Pick up a Sandbag, because the World isn’t Shaped like Dumbbells and Barbells


Barbell training isn’t something that’s done because the world is filled with barbell shaped objects.

We do it because, we see physical training as a series of experiments with an end-goal in mind.

By using these objects, that allow us to maximize center of gravity and leverages, we can optimize strength and let us be stronger to take on the tasks in our daily lives.

Again, its the time-honored concept of building general physical preparedness to have the general resources to do several different tasks.

But what if we venture somewhere in-between?

Strongman is a sport of iron culture that sees so many practical uses of strength.

You can see the carryover since Strongman is just going back to using our surroundings for building strength.

Atlas stones, car deadlifts, axel deadlifts, log tosses, sled pulls/pushes etc, are activities that a person is more likely to encounter in their day-to-day life.

More so than a barbell on the street.

In that spirit, we’d like to introduce some strongman training ideas that YOU can implement.

The Sandbag

The sandbag is a funny piece of equipment.

Its big, bulky, and shifts weight.

Even the gladiators performed some sandbag work as foundational training for their fighting, using it to find deeper meaning in the lingua franca of their movement.  


Look how dainty the ship looks with its sandbags. Sandbags pose a great challenge to your core, and you can’t fire huge guns without building a strong ship. And your core IS like a warship.

Outside of its use as a training tool, its been used to control flooding as well as the quick building of military shelters.

That can be challenging yourself with a forty pound bag during a high repetition metabolic conditioning workout just as much as using a 200 lbs sandbag for strength building.

Opening up to New Movement

The sandbag can also open up your movement index to include things such as shouldering as well as tossing weights.

Moreover, the shifting from the sand creates stress for your nervous system and stabilizing ability, allowing more motor recruitment than say doing the same movements with a solid barbell or dumbbell.

That in and of itself is another way of using the time honored principle of progressive overload in training, leading to a strength and muscle building stimulus.

Be Versatile like a Roman Legionnaire

The Roman army was versatile in part due to how they educated their soldiers.  A soldier would be educated on not only fighting but also to take on a manual labour as well as skilled labour role.  Lifting, digging, foraging, building daily earthwork forts and being able to blacksmith were some of the skills that Roman soldiers were tasked with carrying out along with being able to fight.

Having a type of training that transitions from the laboratory of barbells and dumbbells to the real world of lifting objects can play a big role in bringing gym performance to enhance your day-to-day tasks.

You may not have to march hundreds of miles or build a 5 foot tall fort every night, but being able to effectively transition your 500 pound barbell dead lift to everyday tasks is something that sandbags and strongman training in general can be a solution to.

How to build a sandbag

All you’ll need (minus some ducktape) to build your own sandbag and train like a gladiator.

Sandbags, are in name only, sand-filled.  Don’t limit yourself.  There are tonnes of videos on YouTube showing the different fills for sandbags and the different bags you can use.

Canvas bags that are of the size of navy sea bags are really fun and durable (and cost effective) but whatever works.  The main principle is;  durability, size, and ability to keep contents INSIDE.

The different types of filling options:

  1.  Pea gravel

Pea gravel is like heavy sand.  Its almost cement-like and gets dirty.  But if you’re trying to build say a 200 or 300 pound sandbag, some pea gravel or high performance gravel can be a useful consideration to add weight to your sandbag.  Again, using a double sealed bag to help reduce the chances of pea gavel coming out is a great tip.

Rubber Mulch

Rubber mulch is more durable and longer lasting than regular mulch, which is prone to eventually rot.  Moreover, rubber mulch is lightweight but filling.  Say you have a 4 foot tall sandbag and you would like to use it for metabolic conditioning.

Your ideal weight for it is around 40 – 60 pounds.

However, filling that bag with pea gravel or sand would only fill a quarter of the back up.  You haven’t really filled up enough of the bag’s volume to really be challenged via the ‘shifting weights’ effect that you’re after with a sandbag.

Rubber mulch can be very useful to reasonably fill up a large sandbag with a load that is light enough so you can do your sadistic lactic threshold training.

  1. Sand

You can go classic with sand, as the name sandbag implies.  However, like the above two options, sand has its pros and cons.  Its pros include the easy accessibility of it.  You could very well go to the park and dig up sand to fill your sandbag.

Lining the sandbag with a garbage bag….Just in case.

However, sand can be very dusty.  It also is so fine that it can leak out quite easily.  That’s even if you have a double sealed bag.

Experiment and even combine fills to find the right weight for your needs.

Programming the Sandbag

Just to reiterate, the sandbag is just a tool  but because of the different stimulus that it can provide, separate from barbells and dumbbells, it should be used accordingly.

You can use sandbags for adding instability to doing primal movements such as hip hinges, squats, horizontal/vertical pulls, horizontal/vertical pushes, and even carries.

Ultimately, the sandbag and strongman equipment can provide you with a bridging list of movements that help carryover your strength training into your everyday life.