Fitness has changed dramatically in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and has been completely redefined from the gym or studio setting. People all over the world are building their own home gyms – which can look like anything from a full squat and barbell garage set up, to some free weights and a yoga mat inside your city condo. But, our preferred set-up is a rucksack, ruck plate and sandbag.
The ultimate game changer being the sandbag. We’ve found five key benefits to using a sandbag over a barbell in your workouts: Improves Stability, Versatility, Affordability, Toughness and Real World Functionality.
1. Improves Stability
One major training benefit when utilizing sandbags is battling the sand that shifts throughout the movement. This is known as dynamic resistance, and it facilitates our ability to stabilize and hold the odd object in place throughout various movement planes. Lifting and carrying sandbags will strengthen the torso and hips, which can facilitate greater force transfer through the body in other lifts or exercise movements.
Lifting and carrying an odd object, like a sandbag (or atlas stone, keg, large gurney with a dummy casualty) is nothing new to the GORUCK community. It’s often called a “token” at a GORUCK event and the weight is shared amongst all participants (passed around). The additional challenge is something that seasoned GRTs love to take on and even fight over. Incorporating a sandbag into your workout routine or even just your ruck will help prepare you for GORUCK Events and just make you more dynamically fit and prepared for anything, which we will touch on more in the last benefit.
As mentioned above, times have changed and workouts are no longer just done in a gym setting. You can create your own workouts space in your garage, yard or use a nearby field or parking lot. The sandbag, just like our rucksacks, can be thrown on your back or in your trunk and brought to and from your thrasher sessions with ease. Can you imagine transporting a barbell and weight plates without getting strange looks for people? Make life easier for yourself and bring the most versatile training tool with you on your next fitness excursion and the only questions you’ll be getting are “Where do I buy one of those?”
Not only are some home gyms difficult to transport, they also come at a higher cost. A barbell alone starts at upwards of $200 and that doesn’t include any of the weight plates. Not to mention the rack to set it on, a bench, etc. – the list goes on. A sandbag is a one time investment and ours come with filler bags and a patch noting the weight, so you can easily select the right weight for a particular workout. The only thing you have to get is the sand, which is either free at your local beach or around $5 for 50lbs at your local home improvement store.
Sandbag workouts are not for the faint of heart. Pound for pound, it’s just more difficult to move. Most people report that they can lift around 40-50% less in a sandbag than they could on a barbell than weight on a barbell. If you’re not sure where to start, we have the same recommendation for sandbag weight as for the rucksack – no need to go above 1/3 of your body weight. If you need to increase the difficulty of your workouts, first go harder and faster, then add more weight. If you go above 1/3 of your body weight, make sure you’re ready for it and that you’re going above it for the right reasons.
Even in Special Forces, where doctrine is routinely challenged, questioned, and evolved on the spot, there is also nothing to gain and much to lose by carrying too much weight. The goal is to win, not to win the award for the heaviest ruck. If you’re carrying 100 lbs and able to keep up, imagine how much faster you could be, as individuals and therefore as a team, if you each only had 50 lbs.
Don’t know how to program ruck or sandbag workouts? We’ve taken on that too to make it easy for you to get started. The GORUCK Sandbag & Ruck Training programming is a daily workout provided to you through the Beyond the Whiteboard app. All you need is a ruck or a sandbag and some weight to get started! Sign up now and receive the first 2 weeks free!
5. Real World Application
Outside of supporting core strength, picking up a sandbag can have real world applicability, as it is an awkward form of resistance. It will not sit in the most effective place you need it to be like a barbell, kettlebell, or dumbbell. Using sandbags can help you learn to brace and stabilize when lifting and moving odd objects, which will transfer into daily life where most things lifted are not advantageous to lifting (think: house and yard work, groceries and kids).
In conclusion, we are always pushing you to be better – we provide the tools, the research, even the programming, but keep in mind you are the only one that can do the work.