Sandbag Exercises Should Be Kept Simple
Sandbag drills and exercises. They're simple, effective, and incredibly versatile. And as the site name suggests, I like simple. But there's a lot of stuff out there complicating sandbag work and I don't care for that much.
LIFT, CARRY, SQUAT and PRESS Sandbags
When working with a sandbag, you may find yourself limited to four big and powerful movements. You lift it, you carry it, you squat with it and you press it. Those movements will honestly take care of most of your needs. If you are concerned about variety, you should consider the variety of weights, fillers, the dynamic nature of the shifting weight, and the infinite locations you can train with it. You don't need 100 sandbag moves to have variety. The basics will get you 95% of what you're looking for. And if you need something more, then perhaps sandbags aren't the best tool for the job.
Use the Best Tool for the Job
This is where I get grumpy and will probably annoy some people. Sandbags are great dynamic tools for the basics and that's about it. If you want to perform swings, get a kettlebell. If you want to perform rotational lifts, use a med ball or cables. If your biggest concern is olympic lifting, get a nice barbell.
Most of the sandbags in the strength and fitness market have handles sewn in, are made from fancy materials or have something that promises to make them an awesome tool for all types of exercises you may ever think of doing. Adding handles does allow you to do a greater variety of exercises, but poorly so. Making a fancy hammer won't give you the best way to turn nuts and bolts.
One of the most purported advantages of sandbag training is the way that it stresses and trains your grip. It's brutal on your hands if you're not used to it... until you add handles. When you add handles, you no longer have to stress your grip to grab the ever-shifting sand and canvas, but it does allow you to press the bag so it rests on top your head when you fill it inadequately. It also allows you to swing, twist, and rotate the bag around in a way that continues to move you farther away from your base of support after you have attempted to stop the movement. Quite simply, adding handles allows you to more because you can hold the bag easier, but it reduces the quality of most movements because you do not have direct control of the implement. You only hold a handle that is loosely connected to the implement, creating a terrible energy leak. If you would like to grip a sandbag, you don't need handles. You simply need tough hands or a willingness to toughen them up. To grip a sandbag without handles, simply grab excess fabric with your fingertips and roll the extra fabric into your palm as you make a crushing fist. Now you you can row the bag or move it as needed. And the best part is that you can do this without worrying about the bag ripping.
More Durable Sandbags
I've travelled around the country teaching workshops and training in a variety of box gyms and I have used a lot of different brands of sandbags with handles. I have yet to hear from a box owner or handled sandbag owner that has been 100% satisfied with the durability of their handled sandbags. The bags typically begin to rip with regular use around the seams of the handles, but even a one time use with 80 pounds or more is usually enough to start the tearing process. Especially if you attempt to lift the weight explosively.
When MovNat asked my input for sandbags to be used in their certification workshops, I made 2 suggestions: sea bags from a surplus store or Iron Mind Tough as Nails bags. In all honesty, the Ironmind sand bags are worth the few extra dollars over a sea bag because you can get a smaller size that works better for weaker individuals and they just seem to be more durable. What's unique about these sandbags? NO HANDLES! I've received enough inquiries about the sandbags now from interested MovNat-ers and gym owners I really think Iron Mind should consider sponsoring me or creating an affiliate program just for me.
So to clarify. I don't like handles on my sandbags. If you need more variety in your training, make sure you have the correct tool for the job. If you want a versatile go anywhere training tool, find a sea bag or an Iron Mind sandbag. And oh yeah, Iron Mind, sponsor me please. I'm sending you referrals.