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Sandbag Training Protocols
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Although you can use a sandbag as an alternative to most free weights, there are certain exercises and activities that itʼs better suited to. And to get the very best from this training tool youʼre going to want to make sure you choose the most effective approach. Below youʼll find 2 of the most successful ways to utilise sandbag training as part of your overall strength and conditioning program.

Utilising Sandbag Training
You might be asking why you should even bother with sandbag training, right? After all, youʼve done just fine without it for all these years. Well Iʼm not going to tell you that itʼs the new must-have training tool – not least as thereʼs nothing new about it, having been used for centuries. Yes, you could build awesome levels of strength and conditioning with nothing but a sandbag training program but I actually think that it works best as part of a bigger overall approach.
Hereʼs what you can expect from adding some sandbag training into your routine:
1.A killer grip.
The sandbag will not cooperate with you and youʼll be fighting hard for each and every lift (and failing on plenty of them too). The fact that itʼs tough to hold onto means that youʼll develop amazing strength, and not just in your hands. Your entire upper body will have to work exceptionally hard to hold onto and stabilize the sandbag.
2.Versatile strength and conditioning.
The unique size, shape and properties of the sandbag make it ideal for a whole range of exercises and drills, including:

  • Drags
  • Carries
  • Throws
  • Sport specific drills

Not only does this keep your training interesting but youʼll be able to build competency in a number of different physical tasks – applicable to daily life and sports performance.
3.Strong stabilizers.
If youʼve never lifted a heavy sandbag from the ground to overhead then it is difficult to appreciate the challenge involved. Unlike barbell training, the sandbag is a tricky tool to be highly efficient with. Sure, youʼll get better and being able to handle the bag but the constantly shifting centre of mass will always require that you stay highly focused.

Protocol 1: Sandbag Accessory Lifts

If youʼre following a standard barbell strength program then the sandbag makes for an awesome tool for accessory lifts. Irrespective of the template youʼre following, these sandbag accessory lifts can help to improve your main lifts:

Sandbag Overhead Press, as an accessory for the Overhead Press.

Sandbag Floor Press, as an accessory for the Bench Press.

Sandbag Deadlift, as an accessory for the Deadlift.
Grip the sandbag itself, rather than any handles, for an additional challenge to your grip strength.

Sandbag Bear Hug Squat, as an accessory for the Back Squat.

Sandbag Shouldering, as an accessory for the Clean.

You should keep focused on the fact that itʼs an accessory to your main lifts, i.e. itʼs designed to complement your progress rather than eat up all of your energy and time. With that in mind, pay attention to the following:

  1. Do these lifts after your main lifts, or during a different session.
  2. Donʼt overly focus on hitting PRʼs with your sandbag lifts – save that for your main barbell (or other) lifts.

Protocol 2: Sandbag Conditioning Drills

If you get bored of following the same old conditioning routines then adding some sandbag training options can do wonders. Because the sandbag can be used in some many different ways, it opens up a lot of different drills. Here are 3 of my favorites:
Workout 1: What A Drag

  • Drag a heavy sandbag over a 100 meter course
  • 10 Sandbag Shoulders (alternating sides)
  • 20 Push Ups

Repeat for a total of 5 rounds.
Workout 2: Sandbag Hill Sprint

  • Carry a moderately heavy sandbag to the top of a 50 meter hill and perform 10 Sandbag
  • Back Squats. Return to the bottom of the hill, still carrying the sandbag. Drop the sandbag
  • and perform 20 Push Ups. Repeat.

As many rounds as possible in 15 minutes.
Workout 3: Sandbag Medley
Use the biggest sandbag you can handle for this workout.

  • 5 Sandbag Cleans
  • 5 Sandbag Push Jerks
  • 5 Sandbag Back Squats
  • 5 Sandbag Shoulder Get Ups (switch sides between rounds)

Repeat for 4-6 rounds.

Reader Offer
If youʼre interested in finding out more about sandbag training then Straight To The Bar readers can get a huge 50% off either of Mattʼs sandbag training ebooks. Just use the code straight50.

Over to you. Drop us a line on Twitter ( @scottbird ), or add a comment below.



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  1. Monday, 10 Oct 2022 | Strength & Fitness Newsletter - […] Gem From The Vault : Sandbag Training ProtocolsMatt Palfrey (Sandbag Fitness)The right approach. […]

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Matt Palfrey is a strength and conditioning coach, health and fitness consultant and the founder of the Sandbag Fitness blog - attracting garage-gym trainees from the world over. He believes that training should be simple but effective, and that a no-nonsense approach works best every time. Matt also shares his training philosophy in books such as The Complete Guide To Sandbag Training and Sandbag Training For MMA & Combat Sports - both highly recommended. You'll also find him on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Youtube. And, of course, in Gymchat 206 - Sandbag Training and Gym Chat 218 - Alternative Approaches to Exercise Prescription. Great conversations.
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