Sandbags, as a fitness training tool, have been around for decades. However, in the last several years, there has been a resurgence and reinvention, if you will, of this simple, yet effective fitness tool.
Our clients frequently utilize sandbags for a variety of exercises and I suggest you do the same. First, let’s discuss what a sandbag is, the various sizes, shapes and weight increments available, what the benefits are over other forms of external resistance and what exercises utilize the sandbags optimally. Plus, I will share some purchasing information for in-home use as well. As always, prior to beginning any exercise program, please consult your physician.
Sandbags, as mentioned above, come in numerous sizes, shapes and weight increments. All are filled with various amounts of sand, which will determine how much the sandbag weighs. This, in turn, will determine how the sandbag is utilized. Here are a few examples:
• Closed sandbags, which look similar to a suitcase with handles on all sides for different uses, may be utilized for various stabilization exercises such as squats, squat/cleans, suitcase lunges, full body extensions, roll ups, V-sits, etc.
• Sandbag rolls or collars are “U” shaped to fit around the neck and shoulders for hands-free exercises such as high step ups, lunge backs, or heel raises, which makes it much easier to concentrate on the technique of those exercises without the distraction and discomfort of holding heavy dumbbells.
• Sandbells are like a soft kettlebell or dumbbell filled with sand. This version may be held and utilized for many exercises similar to those which feature kettlebells or dumbbells such as a squat swing.
We utilize our closed sandbags and sandbag collars constantly in lieu of dumbbells, medicine balls and kettlebells. It is not that sandbags are better, they are just different and an excellent fitness tool to vary the method of pushing and pulling load. The sand that lives inside the shell shifts and slides while in use. This creates a continuous need for the body to adjust to this shifting and sliding of load.
Another benefit of sandbags are when we place the bags on the hips during a supine hip extension. Not only are the sandbags more comfortable than a kettlebell, medicine ball or dumbbell, the shifting of the sand requires more engagement of the gluteus maximus, hamstrings and inner core unit muscles to anchor, brace and stabilize the body’s movement.
Additionally, if you are preparing for backpacking activities or other activities where carrying external load is required (i.e. firefighters, contractors, parents carrying toddlers, etc.), sandbags effectively train the entire body to manage the load more safely and effectively by simulating the load you must bear.
Convinced yet? Well, if you are going to purchase your own for in-home use, begin with sandbag products from www.performbetter.com, www.SPRI.com or www.powersystems.com. Their products are priced from $13 and up depending upon the size, weight increment and type of sandbag product. Their products are well made and do not tend to “leak” sand even when thrown or dropped repeatedly.
I would suggest a closed “suitcase-type” sandbag or a sandbag collar in a light weight increment to start. Master the use and then perhaps consider purchasing different sandbag products and weight increments.