A sandbag may look like one of the most boring pieces of equipment in the gym, but I say it’s among the most underrated. That goes double for a home gym: Most people drop cash on dumbbells or barbells when a sandbag will give you way more weight for your money — and a good deal of versatility.
Let’s take a look at 10 of the best exercises you can do with sandbags. I’m including all types here, from the little ones you’ll find in commercial gyms to the giant cylindrical types you’ll find in strongman gyms, and everything in between.
Sandbag to shoulder
In this strongman-style exercise, all you do is pick up the sandbag and put it on your shoulder. Simple to describe, harder to do. For a great conditioning workout, you can simply launch it backward over your shoulder, then turn around and pick it up again. Or, once you get it onto your shoulder, walk around with it for an asymmetrical carry.
Sandbag lunges and squats
Now that you have a sandbag in your hands, consider keeping it there a little longer. You can do front squats while hugging the bag in front of you, or sling it onto your shoulder (across both shoulders if it’s the longer type) to do something more like a back squat. Holding it zercher style (cradled in your elbows) is excellent for forward and reverse lunges.
Sandbag good mornings
Want a little more work for your back, hamstrings, and glutes? Good mornings are a movement where you hinge at the hips in a bowing motion with a weight on or near your shoulders. (Think of them as a squat where you try not to bend your knees.) While good mornings are traditionally done with a barbell on your back, they also work great as a front-loaded exercise using a kettlebell, a weight plate, or — yes — a sandbag.
Sandbag sumo squats
This is a good one for those sandbags with handles. Hold the sandbag by the handles with your legs in a wide stance. Push your knees out while you squat down while keeping your torso as upright as possible. This is a great exercise for hip mobility as well as leg strength.
Who doesn’t love a bicep curl? There are many ways to curl dumbbells and barbells, and you can do sandbag curls as well. This is a great use case for smaller sandbags, or even for a backpack or weighted vest.
Russian twists are a core exercise often accomplished with a medicine ball, but any weight will do — and a sandbag is a great option. Your hands and arms will get an extra workout from the instability of the sandbag, making this an extra fun and challenging way to do it.
Sandbag hip thrusts
Hip thrusts are a great exercise for your glutes (your butt), but they’re a pain to set up with a barbell, and they kinda hurt. A sandbag provides plenty of weight but distributes it more comfortably across your hips, so give this variation a try. You can do it as a hip thrust with your shoulders on a box or bench, or as a glute bridge with your shoulders on the ground.
Sandbag sled pulls
We’ve already introduced you to the sandbag carry and the sled drag, so why not combine them? This one works best if you have either a fancy gym sled that can handle large objects besides plates or a homemade sled that you’ve made from something like a tire. Carry the sandbag to the sled, then pull the sled back to the start.
You’ve seen a few exercises that involve taking a sandbag off the ground, but what if you put some extra effort into perfecting that particular motion? Whether you’re doing sandbag-to-shoulder, sandbag carries, or the other movements we’ve covered, like squats, it’s helpful to get good at the pick (as strongman competitors call it). This video on sandbag-to-shoulder technique will help you lift even the heaviest sandbags without hurting your back or losing your grip.
Odd object presses are some of the weirdest and hardest things that turn up in strongman competitions, and they’re great to add to your normal workout too. Half the fun of the sandbag press is figuring out how to get the dang thing in your hands without dropping it. The more loosely packed the bag is, the harder it will be.