My Sandbag Workout Routines For The Spartan Race (& Lockdown)

Spread the love

 

I love bodyweight training, but to me “bodyweight” doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be any other equipment involved at all.

In fact, one of the best ways to improve on certain bodyweight exercises is to add some form of resistance.

This doesn’t have to mean barbells or dumbbells, and there are certainly many ways to “add resistance” without setting foot inside the weights room.

So, today I’d like to talk to you about some of the sandbag workout routines that I have completed, loved and absolutely hated, but all of which have taught me a valuable lesson.

In fact, I should say, “Some of the sandbag workout routines I have completed in the last 18 months”.

Because I can assure you that I never went near a sandbag before April last year (April 2019).

My Introduction to Sandbag Training

So, I may have mentioned once or twice before that I completed the Spartan SUPER race last year.A group of men running through water during an obstacle or mud race

A total of 8 miles and 24 obstacles.

I’m going to be honest here and say that I’m not much of a runner, and therefore some of the “alone” training I did, such as working up to running 8 miles in one go was wasted.

Well how was I to know that you wouldn’t actually need to “run” 8 miles, as you would be “stopping” every so often to clamber or climb over (or under) an obstacle?

And typically wade through water and lots of mud.

Anyway that’s history now.

However, one of my training partners, an extremely super fit personal trainer, Rick, first introduced me to sandbag training as a way to not only improve my fitness, but also to show me what I may potentially face during the Spartan race.

Basically, there’s a lot of having to carry uneven and unconventional objects.

Initially, there was a lot of lower-body work with sandbags in the form of extremely high-rep squats, front squats, walking lunges (the sandbag carried in front squat fashion and over the back of the shoulders), and picking up and throwing around a sandbag (we regularly hit up to 1,000 reps per training session).

In a way I’m glad of this type of training, as it got me used to having to lift stuff that wasn’t as symmetrical and traditional as our friends, the barbell and dumbbells.

The “Killer” Sandbag Workout Routine(s)

I recall one day in our local park, just myself and Rick had turned up for training, instead of the usual 4-6 motley crew.

The fact that it was pouring with rain and that this April day had decided to return to winter rather than remaining in spring possibly accounted for the many “no-shows”.

After attempting around 20 minutes of rope climbing (we had slung a rope over a tree branch, secured it with a harness, and practiced clambering up some 15 feet), the slippery and potentially dangerous conditions made us rethink our exertions for the day.

In the end we decided on walking (during a torrential downpour) with a sandbag.

We were “lucky” enough to have two 25kg sandbags to work with.

Our aim was simple.

Our local park had a circumference of exactly 0.98 kilometres, so we decided to call this 1km exactly.

We would carry out sandbags, alternating between left shoulder, right shoulder, and bear hug for as long as we could.

Don’t ask me how, but we eventually completed 8 laps of the park.

It took approximately 90 minutes, but we had walked with a 25kg weight (without putting it down) for a total of 5 miles/8 kilometres.

I’m not going to lie, I slept like a baby that night.

My shoulders, obliques, arms, upper and lower back ached (but ached in a “good” workout type of way) for about 4 days afterwards, but it was the BEST “walking” workout I have EVER done.

Now I wouldn’t suggest starting out by walking 5 miles on your very first attempt, and even just half a mile will suffice.

Try it, and then let me know how it feels.

Additionally, sandbags are available in a variety of weights. Go with what you feel you can – 25kg is not a necessity and I’m sure that in the majority of cases a 10-15kg sandbag will suffice.

And obviously if you’re feeling strong and you want to go the other way, there are also far heavier sandbags available.

I would hazard a guess that a few of my eagle-eyed, regular readers may suddenly be thinking, “Hold on there for just a second Partha. I thought you despised long bouts of cardio, and would always recommend short, intense bouts of intervals instead.”

Yes indeed, very true.

However, let’s not forget that I was training for an 8-mile obstacle race, plus I would never consider carrying a sandbag for long distances as “traditional cardio”.

Okay, I will admit that the long nature of this type of workout could be considered “boring”, but having a set of earphones plugged in, and the constant switching of positions with the sandbag, all gave me a fantastic workout while keeping boredom at bay.

The First Time I Ran With A Sandbag (Oh My!)

Another workout we completed was to run a 250m stretch with a sandbag over the right shoulder, and then return with the sandbag over the left shoulder.A woman athlete competing in a mud race

Now you would think that running (and fairly slowly I should add) for just 0.5km wouldn’t be too much of a stretch for someone with a fairly high-level of fitness, but I’m here to tell you that running with a 25kg weight on you takes things to a completely new level (I have a new-found respect for military personnel).

Additionally, it didn’t help that Rick was a hard taskmaster, and we immediately followed the sandbag run with a 250m forward bear crawl and then a 250m reverse bear crawl.

However, the only way I can liken running with a sandbag would be to attempt to sprint the same distance while Mike Tyson was punching you in the stomach.

