Benefits of Sandbag Training for Serious Workout

Tyler Sellers
Published by Tyler Sellers | Senior Coach
Last updated: January 8, 2024
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As a personal trainer, I regularly integrate sandbag exercises into my clients' workout routines to introduce variety and elevate their training sessions.

However, sandbag workouts encompass far more than just diversity.

Recognizing the significant potential of sandbag training, I spent several weeks researching its numerous benefits.

In this article, I will discuss the benefits of sandbag training and share some of the top sandbag exercises based on my extensive decade-long experience and in-depth research.

Quick Summary

  • Sandbag training offers a unique blend of benefits, including increased metabolism, enhanced functional fitness, and improved stability, contributing to muscle growth and sports performance.
  • Sandbag workouts provide a superior metabolic stimulus post-workout, aiding in weight loss, as evidenced by a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.
  • A study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that sandbag training shortened the five-time sit-to-stand test duration by 3.2 seconds, highlighting its effectiveness in enhancing functional fitness.
  • In my experience, sandbag training is not just a physical challenge but also a mental one, greatly enhancing mental resilience and stress management, making it an exceptional choice for a well-rounded workout.

What Are the Benefits of Sandbag Training?

A woman carrying a sandbag on her shoulder

From my perspective, sandbag training offers benefits like increased metabolism, enhanced functional fitness, and improved stability, all of which contribute to optimized muscle growth and sports performance.

Increased Metabolic Rate

Sandbag workouts offer a superior metabolic stimulus during the post-workout period, as shown in the study from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research [1].

This makes this training equipment particularly advantageous for individuals aiming to shed excess weight.

Enhanced Functional Fitness

In my training sessions, I emphasize how sandbag exercises mimic daily life movements, like lifting groceries, making them practical for functional fitness.

A study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health showed it shortened the required five-time sit-to-stand test duration of participants by 3.2 seconds [2].


Training sandbags are easy to transport to different locations, unlike barbells or plates, making them a suitable training tool for travel.

You can pack an empty sandbag and fill it up upon arrival. Additionally, sandbags are also quiet, cost-effective weight equipment that takes up minimal space.

Improved Stability

From my coaching experience, the unstable nature of sandbags demands heightened focus on stability and form, enhancing overall workout effectiveness.

“The awkward, unstable, off-balanced nature of a sandbag places stress on your body in a very different manner. It is called dynamic resistance and it is much more difficult. This is why most people can only lift about 50% of the normal weight they would with a barbell.”

- Sam Coleman, Fitness Editor 

Enhanced Muscle Activation

Research from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research has shown that bench pressing with unstable loads, such as sandbags, can result in greater muscle activation, even with a reduced weight of 15% compared to barbells [3].

Practical Assessment of Athletic Conditioning

Sandbag throws are a reliable means to assess a client's fitness level and tailor personalized workout programs accordingly, or you can self-assess to determine your current fitness level, as shown in a 2015 study from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research [4].

Increased Grip Strength

Sandbag training is proven to elicit higher activation of the wrist muscles compared to using an Olympic weightlifting bar [4].


Sandbag training may help you add versatility to your workout routine, which is proven to promote muscle growth, prevent burnout, and increase motivation, as per a Plos One journal study [5].

Sandbag training involves many exercises to keep your workouts diverse and engaging, with the ability to enhance both strength and conditioning workouts.

Increased Core Strength

Research from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research has shown that weighted carry exercises improve core strength as the core muscles compensate for strength imbalances in the hips and lower back during these exercises [6].

While this research did not specifically evaluate the effects of sandbag training, it is reasonable to infer that it could potentially provide similar advantages.

Psychological Benefits

Sandbag training not only enhances physical strength but also significantly boosts mental resilience and stress management.

The challenge of maneuvering the unpredictable weight of sandbags fosters mental toughness and focus, offering a unique sense of accomplishment and stress relief after each session.

