Gym closures, membership commitment issues, and the newfound convenience of working out at home have kept lots of us out of the Box. The downside of the home gym, though, is gear. Fitness equipment is expensive, takes up a shit-ton of space, and is hard to transport.
Enter the tactical sandbag.
Sandbags can do the work of a tricked-out home gym with a minimum financial investment in one — or two — tight, heavy packages. Sandbags have evolved in recent times, too, with the addition of handles and slings that lend themselves to a variety of exercises. They come from a variety of manufacturers, but Rogue and Brute Force are probably the most popular with a range of sizes with smaller insert bags to add and subtract weight. And 5.11 just introduced a new line of bags it’s calling Weight Kits. As far as fill material goes, sand is readily available from nearly an infinite number of sources ranging from free to around $10 or less for a 60-pound bag at any big-box home improvement store.
But you don’t need a special fitness bag to fill with sand. Any backpack, canvas bag, or dry sack can be made into a workout tool. Pack and seal a contractor-grade plastic bag with sand, zip it in your pack or bag, and go. When you’re ready, these are three go-to easy sandbag variations on classic strength movements:
Sandbags specifically lend themselves well to squatting. You can use them for conventional back squats with the weight across your traps and shoulders. They can also be used for front squats. Another squat variation that the sandbag can facilitate is the overhead squat. Multiple handles allow you to maintain a secure grip with the bag overhead, forcing you to use additional muscles in the shoulders and upper back to balance the awkward load. The bear hug squat is another great variation. The elongated shape of the bag and fluidity of the sand is perfect for this lift. Hugging the bag against your torso helps alleviate some stresses on your lower back, forces you to drop your butt, and lights up your upper body as you attempt to maintain a secure hold.
Power cleans are the full workout packaged in one exercise. It hits all major parts of the body, including the lungs. Parallel handles on the sandbag are generally used for this lift, although the perpendicular handles will work too. You’ll want to balance the load in the bag as best you can, but the inconsistency in the way the sand reacts to your force is part of the draw. Unlike the more rigid barbell, sand has a way of going where it wants to. This forces your form to be flawless and your muscles to work even harder to keep the load on course. In addition to the clean, you can use tactical sandbags for other Olympic-style lifts that are hugely beneficial for hardcore outdoor activities. Try mixing in the push jerk (press) or the power snatch to your bag routine for inexpensive, dynamic training.
Deadlifts are simply a show of pure, brute strength. The name says it all. Picture yourself lifting the dead weight of this year’s buck. Perhaps the most beneficial aspect is that the deadlift, or even the straight-leg deadlift, can be performed with the same single bag of sand as the previously mentioned lifts. Adjust quantities of sand by adding or subtracting smaller insert bags, and you can hit a full range of weights to prep yourself for the fall. If you max out your bag, just add sand to your favorite pack to keep the resistance coming as you progress through your fitness goals.