Sandbag Exercises for Strength and Conditioning

Last month I taught you how to make a sandbag and now it is time to put it to use.  In this video I show you how to perform a few movements with the sandbag and how to combine them into a strength, conditioning and circuit program. Check it out and let me know what you think

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Monday, April 29th, 2013 Sports Performance Training, Videos No Comments

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.

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Anniversary Party 2.0 Recap

Rise Above Anniversary Party

The second RISE ABOVE Anniversary Party was truly a wonderful occasion celebrating how much our members and the gym itself has grown in the last year.  It was a day of thanks to my family, friends, and dedicated gym goers for their ongoing support in allowing me to build a gym and career based around what I enjoy most in life.

This year’s Anniversary Party was much like the last one only BIGGER and BETTER.  We had professional chef Javier Montano supply us with a huge variety of healthy and delicious food.  There were more people interested in competing in the Strongman Competition so this year we made it a team competition.  There were four teams representing different groups of people; Firefighters, Police officers, Trainers, and the Evening Crew.  Each team consisted of at least four people and there had to be at least one female on each team.

The Strongman Competition consisted of three events including: Double kettlbell deadlifts for total number of repetitions (40kgs males, 20kgs females), a timed ten-lap Prowler race, and a team medley consisting of 20 pull ups, tire flip, 20 keg (male) or sandbag (female) press, walking lunges, and a sled drag where each person did one event within the medley to combine for the best overall team time.

Kristen from the firefighter team gives a recap of what the day was like for her as a competitor:

“This past weekend I attended the Rise Above Anniversary Party 2.0 and had a blast! For most people a party consists of food, good company and then more food. This party was not as traditional, but then again, nothing at Rise Above is! I competed on the Firefighters team of 5, in the fitness challenge. Once again Doug pushed us to our max by challenging us to three events and having us compete against other teams, including the Cops! Before any food was served, we enjoyed the company of our legs screaming and our hearts pumping out of our chest after kettlebell deadlifts and pushing the Prowler! The competition ended with a great medley of events and a cheering supportive crowd.  After the competition we enjoyed a great feast of yummy food! I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate! Congrats and thanks to Rise Above!”

Here is a video to give you a feel for what it was like:

Each team participated to their fullest potential and the contest was tight.  When the smoked cleared and the points were tallied, there was a tie between the Police and Firefighter groups.  Before we could do a tiebreaker event everyone had already started eating and drinking so the event ended there.  All of the highlight pictures can be seen in the news and events page on the site as well as on the facebook fan page.

I also wanted to thank Logan Christopher from Legendary Strength for competing in Rise Above’s Strong Man Competition for the second year in a row.  After a grueling competition, Logan once again found enough energy to put on a show for the crowd with some Old Time Strongman Feats of Strength.

Logan even demonstrated some incredible kettlebell juggling tricks per everyone’s request.

Logan is a great guy and a wealth of knowledge; if you haven’t already, please check out his Legendary Strength Website.  He even took the time to write his own review of the Rise Above Strongman Competition on his blog here.

This was a truly special day for me and I thank all who came out to compete, eat and support the gym.  In the spirit of thanks I want to acknowledge the people who have done a ton of work for me behind the scenes.  A special thanks must go out to AJ for helping out around the gym with training and to Deb who is the creative genius behind the design and execution of all of the posters, fliers and online work that goes into the business.  I also want to thank my sister Nicole for helping me with the articles for the blog, for taking great picture of the events and for kicking my butt during our kettlebell training.

Lastly I would like to thank all of you who subscribe to the email list.  I greatly appreciate you sticking with me as I try the best I can to provide you with simple and honest training and nutritional insights.  I would never have imagined that I would have the online following like I do and without your support my career would only be an empty shell of what it currently is.  I hope to have all of you come by the gym to visit or compete one day.

Until then, Thanks and Stay Strong.

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Tuesday, October 5th, 2010 Articles 3 Comments


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