Sandbag Training Examples

A man doing some exercises with the sandbag

Sandbag Get-Ups

How to perform this exercise:

  1. Place a sandbag on one of your shoulders.
  2. Effortlessly fall to the ground on your back, positioning most of the sandbags (two-thirds to three-fourths of the weight) on the front side of your body.
  3. With your free arm, use your elbow to prop yourself up and transition into a seated position while maintaining a neutral spine.
  4. Pull your free hand close to your glutes and hinge at your hips.
  5. Plant your foot on the floor and use your leg strength to stand up.
  6. Repeat until you complete three sets of eight reps.

“Do not just rush through the steps. Make sure you master each movement before moving on. If needed, break down the move.”

- Cori Lefkowith, Fitness Editor

Sandbag Carries

A woman performing sandbag carries

How to do the sandbag carry:

  1. Pick up the sandbag off the ground, ensuring a firm grip.
  2. Maintain a slight bend in your knees and lean back slightly to balance the bag's weight. Keep your hips level throughout the exercise.
  3. Begin walking while holding the sandbag, taking small and controlled steps.
  4. Continue walking for a duration of 30 seconds to 2 minutes.
  5. Repeat the exercise for three sets, resting between each set.

Sandbag Overhead Press

How to do this sandbag exercise:

  1. Grasp the sandbag from its handles and raise it to your shoulder level.
  2. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart while activating your trunk.
  3. Press the sandbag above your head as you would usually do with a barbell overhead press.
  4. Hold for three seconds before repeating until completing three sets of eight reps.

“If you’re using a duffle or wide bag and pressing it like a barbell, remember to push the bag up and behind you. To keep balanced, you need the bag to end up directly over your shoulders. The only way to do this is to push your head “through” the hole created by your upright arms and the bag overhead.”

- Adam Gardner, Powerlifting Coach

Sandbag Throws

A man in the gym doing sandbag throws

How to perform this exercise:

  1. Stand with your feet just outside the sandbag.
  2. Reach down and grab the bag.
  3. Hinge back at your hips and push the sandbag as far as you can between your hips.
  4. Allow the sandbag to return and explode upwards from your hips when it approaches your ankle.
  5. As the sandbag rises and you approach full extension, use your arms to guide the sandbag upwards in a motion resembling an upright row.
  6. Release the sandbag at the highest possible point with your arms extended overhead.
  7. Repeat until you complete three sets of eight reps.

Sandbag Slams

How to do this exercise:

  1. Stand with your feet just outside the sandbag.
  2. Hinge at your hips, bending forward to reach down and grab the sandbag.
  3. Lift the sandbag overhead, extending your arms fully while keeping your core engaged.
  4. Slam the sandbag down to the ground.
  5. Repeat until you complete three sets of eight reps.

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Why Are Sandbags Good For Strength Training?

Sandbags are good for strength training as they create dynamic resistance, requiring your body to stay stable against an uneven load.

Unlike dumbbells and barbells, sandbag training engages your entire body, regardless of what movement you choose, which will reduce your workout time.

How Do I Decide What Kind of Sandbag is Best?

To decide what kind of sandbag is best, consider features such as handles, zippers, and material.

Opt for fitness sandbags with a tight seal to prevent sand leaks and dust particles. Additionally, you may base your choice on your fitness goals. For example, strongman sandbags do not include handles to provide a more significant grip challenge.

Is Sandbag Training Effective?

Yes, sandbag training is effective as it has been proven to increase strength and conditioning. The odd, unstable nature of fitness sandbags also improves your stability, making it a valuable form of workout.


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About The Author

Senior Coach
Tyler Sellers is a trained athlete and author with contributions to publications like Men’s Health, The Healthy, Fox Business, NerdWallet, Weight Watchers, and MSN. His unique approach extends beyond physical techniques, emphasizing the significance of mental techniques like the flow state and mind-muscle connection.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
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Dr. Kristy June Dayanan, BS, MD is an author with a BS degree from University of the Philippines and an MD from University of Perpetual Help System. Her ability to simplify medical science complexities and dietary supplement jargon for the average reader makes her a valued medical fact checker and reviewer.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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