Sandbag Bodybuilding- Small Budget, Big Gains
26/01/2022 | 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.
Pound for pound, you'd be hard pushed to find a more economical way to throw around some seriously heavy weight than the sandbag. Coming in at a fraction of the price of the equivalent weight in dumbbells, kettlebells or bumper plates, you’re quite literally getting the most bang for your buck with this old school staple.
In the past, your bag based exploits may have been limited to strongman style medleys, but the versatility of the sandbag extends well beyond simply humping and dumping. In fact, if your progress has plateaued or you’ve simply found yourself bored with the barbell, switching your core lifts to their sandbag equivalents could be just what you need to stoke the flames of improvement.
This workout fuses old school bodybuilding with the awkward, ‘real world strength’ effects of the sandbag to build a body that doesn’t just look good in the mirror, but possesses the kind of practical ‘old man strength’ that’s pretty useful in real life, too. It also has a metabolic sting in it’s tail, upping the calorie burn and giving you a hefty fitness boost to accompany your new found strength.
WEIGHING IT UP
Picking the correct weight is always important, but this workout utilises an AMRAP (As Many Rounds As Possible) format, meaning even if you go too heavy, or too light, all is not lost, you’ll simply complete as many rounds as possible with that weight. Go too light? You’ll do more rounds. Go too heavy? You may do less, but multiplied out by the weight you’ve used, you’ll be back in the same ball park. Whilst this isn’t an exact science, as a heavier weight will provide a different stimulus, but in a pinch (or if you’re working with a single, unadjustable weight like a sandbag), an AMRAP provides the perfect workaround.
In short- work with what you’ve got, and if you’re building your own bag from scratch, go as heavy as you can whilst still maintaining good form on all movements.
REP BY REP
Each round of the circuit utilises a rising rep scheme, working from the most ‘difficult’ movement through to the ‘easiest’, the reps increasing reciprocally, meaning you’re always working close to your full potential.
You’ll begin with six floor presses, the most mechanically difficult movement, adding an additional two reps when you move into the slightly ‘easier’ bag-to-shoulder, finishing each round with ten sandbag rows, before starting again.
METABOLIC GROUND GAME
We warned you this one had a sting in it’s tail, didn’t we?
Throughout your AMRAP, keep one eye on the ticking clock, every two minutes (ie. 2.00, 4.00, 6.00 etc), stop what you’re doing, drop your sandbag and complete 5 burpees, finishing with a final five at the 20 minute mark. You’ll not only accrue a total of 50 burpees across the entire protocol, but his regular gas tank tapping intermission will work to keep your heart rate elevated throughout, boosting your fitness and cracking your metabolism up to 11.
As soon as you’ve ticked off all five reps, grab your bag and pick back up from where you left of.
Start a twenty minute countdown timer and work your way through the following sandbag circuit as many times as possible before the buzzer sounds, whilst maintaining impeccable form and tempo. Keep one eye on the clock, every two minutes minute, stop, drop and perform five burpees before picking back up from where you left off.
Make a note of how many total rounds (and any loose reps) you rack up, giving yourself something to beat on your next odd object outing.
1. Sandbag floor press x 6
Lie on the floor with a sandbag on your chest, gripping it as hard as possible. Without flaring your elbows, press the bag away from your body until your arms are fully extended. Reverse under control back to your chest and repeat.
2. Bag-To-Shoulder x 8
With the sandbag on the floor between your feet, hinge down to grip it in both hands, keeping your back straight. Hug the bag, lift it to your chest, then sit down resting it on your thighs. Now Stand up explosively and simultaneously thrust the bag up and onto your shoulder. Drop to the floor and repeat, alternating shoulders each rep.
3. Sandbag Row x 10
After your final bag-to-shoulder, reset with the bag between your feet. Hinge down with a flat back and a slight bend in the knee, and get a good grip on your bag. Keeping your elbows close to your body, row the bag up towards your stomach, squeezing your shoulder blades together in the top position, before slowly lowering the bag under control, back to the ground.
4. Burpee x 5 (Every Two Minutes)
Squat down and place both hands on the floor between your feet. Jump your feet back into the top of a press-up and lower your chest to the ground. Straighten your arms, pressing back up explosively and hop your feet forwards, before jumping into the air with hands on or above your head.
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We touched on everything from coaching biases, nutritional myths and philosophies, and how, even though science is incredibly important, it isn’t completely infallible, and that it’s important to develop our own compass especially when it comes to nutrition and training. Enjoy!
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