HIIT Training Workouts

This Sandbag Workout Will Light Up Your Core Even More Than Dumbbells

Allie Flinn

Photo: Getty Images/mihailomilovanovic
Like many people, my living room is now also my office and my gym. And since I don’t have space—plus I’m pretty sure my landlord would hate me throwing around a barbell on the hardwood floors—I’ve had to get creative with my at-home exercise equipment in order to mimic the heavy lifting I used to do at the gym. Enter: a sandbag workout.

“Sandbags, weighted backpacks, and odd objects are a great way to add some variety to your workout routine,” says Josh Gallegos, founder of Deadboys Fitness and saint who puts up with all my whining when we train over Zoom. Unlike kettlebells or barbells, sandbags aren’t stable weights so the center of gravity is always shifting. This requires you to really engage your core to stay balanced and have proper technique. Read on for Gallegos’s tips on adding a sandbag workout into your fitness routine.

To get started, you need a sandbag (obvs). Gallegos recommends Rogue Fitness Training Sandbags ($80) because they are durable, and GoRuck Rucker ($185) backpacks as a sandbag alternative. You can also DIY something similar with items you already have at home by filling a sturdy duffle or gym bag with weighted objects.

When choosing a load for your sandbag, you want to go with something that is challenging but still allows you to focus on form and technique, Gallegos says. “People picking a weight that’s too heavy is the most common mistake I see when it comes to odd objects,” he adds. This can cause injury, so it’s better to start lighter and increase the amount of weight you’re moving over time to ensure that your form is always on point prior to progressing.

One of the biggest benefits to a sandbag workout (other than the bonus core burn) is that you can perform many different kinds of movements with them, making them incredibly versatile. Gallegos particularly likes using them for back squats, push presses, deadlifts, and even kettlebell swings, depending on the size and shape of ’em.

If you want to give it a go, try this three-move sandbag workout. Aim for three sets of 10 to 12 reps of the following exercises:

1. Deadlifts

This compound exercise becomes even more of a full-body workout when you swap the instability of a sandbag in for a standard free weight. Focus on not letting that throw you off your game by concentrating on engaging your core and keeping your weight evenly distributed between both sides of your body.

2. Kettlebell swing

Dynamic lifts become, well, even more dynamic when the weight you’re working with can shift around. Translation: You’ll engage all of your muscles that much more in order to maintain proper form. Pro tip: It’s best to use a smaller version of a sandbag or weighted backpack or bag. If you’re working with a longer sandbag, hold onto the middle so that you keep an upright posture.

3. Squats

Make sure your form is correct before incorporating the sandbag. But once you’re ready, place it behind the base of your neck on your shoulders and grasp either end with your hands. (If you’re working with a backpack or smaller sandbag, you can also hold it in front of your body against your chest at shoulder height.) The goal? Not letting the added load make you tilt your torso forward or back while lowering down. Keep your chest upright and remember to engage your core and push your knees out the whole time.

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