Fall is here in the northern hemisphere and it must get us to thinking better, because I have thought up some new sandbag exercises. So here they are.
TORNADO - This is probably best done with a small sandbag, but if you can do it with a medium, good for you. With your feet far apart, hold a sandbag overhead and draw a circle in the air overhead. Do this while bending around at the waist with your upper body. Do it one way then the other.
CATCH - This is a great exercise to do with a partner. Your size and strength determines whether you do it with a small or medium sandbag. Stand a few feet apart. Take the bag and do a lateral throw with it and the other person catches it. Then he/she throws it back to you. Switch sides to work both sides of the core. By lateral throw, I mean to sling it from one side of your body at waist level to the other, lettting it go when it is outreached toward your partner.
FARMERS'S WALK - This is a great exercise for a medium size sandbag for gals, and a large or even extra large for us big guys. Grab it and hold it by either its end or side handles and walk around the house or yard with it. See how far you can walk with it before you drop it. Rest, and repeat.
SHOULDER CARRY - Similar to a farmer's carry, but the bag is held on one shoulder. Walk around, or even up and down stairs or stools. Do it on first one shoulder then the other.
Why are sandbags such great exercise? The answer is the shifting nature of the sand within them. Lifting a solid object such as a log or rock gives stress to the muscles, but it is steady, stable stress. Lifting the same amount of weight in a sandbag places much greater demand on the body's inner stabilizer muscles to balance the offbalance load. Some say shifting sand delivers twice the benefits of the same amount of solid weight.
Sandbags can also be used to make bodyweight exercises much more demanding and beneficial. Pushups done with a small sandbag between the shoulder blades along the back are much more effective at building chest and arm strength. Situps done with the bag held under the chin are likewise much more beneficial. And pullups done while holding a small bag between the knees are much harder to do and much more effective. All of these exercises are to be done in much lower repetitions than without the bag. Lower repetitions builds strength, while higher repetitions of a given exercise builds power. Both are important to functional fitness.
Sandbags can be used to simulate many real-world movements. They can be lifted from one side of the body, over the head, and slammed down the other side. They can be lifted from the floor to the side, up to waist height, and thrown laterally for great core exercise. The more twisting, three dimensional movement there is to the exercise, the better.
Many professional and college sports teams have taken up sandbag training. Commercial gyms are now adding sandbags to their strength training equipment. Many home users like their compact, portable, safe, and affordable benefits. But most of all, they are seen as being just plain better exercise than solid weights.
A big-rig inner tube makes a great sandbag for exercise. So does a piece of old soft luggage bought from a thrift store. A pair of burlap tow sacks can also be used. The sand would go into contractor bags for the tow sack or the soft luggage.
Whatever you use for sandbag training, just do it. The older you get, the more you need recovery days. A great page of sandbag exercises is our sandbag workouts page.