:  keep your chest up, eyes forward, break at the hips and sit back into the squat.  When you get a stretch in the hips and leg muscles, squeeze your leg muscles, drive your feet through the floor and stand up strong until the hips are underneath you.

The sandbag Zercher Lunge can be done in either a static position, forward or reverse direction.  Whether you are staying still or stepping forward or backward you want an approximate 90 degree bend in your hips and knees, even weight distribution between legs and balanced between sides.  Focus on stability through strong core and hips.

Dynamic Sandbag Exercises:

Sandbags are great for the variations on the standard movements, however they are more fun when used dynamically for power production or for conditioning.

Sandbag Shouldering relies on grip strength, leg drive, core stability and explosive hip and leg power.  Simply place your sandbag vertically and straddle it, get a good grip, flatten the back and drive from your legs moving the sandbag close to the body and up to one of your shoulders.  Drop the sandbag back to the floor and repeat to the opposite shoulder.

To add the upper body into the dynamic mix, look no further than the Sandbag Thrusters also known as the squat to press movement.  This exercise teaches the body how to generate power and transfer the power beginning from the legs through the upper body.  Position the sandbag close to your chest and get your hands under the bag.  Upon completing the squat you are going to use the hip drive momentum to press the sandbag overhead.  Drop the bag back to the chest and repeat the squat-to- press motion.

Another full body movement I often use in our conditioning circuits is the Sandbag Burpees.  Start with the sandbag on the ground, use your legs and get the sandbag to your chest in an explosive fashion.  Drop the sandbag to the floor and follow it with your body into a pushup position.  Explode out of the pushup position and repeat.

Sandbag Circuit

Like I mentioned earlier in the article, sandbag training can be used as strength exercises within a program or they can be used to increase an athlete’s aerobic capacity by utilizing them in a conditioning circuit.  This is an example of a sandbag conditioning circuit guaranteed to get the heart rate up.  Each exercise should be done for 30-45 seconds and rest 15-20 seconds in between.


Work Interval

Rest Interval

Sandbag Zercher Squat



Sandbag Shoulder(Alternating Sides)



Sandbag Zercher Lunge



Sandbag Thruster



Sandbag Burpees



Perform this whole circuit two to three times with a three minute rest between rounds.


Adding some sandbag training into a carefully structured strength and conditioning program will enhance core strength, increase stability and optimize power production, making the athlete ready to take on all the rigors of their sport.  Give these movements a try and see how you feel.

Check out the video below for more sandbag training ideas: