BENEFITS OF SANDBAG TRAINING
WHAT RESEARCH TELLS US ABOUT SANDBAG TRAINING BENEFITSAthletes, strength coaches and personal trainers know that strength training with free weights is a crucial part of any program. To make performance gains and meet your fitness and health goals, cardio alone does is not effective. Strength training with weights is essential. Working out with free weights instead of strength machines is the trend now and with good reason. Free weights definitely engage more muscles in any strength workout. Logically, use of workout sandbags, SandBell or SteelBell should amp-up the demands on the body's core muscles and stabilizing muscles giving you the ultimate sandbag training.
But what evidence is there in published research?Studies looking at sandbags for training have been limited with only one study we could find specific to sandbags. Sandbag related research has looked at strength training on stable surfaces compared to unstable trailing on a BOSU® or at training with flexible barbells. One study used flexible barbell with suspended weight plates for bench presses instead of a standard static barbell. The conclusion? "Some of the stabilizing muscles were found to be significantly more active in the unstable condition with 15% less weight. Therefore, bench pressing with an unstable load appears promising in activating stabilizing musculature compared with pressing a typical barbell." Researchers also looked carefully at whether or not instability training with a BOSU® or Dyna Disc worked on already well-trained athletes. Their findings? "Since highly trained individuals may already possess enhanced stability from the use of dynamic free weights, a greater degree of instability may be necessary." In the Strength & Conditioning Journal, August 2011, an article surveyed research on the benefits and application of sandbag training and included a full sandbag workout program. The authors found that:
"The dynamic and unpredictable resistance provided by sandbags forces the body to continually adjust position to maintain stability during given functional movement patterns. This variable resistance highlights the potential ability of this type of training to mimic occupational tasks like climbing over obstacles and lifting or dragging victims. Furthermore, sandbag training demands continuous activation (and thus training) of the stabilizer muscles through the body, improvements in which can significantly reduce risk of injury if trained through movement patterns reflective of occupational tasks." Sell, Taveras and Ghigiarelli, Sandbag Training: A Sample 4-Week Training Program: Strength & Conditioning Journal: August 2011 - Volume 33 - Issue 4 - p 88-9.The best research study of sandbags focused on comparing sandbag weights alone. A HIIT exercise workout was compared side-by-side with the effects of treadmill running at two levels of effort. The most important finding was that training with the sandbags had far better benefits in the important 30 minutes post exercise than running. The sandbag workout was also more effective than kettlebells swings for cardio. A sandbag 7 minute workout had cardio benefits similar to a study of heart rate impact of 10-12 minutes of kettlebells. Ratamess, NA, Kang, J, Kuper, JD, O'Grady, EA, Ellis, NL, Vought, IT, Culleton, E, Bush, JA, and Faigenbaum, AD. Acute cardiorespiratory and metabolic effects of a sandbag resistance exercise protocol. J Strength Cond Res32(6): 1491–1502, 2018
What tells us that sandbag training is effective?In an article on training with sandbags, the Wall Street Journal cited the insight of fitness professionals, physical therapists, and strength and conditioning coaches who say it is common sense that sandbag workouts with shifting sand causes instability and targets muscles that are simply overlooked in normal strength training routines. Experts even recommend starting with half of the weight you would use doing the same exercise with a normal static free weight because of the added challenge of training with a sandbag or SandBell.