Sandbags are incredibly versatile tools; and loyal readers of Straight to the Bar know how much we love our versatile tools! We like our tools simple, portable, and easy to repair. And if the tool looks right at home among tractor tires and sledgehammers, it's a sure winner. Not only do sandbags meet all the above criteria, but they are easy to incorporate into any program. If you're not using sandbags in your training, you should.
In this half of a two-part series, I'm going to look at some simple ways to build yourself a sandbag using cheap supplies and an afternoon of labor. Part two of the series will discuss training philosophy, technique and program design.
What you fill your sandbag with will determine its final weight and dimensions. I recommend sticking with the Big 3: Sand, Stones, and Shot.
Lead shot and small stones or pebbles will produce a very dense bag. Small bags are great for speed and power development, so this is definitely an option to look into. Plus, if the bag breaks, cleaning up lead shot or small stones is much easier than cleaning up sand.
Sand is still the classic option for filling a bag, and it is easy to find when you need more. The trade off is clean up, which can be a hassle if the bag breaks. You will need a large volume of sand to make a very heavy bag, but that's not a big deal. When I built my home-made sandbag, all I did was go down to the beach and swipe some. Didn't spend a dime.
You should always have two shells: an inner shell (or multiple inner shells) to hold the sand and an outer shell designed to take a beating. The outer shell should also have handles or grips of some sort. For my project, I used old duffel bags I had lying around.
One Inside the Other.
Individually, each duffel bag was flimsy, so I placed one inside the other to minimize escaping sand. Ignore the sack of cocaine duct taped at the center of the photo; we'll discuss that later.
Shoulders seen better days? Grab The Rotater. Beautiful thing.
Duct Taped Inner Shells.
Inner linings can be made out of contractor bags. Contractor bags are thicker than garbage bags and are used on construction sites for waste disposal. They come in various sizes, from 30 to 55 gallons, so find a size that works for your project. I used four 42-gallon contractor bags. I doubled-bagged the sacks and filled each with roughly 15 pounds of sand. Then I rolled each into neat little parcel and used packing tape to keep everything from exploding all over my rug.
Leave room for the sand (or stones or shot) to move around inside your inner linings. About 3/4 full is good. The final product should shift and move as you use it. This is what makes sandbag training unique.
I used too much sand in my sandbag, and the thing ended up being too stiff. It weighed in at roughly 30 pounds. It would have been much better had I used less sand or a larger duffel bag. Keep this in mind when you are building yours, and don't be afraid to experiment until you find the right combination of weight and fluidity.
If you ever wake up with that 'just run over by a truck' feeling, you need a copy of Tim Hull's Functional Correction Manual. Not only will it help you to locate and repair the problem, it'll help prevent it happening in the future.
When it comes to body transformation - whether that's an increase in strength, packing on a bit of muscle or losing a bit of excess fat - this is the perfect place to start. Dr Berardi's Precision Nutrition.
If you've ever watched a Bruce Lee film and marveled at his strength, speed, agility, endurance, flexibility or muscularity, this book should take pride of place in your collection. Unlike many other writings covering everything from Lee's training methods to nutrition, this book is based not on the recollections of people around him; but on Lee's own notes. Brilliant.
For a full list of what we're reading and watching at the moment, just head over to the Recommended Books & DVDs page. See you there.