It was extremely tough and it certainly takes your breath away and leaves you winded.

We completed the sandbag run/bear crawl superset a total of 3 times, which didn’t take much more than 25 minutes, but it was one of the hardest cardio workouts I have ever completed.

My Lockdown Sandbag Workout Routines

So, 2020 has been quite a year, hasn’t it?

The entire world going into lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic, something which (I’m hoping) no-one could have foreseen.

No more gym for me, so I saw it as a great opportunity to work on my bodyweight training, while incorporating the equipment I had at my disposal (pull up bar, kettlebells, sandbag, medicine ball, jump rope, and resistance bands).

I knew this was a great opportunity to get really lean and muscular, although I was worried that my strength may suffer.

With that said, there are of course many ways to maintain strength, as well as getting even stronger through bodyweight training.

RELATED====>Can Your Really Build Muscle & Strength in Just 8 Minutes a Day?

But, for lockdown, this wasn’t a focus for me.

Here in the UK we were allowed out of the house for an hour’s exercise during the day.

I’m not entirely sure about everyone else, but our household was very strict about following all the lockdown rules.

I remember my first couple of visits to my local park – there I was armed with my own body, plus a sandbag and medicine ball.

However, even going to the park at 7.30am most mornings it was teeming with more people than I think I’ve possibly ever seen there.A dog biting down on a dog toy

To make matters worse, when I performed some sandbag runs I had to contend with being chased by at least 7 dogs at the same time.

I’m not going to lie, it did make for a great workout, but it became extremely tiresome to be constantly barked at and chased all around the park.

To be fair to my canine friends, I probably did look like a burglar with a giant bag of swag slung over his shoulder.

As you can probably guess things didn’t improve any once I started throwing a medicine ball around.

Eventually, I decided to alternate between working out at home and exercising in the park.

My park workouts mainly consisted of sprint training and basic bodyweight exercises such as burpees, push ups, walking lunges and jump squats (although I do recall the occasional dog choosing to sniff my butt while I was performing sets of burpees or push ups – but that I could cope with).

My home workouts typically revolved around “weighted” circuits.

Sometimes I would do a complete workout with just one piece of equipment.

One of the sandbag workout routines that I employed was to complete a “complex”.

A complex is basically when you perform a series of exercises back-to-back without putting the weight down.

When using barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, etc. it is actually possible to work on strength, hypertrophy, endurance, and conditioning all within the same workout (if you use a heavy enough weight).

The same can be said of using a sandbag, although my trusty 25kg partner probably wouldn’t do a huge amount for my muscle and strength gains, but I could still get a great workout in.

I performed the following complex, completing 10 reps of each exercise, before I could put the weight down.

  • Cleans
  • Deadlifts
  • Bent Over Rows
  • Front Squat
  • Overhead Presses
  • Back Squat
  • Reverse Lunges
  • Good Mornings
  • Glute Ham Raises
  • Chest Press

I typically completed my 100 reps (10 exercises x 10 reps) and then put the sandbag down, rested for 60-90 seconds before hitting my next set.

I would perform between 4-6 per workout depending on how I felt (and If I was going to go outdoors and perform any other exercise later in the day).

64 Sandbag Exercises & The Muscles They Target

 

Final Thoughts

These are the main sandbag workout routines that I have completed ever since I was first introduced to this great bit of equipment last year.

However, as you can see from the video I’ve included there are many variations of exercises, which allows you to work every single area of the body.

I’ve certainly had some fantastic workouts with my trusty sandbag and it definitely makes a welcome change to having to move barbells and dumbbells around.

So, if you’re looking for a great workout, as well as something a little different, then I urge to go and find some of those funny looking bags tucked away in the corner of your gym, and get to training.

12 thoughts on “My Sandbag Workout Routines For The Spartan Race (& Lockdown)”

  1. Hi Partha!
    I didn’t know about the exercises with a sandbags at all, thanks for sharing this! Do you make them yourself or buy in a special shop? I think this is a great thing to have such equipment at home especially during this crazy corona-time, when a gym could be coked at every time. I especially like the exercises Leg extension and Single arm fly from your video. I go to the gym not regularly and I think it would be great to have a sandbag at home, what is the good weight for a beginner?
    Thanks for sharing this great post!
    Alex

    Reply
    • Hi Alex,

      Thanks for stopping by.

      Oh yes, sandbags make for a great workout.

      I’ve never actually attempted to make my own sandbag, but I know many people do.

      The sandbag I own was purchased via Amazon, but just about any exercise and fitness retailer will typically stock sandbags.

      I just love the variety that you get from working out in this way. I’ve spent many years doing the traditional barbell and dumbbell exercises in the gym, and I’ll often complete pure bodyweight workouts. So, it’s nice to do something totally different once in a while.

      Sandbags will come in a variety of weights, but usually a 10kg bag would be a good place to start. However, as with everything exercise-related, once your body starts adapting to the weight, the exercises will become easier (although you have lots to choose from in the video here).

