With a single piece of equipment, you can re-create the benefits of an entire gym in a very small area and still get a full-body workout. All you need is a sandbag. The goal of these sandbag exercises is to work more muscles at once and teach your body to move more efficiently, since using a sandbag challenges your core strength and the endurance of your entire body.
How? The unstable weight of the constantly shifting sand works both the the bigger muscles and the smaller stabilizers, which is quite different from most strength-training tools that create predictable movement patterns (think: dumbbells). Changing how you hold, stand and move with a sandbag opens up more than 400 different exercise variations that work for any fitness level.
1. Sandbag Squat
Because you'll be holding the sandbag over one shoulder, this squat variation combines the benefits of a traditional squat with those of a side plank. You'll not only strengthen your legs, but the unique holding position challenges the stability of your core as well.
- Bring the sandbag from the ground to the shoulder in one explosive movement. Keep your feet slightly turned out but parallel to one another.
- Push your knees out as you hinge at the hips and begin to sit back into the squat, making sure you don't lean to one side as you go down.
- Straighten your legs to return to standing without locking out your knees at the top.
Reps: 3 sets of 10 on each side
Read more: The 30-Day Squat Challenge
2. Sandbag Clean and Press
One of the best full-body exercises, the sandbag clean and press, requires strength, stability, explosiveness and accuracy. The instability of the sandbag reinforces the need for proper technique in order to complete each rep.
- Hold the neutral-grip handles and begin with the sandbag against your shins. Your arms shouldn't rest on your legs.
- Make sure you hinge, not squat, into the movement.
- Hoist the bad explosively upward and catch the sandbag on your fists.
- Push through your heels, brace your core and drive the sandbag over your head.
- Reverse the movement and return to the start.
Reps: 3 sets of 5
3. Rotational Lunge With Sandbag
The rotational lunge is one of the most athletic exercises, since you have to be strong enough to lift the weight and resist the pull of the sandbag as you're lunging. It's also a great conditioning and fat-burning exercise, even more so than exercises that use twice as much weight.
- Deadlift the sandbag off the ground and hold it in front of your hips.
- Lunge backward and rotate the sandbag to the same side as the front leg. Don't over-rotate; just clear the lead knee.
- Drive through the front heel and return to standing, then repeat with the other leg.
- As you move faster, the sandbag will pick up momentum and increase the height of the swing. But don't let that pull you around; stay tight through your core.
Reps: 3 sets of 12 on each leg
4. Sandbag Row
Why is grip strength so important? A 2016 study published in Shoulder and Elbow found a correlation to rotator cuff strength, which can help prevent shoulder injuries. Working the grip also recruits more of your upper-arm muscles. Bent-over rows are a great way to balance your shoulders and challenge your core.
- Roll the side of the sandbag to make a thick grip.
- Deadlift the weight off the ground and slowly hinge your hips back, slightly bending the knees and keeping the lower back straight.
- Pull the sandbag toward your upper stomach and squeeze your shoulder blades together.
- Slowly lower the weight without bouncing.
Reps: 3 sets of 10
5. Sandbag Shoveling
Body rotation is one of the most powerful movements you can perform. Any sport requires movement in this position — hitting a baseball and throwing a football, for example. And because of the deceleration involved, there's a ton of work being performed by the entire body.
- From standing, begin to pivot to one side.
- As you pivot, hinge back on one hip and let the sandbag come to the outside of that knee.
- Drive through the heel and push the sandbag out in front of you.
- Keep the shoulders back and quickly pivot to the opposing side.
- Quickly hinge back and "catch" the sandbag.
Reps: 3 sets of 10 on each side
6. Kneeling Around the World
Core training is far more than planks and crunches. The strongest core is one that can react and move dynamically. To strengthen your core, build flexibility and increase conditioning, around the worlds are your answer.
- Kneel on the ground with the weight in front of you.
- Slowly move the sandbag around your body like you're putting on then taking off a jacket.
- Perform slowly, resisting any movement of the trunk, and do not sit back on your heels.
Reps: 3 sets of 5 in each direction
7. Lateral Sandbag Drag With Push-Up
The push-up is a classic core and upper-body exercise. However, simply doing more reps is not the best way to strengthen the body. The lateral drag with push-up challenges your posture and upper-body and core strength. This powerful drill also helps build one-arm push-up strength and connects the body to create more explosive strength.
- Begin with a light sandbag to the side of you while you assume a push-up position.
- Keep your feet wide and reach across to grab the sandbag.
- As slowly as possible (this slower is better), drag the sandbag across the body without elevating or rotating your hips.
- As the weight crosses your body, begin to lower yourself into a one-arm push-up position.
- Once the weight is across, keep tension on the sandbag and drive through the feet and stance arm to drive back up.
Reps: 3 sets of 5 on each side
8. Sandbag Biceps Curl
One of the best ways to strengthen your arms and work your grip at the same time is with sandbag biceps curls. The length of the sandbag lets you work your biceps through a greater range of motion than dumbbells.
- Grab the sandbag somewhere between the middle and the top end.
- Standing tall with the shoulders back, tightly grip the sandbag and curl it toward your chest.
- Don't round your shoulders, resisting the pull of the weight forward on your trunk by bracing your abdominal muscles.
- Lower the bag back down.
Reps: 3 sets of 12
9. Front-Loaded Walk
Loaded carries are a highly effective means of building strength and endurance at the same time. Relatively simple to employ, the power of carrying a weight can't be underestimated.
Holding the sandbag in the front-loaded position will put incredible stress on your upper back, core and legs (in a good, strength-building way). Just make sure to keep your core braced to prevent your lower back from arching.
- Clean the sandbag from the ground to the front-loaded position.
- Go for a walk, holding the weight against your body, elbows close the ribs and keeping your lower back straight.
Reps: 3 sets, walking across your room or gym