Odd-object training (using things other than standard weights) is a tried and true practice that can be traced back to ancient civilizations. It eventually led to the Strongman competitions that are still held today. This can be anything from carrying logs, moving heavy rocks, lifting and carrying sandbags, and similar activities. Odd-object training can offer some variety to your fitness routine and even give your body a better workout. Here, you’ll find out about sandbag training and what it can do for you.
The Benefits of Sandbag Training
Sandbag training is one form of odd-object training that has been featured in boot camp workouts and in Strongman competitions. It offers you a strength training workout that is more than the typical free weight routine that you’re used to.
It’s also more affordable than buying a strength training machine or even a set of weights and barbells. This is great for people looking to do at-home workouts without paying big money for equipment. You can buy industrial sandbags at hardware stores or you can buy specifically made sandbags through fitness equipment companies.
In terms of the workout, you’ll see that sandbag training requires you to put more effort into the exercise because the bags are awkward to lift. You have to fight the shape of the object along with the weight of the object which exerts more energy. This means you can burn more calories while taxing your muscles. It’ll also improve your grip strength as it calls for a strong grip to hold on to the bags.
One of the biggest benefits of sandbag training is its ability to strengthen your core. The unstable nature of sandbags makes you engage your core more so than normal training exercises. This also helps improve your balance. You’ll notice how much stronger you are after regular sandbag training when you approach a normal free weight exercise and see how much easier it feels.
Specifically, sandbag training offers training variables that enhance your strength. Training variables are things like body positioning, holding positions, the planes of motion, and the stability of the implement. These four factors can add to your workout and improve your gains:
1. Body positioning
This refers to the way you stand while you perform the exercise in question. In sandbag training, it refers to the way you stand while you lift the bag. Due to the nature of a sandbag, you have to sometimes move from the standard stance (your feet parallel and shoulder-width apart) and stagger your legs or turn your feet. These simple changes can alter the way your body reacts by engaging different muscles.
2. Holding positions
This refers to the way you hold the sandbag during your workout. There are different hold positions that apply stress to different parts of your body. This training variable is important because you’ll work different parts of your body than you would with a barbell which has less holding positions due to the static nature of the object.
3. Plane of motion
This refers to the three different ways your body moves. There are the sagittal, frontal, and transverse planes. The sagittal plane is basically the left and right halves of your body and involves the backward or forward parallel movement along that line (think bicep curls, lunges, etc.). The frontal plane is the front and back halves of your body and involves side-to-side parallel movement (think dumbbell side raises). Finally, the transverse plane is the superior and inferior halves of your body and involves the parallel movement or rotational movement of your waistline (windmills, horizontal woodchop movements, etc.). Most lifting only calls on the sagittal plane but sandbag training can incorporate all three planes which can give you a better overall workout by engaging all parts of your body.
4. Stability of the implement
This has to do with how stable the object you’re working with is. Sandbags are unstable because of the way the sand shifts in the bag. You have to engage more of your muscles to keep the unstable weight as steady as possible as you lift and then hold it in place. This type of variable can actually help you get past a plateau in your training and help you gain more strength.
By introducing these training variables, you’ll be able to get more out of sandbag training than you could by simply doing typical strength training exercises. Couple that with the general core strength benefits and the calories you burn through the extra effort involved, it makes sense that sandbag training is considered to be quite beneficial for your fitness goals.
How to Workout With Sandbags
If you’re ready to step away from the barbells and add some variety into your workout routine you’ll find that sandbag training can easily be added into your existing schedule. Sandbag training can be done by simply lifting sandbags instead of free weights. Check out our workout sandbags guide and reviews for how to find the right sandbag for your workouts. Keep your normal strength training exercises in place and add an additional one with only sandbags or swap one free weight session for sandbags. By doing this, you’ll get the benefits of both types of workouts.
You can also try specific exercises like dragging the bag, pulling it, pushing it, or throwing it. These different workouts will do different things for your body making sandbag training more versatile than free weights. Here are a few sandbag exercises that you can try out on your own when you’re ready to start training.
To perform this exercise start by getting into a normal windmill stance with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Hold your sandbag in one hand and bring it up over your head. Then, rotate across and down so your free hand extends toward the opposite leg. Hold the position for about a minute then return to a standing position. Switch sides and repeat the motion. Do as many reps and sets that you feel comfortable with (depending on how heavy the sandbag is and your strength level). You’ll notice how much harder this exercise is with a sandbag instead of another weight like a kettlebell.
Sandbag Bear-Hug Carry
If you’ve done load-carry exercises before you’re familiar with the idea of carrying a heavy load from a starting point to a finishing point. This is the same concept only with a sandbag. You’ll hold the sandbag in a bear-hug grip against your chest and carry it from one spot to another. To up your workout, you can sprint instead of walk. You can also set up a course to follow instead of having only two points.
Sandbag Floor Press
A standard floor press has you lying on your back, pressing a weight from your chest upwards. Here, you’ll do this with a sandbag instead of free weights. Do as many reps and sets as you’re comfortable with. This not only develops your pushing strength but will also challenge your shoulder stability as well as your grip strength.
Sandbag Clean and Press
If you know how to do a clean and press with a barbell, exchange the barbell for a sandbag and do that instead. If you’re not familiar with it by name, you’ve more than likely seen it done or have done it yourself. Start with the sandbag at your feet and get in a stance with your feet parallel and shoulder-width apart. Bend over with a straight back and pick up the sandbag. Once the bag is even with your chest press it up over your head and hold the position briefly. Do as many reps and sets as you’re comfortable with.
While there is nothing wrong with the basic free weight exercises and strength training machines at the gym switching up your routine every now and then to incorporate sandbag training can really help you further your gains and develop better stability and grip strength. Odd-object training can be the enhancement your workout needs to get you closer to your fitness goals. Try it out for yourself and see what sandbag training can do for you.