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Train Like a Professional Football Player With These Sandbag Moves

author image Josh Henkin, CSCS
Josh Henkin, CSCS, has more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry. He has taught his innovative fitness systems all over the world. His DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training system has become a leader in functional fitness education, serving people in more than 80 countries worldwide.

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Train Like a Professional Football Player With These Sandbag Moves
Photo Credit: Josh Henkin/

Football is one of the most intense, powerful and hard-hitting sports in existence. Preparing to play such a violent and demanding game has put more emphasis on strength and conditioning. While there are a lot of different methods and workouts, sandbag training is one that can be used for strength, power and stability training. Sandbags can hit angles and positions that other implements won’t, getting any athlete ready for the demands of an unpredictable game like football. Add the instability of the sandbag’s shifting filling and you can have an all-encompassing program that addresses a variety of athletic requirements. It’s game time! So try this sandbag football workout for yourself.

1. Power Snatch
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1 Power Snatch

From exploding off the line to hitting an opponent, developing power is a vital element of football. The snatch facilitates this power development in a full-body, explosive movement. HOW TO DO IT: Hold the sandbag by the snatch-grip handles, keeping the sandbag close to your body. Hinge forward at the hips and keep your arms locked. Explosively pull the sandbag upward along the body as though you were trying to “jump” the weight overhead. Quickly rotate the sandbag around and absorb the weight overhead. Do not let the weight pull you back, but focus on pushing it upward. Rotate the sandbag to the front as you lower it to the ground for one complete rep.

Related: Learn More About the Ultimate Sandbag Training System

2. Half-Kneeling Press
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2 Half-Kneeling Press

To develop power, you need to have a steady foundation. The half-kneeling press is an excellent exercise to work on full-body strength and stability. Being in the half-kneeling position and pressing the unstable sandbag overhead takes all the muscles from your hips, core and upper body to function together in order to perform the movement. HOW TO DO IT: Clean the sandbag to chest level, then slowly drop into a lunge so your rear knee gently rests on the ground. Dig the toes of the back foot and the heel of your front foot into the ground to engage your hips. Brace through your core and press the sandbag slowly overhead. Trying to move too quickly will make the sandbag feel even more unstable. Lower down to chest level and repeat several times before switching legs.

Related: 12 Cable-Machine Moves That Build Muscle and Torch Calories

3. Front-Loaded Squats
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3 Front-Loaded Squats

Squats have a strong history in the game of football. Building powerful legs is definitely one goal, but building strength in all major muscle groups is even better. By using the front-loaded position, your core, upper back and arms are also engaged in the squat. Just like in football, muscle groups don’t work in isolation; rather, the strongest athletes are those who can use their entire bodies to block, make a play or fight off a tackle. HOW TO DO IT: Clean the sandbag into the front-loaded position. Position your elbows as though you were protecting your ribs and pull the weight in toward your body. Push your knees forward while descending into the squat and continue to pull the weight into your body to avoid rounding your upper or lower back. Once in the bottom position, think of driving the elbows upward to quickly ascend back to the top without locking your knees.

Related: 5 Tools to Help You Recover Like a Professional Athlete

4. Front-Loaded Good Mornings
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4 Front-Loaded Good Mornings

How fast you run and how hard you hit is a direct result of having strong hips and a powerful core. Teaching the two to work together allows you to generate far more force. The front-loaded good morning does an amazing job of combining elements of a front plank with hip movement like a deadlift. The end result is a supercharged exercise. HOW TO DO IT: Clean the sandbag into the front-loaded position. Put a soft bend in your knees and pull the sandbag’s weight into your body. Begin to sit back on your hips and hinge forward without bending your knees much more than the start position. You should feel a strong stretch in your hamstrings. Your body weight should be going through your heels. Keep your shoulders back and, once your chest is parallel to the floor, push through your feet (don’t lift with your back) to bring yourself back upright.

Related: 14 Muscle-Building Tire-Training Moves

5. Overhand Rows
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5 Overhand Rows

Having a strong back helps prevent a wide range of shoulder problems and also allows your pushing muscles to be stronger. The overhand row is a great exercise that accomplishes both. The fact that you are in a bent-over-row position makes the overhand row an incredible core exercise as well. The sandbag is unusual because the weight is so far from the handle that the resistance is much more challenging than dumbbells or barbells. HOW TO DO IT: Hold the snatch-grip handles so your palms are facing your body. Deadlift the weight up, then slowly slide the sandbag down along your body until your trunk is parallel to the ground or before your lower back rounds. Slowly pull the weight toward your body, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Accentuate the lowering phase by aiming for four to five seconds to return the sandbag to the start.

Related: 12 Weight-Training Mistakes

6. Around the Worlds
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6 Around the Worlds

Real core strength is not just about how much tension you can produce, it also encompasses how fast you can do so and how fast you can relax. It’s called having a reactive core, and it’s what allows us to run faster, change direction and adjust to opponents. But standard ab exercises like crunches and planks won’t teach these concepts. That’s why drills like around the worlds are critical to overall core development. HOW TO DO IT: Holding the sandbag close to your hips, pivot one foot in toward the sandbag. Move the sandbag upward along your body and wrap it around your back as though you were putting on a jacket. The key is to resist movement in your trunk and allow your feet to create the motion. Once it’s behind you, make sure not to lean backward as you continue the motion around the body to the start. Repeat before switching directions.

Related: 12 Exercise Swaps to Help You Break Through a Plateau

7. Biceps Curls
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7 Biceps Curls

It’s no secret that football involves a lot of wrestling -- from stripping the ball to breaking free of a tackle. While simpler exercises like biceps curls should not make up the majority of your workout, they can help in both injury prevention and performance gains. The sandbag brings in a new element: When equipment like dumbbells and barbells are curled, the actual weight decreases due to leverage. With the sandbag, the tension stays high throughout the movement. HOW TO DO IT: Grab the snatch-grip handles so your palms face up. Stand tall and push through your heels to activate your hips and trunk. Hold your shoulders back and curl the weight upward. Resist any back or shoulder movement by bracing your core. Pause for a brief moment and slowly lower the weight back down without losing your good posture or alignment.

Related: 30-Day Push-Up Challenge

8. Overhead Walks
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8 Overhead Walks

Developing a powerhouse midsection is vital in running fast or delivering a game-changing hit! However, you aren’t going to develop the necessary core strength from sit-ups, crunches or even planks alone. The sandbag overhead walk will give you that on-the-field strength. Walking, especially with a sandbag lifted over your head, creates core instability, so keeping your trunk in the same position is challenging. Each step will feel as though you’re being pulled out of position. Research has shown the overhead position can be tougher on the core than squats or even deadlifts, so holding an unstable weight overhead makes your workout even more intense! HOW TO DO IT: Clean the sandbag to your fists at chest level then press it overhead as you lock out your elbows without hyperextending them. Make sure the weight stays over the crown of your head and your elbows are completely straight. Squeeze your shoulders back and down to help disperse the load throughout your entire body. Begin to walk slowly to feel how the weight is pulled back and forth. Never lean or alter your posture to accommodate for the instability of the sandbag.

Related: 30-Day Ab Challenge

What Do YOU Think?
Photo Credit: Mike Watson Images/moodboard/Getty Images

What Do YOU Think?

Have you ever used a sandbag to train? What are some of your favorite moves? All you former (and current) football players out there, tell us: How did you train for each season? Are there any moves we forgot to include? Tell us in the comments below!

Related: 9 Sandbag Moves to Get You Shredded

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