      So, just remember that if you are purchasing your own sandbag that you will be “stuck” with that weight for good. With that said, the vast majority of sandbags nowadays can actually be topped up with sand bought from your local hardware store, so you can definitely add some additional weight.

      Thanks
      Partha

      Reply
  2. Hey,

    This is such a great read, and learning how you got into sandbag training is so inspiring. From what I’ve read and seen, sand bag training is no joke. It looks very difficult and to get into it is even more difficult.

    I’ve never tried it but it looks like something I could get into, maybe in the new year when hopefully our lockdown situation eases.

    I will let you know when I start this and how I am getting on with it.

    Thank you for sharing and keep up the great work.

    All the best,

    Tom

    Reply
    • Hi Tom,

      Great to hear from you as always.

      To be honest, even with all my years of experience of exercising and working out, it still surprises me that I didn’t take up sandbag training until last year.

      But wow, what an introduction, and definitely something that has stayed with me.

      I’d actually love to train with a really heavy sandbag, say 50kg or above, just see what sort of a difference that can make to my body composition, as well as my strength and conditioning.

      Sounds good to me Tom, keep me updated if you do get into sandbag training and let me know what you think.

      Thanks
      Partha

      Reply
  3. The sandbag is perhaps one of the best pieces of equipment you can utilize during a workout. I’ve been a personal trainer for nearly 3 years now and I’ve never had a client that didn’t ‘puke’ duringmy sandbag workout routines.

    I love the fact that they’re very durable and this is coming from a guy that has a toddler chewing on them. Nice article man, I really enjoyed reading it!

    Reply
    • Haha, great to hear from you Gorjan.

      Well I’ve never had a toddler chewing on my sandbag, but they ceratinly are very durable.

      Some of “walking workouts” we did with the sandbag also included throwing them, chasing after them, picking them up and throwing again. So utilising some great whole body movements – running, bending, picking up, throwing, etc.

      I agree that sandbag workout routines bring a whole new level of training to the table, and although I mainly use them for conditioning work, they can also be used to replace conventional barbell and dumbbell training too.

      Partha

      Reply
  4. Hi, Partha,

    Thank you for this excellent article! It reminded me about the time I first started out with my workouts.

    In mid 90s, in my country, there wasn’t that variety of weightlifting machines that are available today.

    Plus, my parents were against my training so I made two sandbags and tied them to my legs. I’ve been wearing them under my pants so nobody could see them.

    After taking them off, I had that feeling that I’m flying instead of walking. What a wonderful times!

    Reply
    • Hi Ionut,

      Well that’s certainly a new one on me – tying sandbags to your legs, but I guess that would give you a fantastic workout.

      Unfortunately, the sandbag that I own, and the vast majority you can purchase nowadays and far too big to be “discreetly hidden”.

      In fact, mine is at least 24 inches in length and a fairly noticeable circumference in thickness.

      I guess you could say they now closely resemble a typical sports bag you take to the gym with you.

      Anyway, even though they’ve been around for a while now, I still often have individual workouts or entire weeks where I replace conventional training with a great sandbag workout routine.

      Partha

      Reply
  5. I really enjoyed reading your article, what’s for sure I am not gonna try it ever. It looks damn difficult. I am gonna forward it to my boyfriend as he is into this type of exercise and it might be a new challenge for him. Thank you for sharing the video 64 sandbag exercises, it’s really inspiring for anyone who is gonna give it a try.

    Reply
    • Hi OlaBee,

      Thanks for your comments.

      Yes, please do share this with your boyfriend. If he’s someone who trains regular and likes a new challenge, then he’ll certainly love training with a sandbag.

      I like to mix things up every once in a while and this is a great way to get in a different type of strength and conditioning workout.

      Partha

      Reply
  6. Hi Partha,

    I love to see another training instead of working out in the gyms.

    I started my training with the street workout to use your body weight and some bars you can find at local parks, then the gym workouts. Now, I get a whole new idea to train myself at home, which is good news considering the COVID-19 harsh situations.

    It’s good to know that sandbags with complex training could train all our bodies’ muscles, so it’s time for me to look for those funny looking bags in the gyms that I often visit.

    Cheers,
    Matt

    Reply
    • Hi Matt,

      Thanks for your comments.

      I love the fact that you have spent a lot of time doing bodyweight training.

      I typically did a lot of bodyweight stuff when I was younger and then more or less forgot about it when I first joined a gym.

      However, it is certainly something that I have implemented more-and-more over the past few years, and like many others I focused a lot on bodyweight training during the Covid-19 lockdown period.

      I guess you could say that it’s reignited a passion for me with this type of training.

      As I’ve mentioned though, I do like to mix it up, and I see no harm in using additional resistance (such as sandbags) in order to take bodyweight workouts up a notch or two.

      Partha

      Reply

Leave a Comment