How to Build Your Own Sandbag

Whether it's for the versatility, experimentation or budget constraints - this is the only way to go.

A DIY, hand-made sandbag
Here's one I made earlier.
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.

Stuffing Options

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.

Shell Options

Inner Shells
Inner Shells.
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
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.

You Might Also Like...

Mike Gillette's 'Rings of Power' explains the various ways to use - progressively - this incredible tool. With clear emphases on both strength and rehabilitation, it's an ideal starting point for many. Particularly the 'over 40' (of which I'm a proud member) crowd. For a glimpse into the world of 'Rings of Power', a brief quote from the review page :
If you care about getting strong, staying strong, and remaining injury free, Rings of Power is essential reading. I incorporated rings into my own training program a couple of years ago and am glad I did. At 45 years old, I am able to continue my strength pursuits unhindered by the joint and tendon injuries that plague many in the over-40 athletic community. - Dr Chris Hardy
Mike Gillette's 'Rings of Power'. Perfect.
NB : To see the other training-related books we recommend, swing by the 'Recommended Reading' page. And for a complete list, head on over to Goodreads.

Building Tips

Duct Taped Inner Shells
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.

Until next time,
Stay fit, stay strong.

Derek 'D-Rock' Peruo

Derek Peruo, CSCS, is the owner of Renaissance Fitness, an exclusive personal training service based in New York City. He shares his training philosophy via magazines such as Men's Fitness, Muscle & Fitness, and Men's Health. And of course Straight to the Bar.

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