In Part 1 of my series on sandbag training (CrossFit Journal 65, January 2008), I discussed the rationale behind sandbag training, talked about how to make a sandbag, and explained the fundamental lifts. This month, we'll take a look at more useful lifts and talk about integrating the sandbag into workouts and training programs.
Pressing motions done with the sandbag offer a unique training stimulus. Unlike with barbells, or even dumbbells, sandbags sag, shift, and present a surface that is difficult to hold on to and exert force against. In order to maintain the integrity of the load, you have to squeeze the bag together as you press it. Almost any barbell, dumbbell, or kettlebell pressing motion can be replicated with the sandbag, to slightly different effect. Common examples are the overhead press, push press, jerk, floor press, bent press, and, of course, the bench press. Sandbags can add a new dimension to thrusters as well.
Sandbags also make excellent implements for upper-body pulling motions. The primary difference between them and other implements is the difficulty you will have finding and maintaining a proper grip. In order to get the maximum benefit, grip the fabric of the bag rather than any handles it may have. Initially, the overload on the hands and forearms may be a limiting factor, but your grip strength will quickly build up. For athletes who participate in other sports such as grappling, football, or rugby, this also translates to a much more secure hold on the opponent's gi or jersey.