Sandbag Leg Workout (4 Moves for Great Lower Body Strength)

Connor Sellers
Published by Connor Sellers | Senior Coach
Last updated: December 28, 2023
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Sandbags are excellent functional fitness equipment for regular and hybrid exercises to develop your lower and upper body seamlessly.

Drawing from my extensive background in kinesiology and practical experience as a personal trainer, I've handpicked these four sandbag leg exercises. They're not just theoretically effective; I've seen real muscle-building results with my clients.

After reading the article, you will be ready to implement these exercises into your daily workout regime and experience significant functional and muscle-building effects in your lower body.

Quick Summary

  • To enhance lower body strength, incorporating sandbag exercises like bear hug squats and split squat jumps can be highly effective.
  • These exercises target key leg muscles, including quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes, and also build isometric strength in the upper body.
  • Progressive overload, a principle vital in muscle strengthening, can be effectively applied through sandbag training, as per European Journal of Applied Physiology research.
  • In my professional opinion, as a kinesiology expert, sandbag workouts are a dynamic and underutilized tool for building substantial lower body strength and functional fitness.

Sandbag Leg Workout Exercises

A person doing sandbag leg workouts

You can only strengthen the muscles through sandbag training to implement the principle of progressive overload.

Progressive overload means increasing the volume in sets, reps, and external resistance for each following workout session, as per the European Journal of Applied Physiology research  [1].

However, according to the Sports Health journal study, you must take great care while doing it to avoid overtraining syndrome and experiencing negative training effects [2].

Below, you may find the best sandbag leg workout exercise to develop both the anterior and posterior chains.

"The Sandbag is a great functional training tool because it is an awkward unstable weight, which makes our core have to work harder to stabilize with many basic movements."
- Cori Lefkowith, Certified Personal Trainer

1. Sandbag Bear Hug Squat

A person doing a sandbag bear hug squat

In my training sessions, I've found the sandbag bear hug squat to be incredibly effective in activating key leg muscles like the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes.

This exercise has been a game-changer for clients looking to build lower-body strength.

Yet, hugging the sandbag will build isometric strength in your forearms and upper arm muscles.

How to Perform a Sandbag Bear Hug Squat:

  1. Assume a standing position (feet hip-width apart) and grab the sandbag in a bear hug position.
  2. Keep your torso upright during the whole movement and your core engaged to avoid unnecessary lower back injuries.
  3. Start the exercise by squatting down while maintaining good form on your back.
  4. Avoid picking heavy sandbags and performing higher reps if they make you compromise the correct exercise form.
  5. When your thighs parallel the floor, reverse the motion to return to the start.
  6. Repeat for 12 reps, 4 sets, and rest for 2 minutes between each set.

2. Sandbag Split Squat Jump

Sandbag split squat jumps are an excellent explosive exercise for developing both your legs' posterior and anterior chain muscles.

How to Perform a Sandbag Split Squat Jump:

  1. Assume a split-stance position with your left foot forward and maintain good form in your lower back.
  2. Your right foot is backward, and your right knee is slightly bent.
  3. Start the exercise by jumping and switching legs in the air to perform an alternating version of the sandbag split squat exercise.
  4. When your right foot is in the front position, enter the deep lunge position and repeat the process.
  5. Complete 12 alternating reps for 4 sets and rest for 3 minutes between each set.

3. Sandbag Prisoner Squat

A person doing a sandbag prisoner squat

The Sandbag Prisoner Squat is a variation of a regular sandbag squat that follows the same pattern and activates the same muscle groups.

How to Perform a Sandbag Prisoner Squat:

  1. Assume standing and keep the sandbag overhead or on your upper back, as with the barbell back squat exercise.
  2. Start the exercise by squatting down towards the floor until your thighs parallel the floor.
  3. The left and right heels should be on the floor during the whole motion.
  4. When your thighs parallel the ground, reverse the motion to return to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for 12 reps, 4 sets, and rest for 3 minutes between the sets.

More Squat Variations

Except for these squat options, you can also insert variations like:

  • Sandbag Skater Squat
  • Sandbag Suitcase Squat
  • Sandbag Kang Squat
  • Sandbag Cossack Squat
  • Overhead Press Squat

4. Sandbag Single-Leg Deadlift

Based on my observations and coaching experience, it's crucial to start the sandbag single-leg deadlift with a lighter weight.

This approach has helped my clients master the technique safely and effectively.

How to Perform a Sandbag Single-Leg Deadlift:

  1. Assume standing on one foot and placing the other slightly behind while keeping it in the air.
  2. Keep your back flat and your front knee slightly bent during the exercise.
  3. Start the exercise by bending forward in the torso and driving your back leg up in the air.
  4. When the sandbag reaches just above the level of your knees, reverse the motion to return to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for 6 reps, 4 sets, and rest for 3 minutes between each set.


Are Sandbag Workouts Effective?

Yes, sandbag workouts are effective. Sandbag is one of the most functional pieces of equipment that enables you to complete different hybrid movements through the full range of motion and hit all major muscle groups.

Do Sandbags Build Muscle?

Yes, sandbags build muscle. However, sandbags aren’t the most efficient equipment for building muscles due to the inability to pick heavy sandbags safely and perform squats and deadlifts.

Are Sandbags Better Than Weights?

It depends if sandbags are better than weights. Sandbags are better for functional workouts, while regular weights are better for hypertrophy and strength training in general.

How to Get Bigger Leg Muscles With Sandbag Exercises?

You can get bigger leg muscles with sandbag exercises by incorporating the principle of progressive overload and taking high-quality joint supplements.

Joint supplements are an excellent way to make your joints healthier, protect them from unnecessary torsions and injuries, and ensure a greater range of motion during movement.

I suggest you read our guide on the 7 best joint supplements to pick a high-quality product that will suit your personal and fitness needs.

Let me know which sandbag workout exercise is your favorite and why.


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About The Author

Senior Coach
Connor Sellers holds a degree in Kinesiology and Exercise Science from Rutgers University He is an author and personal trainer with the mission to inspire people to relentlessly pursue their fitness and lifestyle goals. He mantra is that staying fit has an overall positive effect on one’s body, mind, and spirit.
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James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Sport & Exercise Science from University of Hertfordshire. He's a Health & Performance Coach from London that brings a unique blend of academic knowledge of health supplements and practical exercise experience to the table for his readers.
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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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