Skip to content

The unstable benefits of sandbag training







This is the second of our three part series on weight training, where we introduce some different ideas that will add variety to your routine.

Try something new

There are heaps of different pieces of weight training equipment available to you at both the Outlooks Gym and in the dedicated weight training area of the free weights gym. These range from dumbbells to barbells to kettle bells and a whole range of resistance machines. 

The important thing about using all the weights however, is not how much you lift or what piece of equipment you use. The important thing is that you understand exactly how it impacts upon your body.

Instability matters

One of the most important pieces of understanding that anyone contemplating a weight training programme should possess, is knowing how to promote good stability within your workout. Simply looking at the amount of weight being lifted can be misleading and can lead to injury.

Recent studies emerging from the Sogn go Fjordane University in Norway found that factors such as the instability of a weight and the position of our body may be more important in stimulating muscle movement than the heaviness of the weight. In other words, by lifting dumbbells in an unstable position led to more muscle activity than lifting a heavier weight in a stable position.

Use sandbag training to shore up your routine

One piece of equipment that really encourages your muscles to fire from a place of instability is the sandbag.

The sandbag – it is often the overlooked piece of kit on the gym floor, largely because people are unaware of how effective this simple piece of equipment can be.

A bag shaped like a duffel bag, just how challenging can that be? Well, the answer is ‘very’. The bag is filled with sand, which is constantly shifting. This means that when you lift the sandbag, your core, legs and back are working very hard to stabilise the bag.

The handles are structured so that you can use a variety of grips and hence move the bag in a range of different ways. By playing around with the way you hold the bag, you are engaging new muscles and moving in different planes, one of the speediest ways to getting some great results.

The key concept behind any sandbag workout is its functionality. The movements you do, replicate the movements your body might make in real life, such as lifting a bag of laundry, carrying a large suitcase, moving a sack of potatoes, hoisting a child onto your shoulders.

Here are four sandbag training exercises you can do.

Sandbag clean
This exercise works the core and the glutes. Aim to do three sets of 10 reps, with some active stretching in between each set.

Stand with your knees bent and feet shoulder-width apart. Bend forward from the waist to hold the sandbag at shin level. Straighten your legs as you lift the sandbag to your knees. Now flick the sandbag upwards and catch it in your lower arms to hold it at shoulder level. You will have lowered your body into a shallow squat for this movement, so now straighten your legs and hold for three seconds before returning to a squat and lowering the bag to the ground. Now do nine more.

Sandbag thruster
This exercise targets the glutes and shoulders. Do three sets of 10 reps.

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and the sandbag in your arms at shoulder height. Lower into a squat while keeping the bag at shoulder height. Quickly straighten your legs and drive the bag upwards and over your head. Hold for three seconds before reversing the motion (under control) and lowering the bag to the start position.

Rotational reverse lunge

This exercise works the quads and obliques. Do 10 reps on each side. Repeat for three sets.

Stand with your feet at hip-width and hold the sandbag in front on your thighs. Lunge backwards with your left foot and as both knees bend, move the bag to the outside of your right leg. Rotate your upper back but keep your lower back straight. Hold in that lunge position for a second before stepping back up to starting position. Repeat nine time with your left leg and then repeat for the right side.

Sandbag bent over row
This exercise moves the focus to the triceps and middle of the back. Do three sets of 10 reps.

Stand with feet shoulder width apart and bend forward at the waist holding the sandbag in front of your shins. Keep your back flat. Now bend your elbows and use your shoulders to lift the bag to your ribcage. Hold for three seconds before returning the bag to shin level.

Sandbag round the world
Targets shoulders and upper back. Do 10 reps in a clockwise motion and 10 reps in an anti-clockwise motion.

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and the sandbag at eye level. Move it around your head in a circular motion clockwise. Take a break then repeat, circling the bag in an anti-clockwise direction. Keep the movement slow and steady.

For further help and advice, talk to one of of our experienced personal trainers in the Outlooks Gym.

And for further ideas on Sandbag training check out this link to fitness expert Josh hen kin’s website, here.

If you are not able to use a sandbag for sandbag training, then use other weighted items, such as kettlebells or tyres, and create instability by following the exercises outlined above.