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What is the Sandbag Workout?

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  • Written By: Henry Gaudet
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 18 November 2016
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The sandbag workout is a return to a low-tech, simple approach to exercise. As a cardio workout, strength training routine or fat-burning workout, it offers great results without requiring expensive gym equipment. In fact, a sandbag workout can produce results not achievable with standard free weights or weight machines. Coaches and personal trainers around the world recommend exercise programs that include sandbags, not only for professional athletes and military forces, but also for members of the general public with an interest in fitness.

At the heart of the sandbag workout is, of course, the sandbag. Purposefully made reinforced bags with lifting straps are available, but standard sandbags, such as those used in the construction trade and available at any hardware store, can be used, making this a great low-cost workout. Duffel bags such as those found in army surplus stores also work well.

Sandbags are customizable and can be filled to a level that the exerciser is comfortable with, limited only by the size of the bag. A standard sandbag such as those available in hardware and home-improvement stores holds about 50 pounds (22.7 kg) of sand. When filling the bag, it is important that the sand is completely dry, because this will affect the bag’s weight. Many recommend placing one bag inside another to help prevent sand leakage, and most suggest storing the sandbag outside or in a plastic container.

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Apart from the advantage of cost, the chief benefits of the sandbag workout come from the bag’s shifting form. Great effort has been made over the years to make traditional weightlifting gear balanced and easy to use, but the sandbag’s awkward and unstable shape make it much more difficult and cumbersome. This means that it is up to the person lifting it to provide balance, and core muscles have to work much harder to keep the load steady. Advocates of the sandbag workout are quick to state that balanced weights don’t simulate conditions likely to be encountered outside of the gym, and the sandbag workout might actually be superior for building functional strength.

Many weightlifting exercises can be adapted for use in a sandbag workout, but simple tasks such as carrying or throwing the sandbag also can be included in a workout. Sandbags also can be incorporated into activities such as hiking or running for an added challenge and higher calorie burn. The sandbag's awkward and shifting weight make posture and form especially important, and care should be taken to avoid injury.

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