17/06/2021 | Andrew Tracey
Andrew Tracey is a long time collaborator with Bulldog Gear. A coach, writer and current fitness editor of Men’s Health Magazine, he has been in and around the fitness industry for the past 16 years. Having enjoyed and endured a number of disciplines from endurance racing, to strongman, to Crossfit AT enjoys getting neck deep in the practice just as much as the theory.
One of the most unique and novel aspects of sandbag training is the literal size and awkwardness of the implements; forcing you to push, pull, grip and drag your bag into position on every rep.
The dynamic nature of the loose filling also means that generally speaking, no two reps are alike.
The dimensions of a large bag also present another novel challenge, most tools in the fitness space are designed to be lifted, with ergonomic handles and grips positioned to make moving the weight as straightforward as possible, training with a sandbag leaves you with the impression that they were engineered specifically not to be lifted. The large diameter and soft filling make for an incredibly humbling experience, even at weights you’d usually throw around in your warm-up.
We talk about this a lot, but these difficult, unpredictable, *ahem* ‘benefits’ are what give sandbag training it’s incredible carryover into real world tasks.
However, one major drawback of sandbag training, particularly for trainees earlier on in their fitness journey or larger folks, is that to reap all of this goodness, you need to be able to shift a bag that’s voluminous enough to present a challenge and create the ‘awkward, oversized’ stimulus.
If your strength isn’t quite where you’d like it to be to toss around bags that pose a challenge, you may be forced to use smaller bags that are more manageable, losing a lot of the intended stimulus.
If that’s a position you’ve found yourself in, or perhaps a problem cropping up for some of your gym members, an incredibly efficient solution to switch out the sand in your bags for rubber mulch.
Weighing around a third of the weight of the reciprocal volume of sand, rubber mulch (which can be found easily online), will enable you to pack your heavier bags to the brim, but bring them in at a much more accessible weight; allowing yourself or your members to tap into all of the benefits of a mammoth, awkward bag at a scaled, appropriate load.
PROGRESS EQUALS PROGRESS
If you’re looking to economise or perhaps don’t have the space for multiple sandbags as your strength increases, a great option to elicit progressive resistance is to start with the largest bag(s) you have designs on lifting, completely fill it with mulch, pick a metric to monitor for progress, and as your strength increases steadily remove some of the mulch, replacing it with heavier sand.
Continue in this fashion, adapting to the new stimulus and increasing the load, until eventually your bag is completely sand filled, and you’ve hit your goal of total sandbag mastery.