Sandbags are an amazingly versatile tool. They’re unique in their feel, and some very different types of drills can be performed with them. The number one question that people ask me is “what are the best drills to perform with sandbags?” While that depends on various factors (i.e. goals, training level, etc.), there are some foundational drills that make sandbags very distinct.

Shoulder squat to opposite side press

Until I come up with a better name for this drill, I’ll name it after the movement performed. This may simply be one of the best hybrid drills to use with sandbags. You perform all of the important aspects of lifting—the pull, squat, and press. However, you do all of them to one side of the body. Resting the sandbag on the shoulder is very different from using kettlebells or even dumbbells. By actually placing the load on the shoulder, the body is truly forced to stabilize across all planes of the movement. This also greatly challenges the core in the most functional way (resisting movement and maintaining posture). Lastly, the pressing movement performed in this series can’t be done with any other implement. Your center of gravity changes drastically, and you aren’t in the most advantageous position to press. In other words, a whole lot of fun!

Shoulder get-up

Great exercises like get-ups are no longer forgotten drills thanks to Pavel Tsatsouline’s reintroduction of the kettlebell. Using a kettlebell, dumbbell, or even barbell, in this drill, the challenge is to stabilize the shoulder joint while you move. However, using a sandbag, the shoulder isn’t the primary focus, but rather more intensity is placed through the torso. This means you can add more load to the trunk, and the dynamics of the movement change greatly. The ability to be fluid and mobile while holding a 100-lb plus sandbag not only builds a solid core, but also improves your strength-flexibility.

Half-moon snatch

Of course, the snatch exercise is nothing new. With most implements, this drill is performed with the weight in front of the body. This can also be performed using a sandbag, but for a twist, we actually perform more of a side bending version. Since most injuries occur in the planes of motion that we don’t train, this is a very helpful drill for improving the hips and torso. By keeping the weight of the body by the bag, you explode and lift the bag up and over the head to the other side. You’ll find that the drill must be done by driving the hips into the ground, not trying to lift the bag with the back. The half-moon snatch is amazing for all athletes, especially combative athletes.

Overhead lunge

Some aren’t big fans of overhead lifting. While we could argue all day the validity of such an idea, we can probably agree that some level of overhead strength is necessary for all individuals—athletes and non-athletes alike. A very simple and safe way to start building overhead shoulder stability is to perform the overhead lunge. For some, this won’t seem like a new lift because it has been commonly performed using barbells and dumbbells in the past. However, sandbags add a new dimension. Because of the non-conforming nature of sandbags, it’s a greater challenge trying to keep the weight perfectly balanced overhead. The bag will slightly shift on every repetition causing the lifter to stabilize not only the shoulders, but the trunk and hips as well. You’ll be amazed by how many people’s entire body shakes while performing this drill.

Bag takedowns

This is a very unique drill. I wanted a drill that could be performed using the whole body with explosive rotational power. That’s where this drill was born. By using a jump stretch band and attaching it to the handles of the sandbag, you can create a rotational drill with a very “live” feeling.

Hopefully, this opens your eyes to some of the amazingly effective drills you can create with one of the world’s oldest tools—a sandbag!

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