Weightlifting is great for building muscle, burning fat and becoming stronger. But sometimes it is not helpful in real life situations. If you have ever struggled with a lopsided piece of furniture or an overloaded suitcase, then you know that dumbbells and barbells might not have prepared you for real life. This is where functional strength training can come in handy. When you work out with unruly objects, you are better prepared to handle whatever life throws at you. One of the best ways to improve your functional strength is to use fitness sandbags.
What are Fitness Sandbags?
Fitness sandbags are what they sound like – sandbags you work out with. Before you run out and grab the closest bag of sand, there are a few key differences between fitness sandbags and those used for flooding and landscaping.
Exercise sandbags usually look like duffel bags, though you can make your own using laundry bags. They often have handles so you can grip them easier during certain exercises. Fitness sandbags are not always made of sand, either. They can have wood chips, rubber pellets or pea gravel in them. The point is for the weight to be able to shift throughout the move so that you are constantly having to work when you lift the sandbag.
How to Use Fitness Sandbags
Like weighted clothing, fitness sandbags can be used for just about any exercise that you would normally use a dumbbell or barbell for. The shifting weight in the sandbag makes each exercise more difficult. Your body has probably gotten used to the movements of your normal lifting routine. With sandbags, your body must constantly adjust to accommodate the unruly weight. This forces you to work on balance and makes your stabilizing muscles work much harder.
You can adjust the weight of sandbags for each lift. If you purchase a sandbag, then you can unzip the bag and remove or add smaller bags of material as needed. If you make your own, be prepared to open and close the bag as needed. You may need to get creative with how you seal your bag.
The 9 Best Fitness Sandbags On The Market
Five Great Exercises Using Sandbags For Fitness
- Squat – An exercise sandbag can take a normal squat and turn it into a fight for balance. You can either hold the bag over your head while squatting or do a bear hug squat, where you hold the bag tightly to your core. You can also test your balance by holding the sandbag in the crook of your arms, in the zercher position. These squats will work your arms and core, as well as increase your leg strength. For a more intense workout, do the squats on your vibration plate!
- Bent Over Row – This will build your back and bicep strength while also forcing your forearms and grip to become stronger. Slightly bend your knees and bend forward at the waist. Pull the sandbag towards your chest and then extend your arms back out. Make sure you keep your back straight and do not strain your neck.
- Shouldering – If you are looking for a full body exercise, then sandbag shouldering is it. Place the sandbag on the ground. Bend with your knees to pick up the bag and grasp it to your chest. As you stand, lift the bag onto your right shoulder. Drop the bag to the ground. Repeat the move and bring the bag onto your left shoulder for one rep. Make sure you are using your hips and glutes to lift the bag and are not straining your back or arms.
- Lunges – There are two options for lunging with a sandbag. First, simply place the sandbag on one shoulder and step forward with the opposite leg. Make sure you switch sides when you work your other leg. You can also use the sandbag to twist as you lunge. Hold the sandbag with both hands and twist with the bag towards the side you are lunging with.
- Pushup Drag – Place the sandbag on the floor just above your hands. After your first push up, grab the bag with your right hand and drag it across the floor so that it is now on the outside of your left hand. Do another push-up and then grab the bag with your left hand, dragging it across the floor, past your right hand. If this is too intense, you can also place your hands on the sandbag while doing push-ups.
Benefits and Limitations of Sandbags
If you are considering making or buying a sandbag, here are some pros and cons to using them during your workouts.
- Easy to make – If you do not want to drop the cash on an expensive sandbag, you can easily make your own with items found at a hardware store.
- Fun to use – Sandbags might not seem fun while you are using them, but they are a great way to add variety to your workout and make an otherwise usual lift into something more interesting.
- Increases functional strength – If you want to be able to do more in your job or hobbies, then increasing functional strength is essential. You will be better prepared to help others, get up from a fall and lift unwieldy objects.
- Leaks – Those tiny little pieces of sand are hard to contain. And they can get everywhere. If you do not want your workout area to look like the beach, pay close attention to any holes or leaks you may find in your bag.
- Increased risk of injury – It can be easy to think you can lift the same amount of weight in a sandbag that you can with a barbell. Watch out for the shifting weight. If you are not prepared, you can easily fall, stumble or strain a muscle compensating for the sand.
- Limited use – There are only so many lifts you can do with a sandbag, especially if it does not have handles.
Sandbags for fitness are a great way to increase your functional strength while also adding some variety to your exercise routine. Your body adjusts to any movement you do repeatedly, so using the shifting weight of the sandbag is an excellent way to keep it guessing. This will strengthen stabilizing muscles and improve your balance. Both of these are easy to neglect in a traditional weight lifting routine. Sandbags can come in a variety of bags, weights, and materials. You also have the option of making your own. Just make sure that you are not lifting an overly heavy bag. Make adjustments as needed as the weight shifts. It will take some adjustment but incorporating sandbags to your lifting routine will improve your overall strength and better prepare you for life.