How I Train Part 1: Sandbags

I joined my first ‘gym’, my HS boiler room, when I was 16.   I belonged to a gym in one form or another (college gym, YMCA, Fitness Center, etc) up till 3 years ago.   I was a tough break; I really liked the gym I belonged to, but I had a newborn at home and my wife and I were balancing work, family, etc…and working out became difficult.  Mind you, the TIME to workout wasn’t tough.  ANYONE can find 30 minutes most days to be active.  GETTING to the gym was the hard part.

So I started looking at home gym options.  I had to be able to do everything I did at the gym.   I had to have enough weight/resistance to build and maintain muscle.   It had to have a small footprint (not a lot of room in the house at the time.) It had to be ‘real’ equipment, no fads or gimmicks.  Finally, it had to be affordable; no $5000 supersystems with tons of specializations.

That’s when I found BruteForceSandbags.

It actually started with (kinda’ not safe for work…but solid fitness material.)   Their trainer was throwing around a sandbag and my interest was sparked.   Could this be the solution I was looking for?    I did some searches and ended up at Brute Force’s site.

Could I do everything I did in the gym, with a sandbag?   Almost.   Olympic lifts, squats, shoulder presses, rows, and most all other power moves could be done with a sandbag.   How much weight?   I went with the Strongman which goes up to 120 lbs.  Not the 300 I was looking for, but it was a start.   I soon learned that 120 lbs in a sandbag is significantly harder to lift than 120 lbs of barbell.   How was the footprint?   The size of a duffel bag, so, smaller beyond my expectations!   Is it ‘real’ equipment?   3 years later the bag is in great shape and is the cornerstone of my resistance training.  What about price?   They’re not inexpensive, but more so than 120 lbs of weight plus a barbell.  When you put it in perspective, it’s about 3-4 months membership at a gym.

It was love at first workout.   I replicated my standard workouts and found that I felt better after the sandbag workouts.    4×5 of cleans then 4×12 squats, romanian deadlifts, bent over rows, shoulder presses and then pushups and pullups.

It was then that I found Sandbag Fitness.   Matt, the guy who runs it, is pretty passionate about sandbag training and has provided, FOR FREE, some truly killer workouts.    He’s also written THE BOOK on sandbag training.

Before you think this is just a plug for Brute Force’s and Matt’s sites, let me assure you I’m merely assigning credit to those who’ve inspired me.    In these 3 years, I’ve seen gains in endurance and fitness that I never had in the gym.   With a sandbag, you have to train in a different way.   You use your core and stabilizer muscles much more.   You find things like lugging some mulch around back, carrying groceries, and, if you’re a Spartan Racer, the Sandbag Carry, so much easier.   They’re ridiculously versatile: do a traditional 3×10 or 4×12 or 5×5 workout.   Do Crossfit-style workouts.   Do just about any exercise you do with a bar, and then some.

I’ve since added 3 more sandbags, the Athlete and Heavy Hitter.    The Athlete is awesome for taking out on runs, doing sandbag burpees and high rep cardio workouts.   The Heavy Hitter currently has about 150 lbs in it and goes up to 300.   It gets a TON of use for bear hug squats and, my favorite: Pick it up and get it over your head.

So, did it change me into a muscular, ripped, Adonis?   Heck no….I eat too much.  No equipment is going to do that unless you eat right.   Do I miss the gym?  Never.   Would I give up my sandbags for a lifetime membership to whatever mega-gym?   Nope.

Sandbags did for me what I’d hoped for:  Gave me versatility, functionality and ease of use for (now) under $500.   I’ve never been so pleased with a fitness product.

So, there’s what you need to know if you’re interested in using sandbags in your workouts.   Any questions, feel free to ask, or ask the experts in the links above.



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