By Josh Henkin
To be able to train in today’s times is such a great
advantage. Not only do we have the ability to get
information instantaneously, but we also have a greater
variety of training equipment available than ever
before. Sure, some equipment is more beneficial than
other, but our choices seem limitless. By having so many
different options, it encourages the fun factor in
training that many people tend to forget about.
Often we spend a lot of time arguing
over the perfect rep and set scheme, or should we use a
slightly pronated or semi-supinated grip to optimize
While some of these factors definitely prove to be
necessary, one cannot discount the benefit of enjoying
what training can do for performance.
Training will make someone work
harder, be more consistent, and as long as the program
has rhyme and reason, it will lead to some outstanding
One type of training that sometimes gets forgotten is
sandbag training. Sandbags are easy to learn, challenge
the whole body, and have more versatility than almost
any other form of equipment.
Why Use Sandbags?
The most obvious seems to be the simplicity of their
use. One does not need to invest hundreds of dollars
into coaching (although I am available for those who are
interested) or have to read any complicated books.
Grasp, rip, and lift. You definitely want to pay
attention to your lifting posture, but outside of that
most of the fun is trying to figure out how to lift the
Sandbag lifting shares a lot in common with kettlebells
with regard to their ability to challenge not only
strength, but endurance as well. A good bag will force
the lifter to maneuver and adjust to the awkward weight.
This definitely causes the body to use more muscles and
expend greater energy as it is hard to get into one
Josh Henkin performing SandBag PushUps:
Increasing grip strength is another great reason to use
sandbags. There is no piece of equipment that frustrates
people as much as sandbags. Why? When using sandbags
there is no convenient place to grab. You have to
constantly search for an open spot and then crush grip.
However, unlike most pieces of equipment, I find that
not only is your crushing grip challenged, but your
pinching grip is as well. For those who are into grip
training, you will appreciate the distinct difference
between the two.
Versatility is important when
choosing any form of equipment. With common concerns
about money and time it is often silly to invest a great
amount of money into something that has limited use.
Not only are sandbags cheap, but they can be used for any movement that
you can think of from common gym exercises like squats,
clean & jerks, to jogging, climbing, dragging, and
With such variety it is hard to get
bored. Along with the various exercises come the many
holding positions one can use with sandbags. If
squatting is getting too easy with the bag on both
shoulders go to one shoulder, hold it overhead, hold it
in your arms like a Zercher, bear hug, etc. You are
really only limited by your imagination.
Sandbags easily lend themselves to team or group
training. Because of their cost and transportability,
they are easy to set up for small or large groups. This
is great for those who wish to combine strength and
field work and are concerned about time issues. Coaches
can concentrate on full-body lifts and challenge various
motor qualities such as maximal strength, endurance, and
Finally, the immense amount of trunk training that
occurs with sandbag training alone is almost a good
enough reason to use them. Try to squat, run, lunge,
jump, or any other movement while holding the sandbag/s
in various positions. Doing so challenges all of the
trunk muscles. Many of my clients will comment how sore
they are deep in their rib area after initially using
sandbags. Don’t believe me? Try a few sets of sandbag
Turkish get-ups and then e-mail me how you are feeling!
How to Implement Sandbags
As with any other form of training, sandbags training
really comes down to one’s goals. If maximal strength,
endurance, or speed are your specific goals, then the
program has to be designed according to good training
principles. However, one can try to improve several
components if the program is designed appropriately.
Circuits: Since fatigue can be somewhat specific,
creating a program that emphasizes strength on a lift
such as a squat can be followed with relatively short
rest by an exercise like an overhead press, and so on.
Density Training: Several great coaches like
Ethan Reeve and Charles Staley have written extensively
about the benefits of density work. There are several
variants such as Charles Staley’s EDT program. Using
Coach Staley’s program, we can set up a sandbag routine
using a squat with the bag over both shoulders and power
clean and jerk. Use a weight you can hit ten repetitions
with, but you are only going to be performing sets of
five. Set a time frame, approximately fifteen minutes,
and alternate between these two exercises using only as
much rest as needed.
You don’t have to use only sandbags. In fact, I highly
encourage that you use a variety of implements in your
training hopefully including sandbags. A tool such as a
sandbag can be used instead of a standard barbell or
dumbbell lift such as squats, deadlifts, clean & jerks,
presses, rows, etc. By changing the implement some new
neural stimulus can often lead to new gains when you go
back to the standard lift.
“By changing the implement some new
neural stimulus can often lead to new gains when you go
back to the standard lift,” says Josh Henkin.
Another option is to use sandbags as a form of active
recovery. You can easily change the load to enhance a
motor skill and keep mobility without excessively taxing
the body. Using a lighter load for your squat will allow
you to enhance the groove of the lift and maintaining
flexibility without draining the body from the core
routines. Odd lifts such as squatting with the bag on
one shoulder can increase core strength that may
compliment your squatting routine.
Some lifts are just a great overall new challenge such
as the Turkish get-up bear hugging a bag. While as sick
as this may sound, it can definitely stimulate the fun
factor that may help training once again.
With so many options sandbags are a simple and easy
method and tool to implement. It isn’t a miracle
technique but will challenge you in new ways and again
don’t underestimate the fact fun while training can
bring a world of new progress!
here now to learn more about sandbags and how to supply
your own home gym with one!
About Coach Josh Henkin
Josh Henkin is owner of Innovative
Fitness Solutions in Phoenix, Arizona. For the past ten
years he has created effective training programs for a
wide array of clients.
Josh is a graduate of Arizona State University where he received his Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science/Physical Education. At Arizona State, he was also a member of the Men’s Basketball Team.
Josh is an NSCA certified strength and conditioning specialist, certified club coach with USA weightlifting, and certified Russian kettlebell instructor and a certified corrective high performance exercise kinesiologist. Coach Henkin is well known nationally as an expert in fitness and sports performance training and has been invited to appear at national conferences and write for numerous fitness magazines.
Coach Henkin has dedicated himself to providing cutting-edge, easy to apply training information to the masses. He has created the Ultimate Sandbag for those that wish to get the immense benefits of odd object lifting at home or at their gym, along with the very popular High Octane Sandbag Training DVD. He has also recently released SMASH: Total Conditioning with Sledgehammers. These programs have become so popular because they are effective and they are fun! Check out coach Henkin’s site at: