Most strength coaches live and die by the barbell and with good reason. While I’m not suggesting that sandbags are an adequate replacement for the barbell, they may just be one of the best kept secrets in the fitness industry. Occasionally it is important to throw a spanner in the works and mix things up. Not only do sandbags offer variety, they can be beneficial in a number of ways from improving real-world grip strength to helping you break through plateaus caused by going through tired motions of that same old, worn-out groove. Read on for 5 Reasons Why You Should Train with Sandbags!
1. Sport transferable
If there was a downside to athletes only training with barbells it would be that they are constantly pushing, pulling or squatting with a stable object, one that is not comparable to the opponents they face on the field or in the octagon. However, the dynamic and awkward nature of sandbags replicates an approximate human (perhaps squat) shape and centre of gravity, making it harder to perform the most basic exercises. While you won’t be able to lift as heavy as you normally do, the instability will challenge you in a completely different way and perhaps give you that extra 5% growth.
2. Grip strength
No matter what exercise you’re attempting to perform you’ll have to battle for control and handle each rep individually. It’s not so comfortable training with sandbags and from the first time you pick one up off the floor you’ll notice the difference. You do not actually have to pick exercises (such as farmers’ walks) that specifically target grip strength. The easiest way to get started in any sandbag workout is to balance it on your shoulder or in a bear hug position. This in itself can be a challenge. Sandbags are also a great when performing weighted carries.
3. Break through plateaus
If you’ve been struggling to increase a particular lift over the last few months, try substituting one of your weekly sessions for a sandbag workout. The strength you may gain using sandbags is truly transferable. For example, a small increase in your ability to lift a heavier sandbag overhead will result in an increase in your regular overhead press when using a dumbbell or barbell. Again this is due to the unstable nature of sandbags which forces more core development as well as pulling and pushing your joints, tendons and sinews through resistance ranges you just won’t get with fixed style weights.
4. Cheap and simple
If you’re just a regular person who doesn’t have the resources of a superstar athlete or doesn’t have the funds to train at the best facilities, sandbags can be a great choice. Unlike most pieces of modern gym equipment, sandbags are easy and cheap to obtain. In fact, some people will happily let you take them off their hands for free if there’s been a recent flood or building or renovation work/project that overestimated the sand required! If you’re short on time, you can throw together a quick circuit of 5-8 exercises in your living room or garden. As well as the traditional sandbag exercises, such as cheat curls and squats, try adding some of the lesser known ones such as sandbag around the worlds or over the shoulder drops.
5. Develops your stabilising musculature
OK, so you might not build much in the aesthetic muscle department training solely with sandbags! However, what you lose in beach appeal you’ll more than make up for in rugged, tough, practical muscular development and increasing your stabilising anatomy. Sandbag training will force you to grow massively strong hands, down to your individual finger joints. Strengthening the often rejected ‘stabiliser’ muscles can help to prevent injury when going for bigger lifts in the long run and build a more useful foundation or base from which to build satisfyingly robust muscles and sinews which prove useful in or out of the gym!
So there you have it, 5 solid reasons to try out sandbag training, literally anyone can benefit by training with these. Incorporate some of the exercises you see in the videos above into your routines -and tell us, we’d love to hear how you get on!