Test Your Coordination and Torch Your Core With This Spicy Sandbag Workout

If you’re coasting through your standard strength-training routine or just feeling a little bored with dumbbells and resistance bands, it’s time to shake things up with a sandbag workout.

Sandbags up the ante on traditional lifts and movements by introducing an element of instability. Dane Miklaus, C.S.C.S., founder of WORK Training Studio in Irvine, California, compares the sandbag to tools like the Bosu ball and wobble board. “Instead of the surface being unstable, the implement is. Because of this, your core works harder on each rep to accommodate the small changes and fluctuations in the shape and weight distribution of the implement,” he tells Runner’s World. “Put another way, no two reps with a sandbag are ever the same.”

The Benefits of This Sandbag Workout for Runners

To help you gain the benefits of this core-torching tool, Miklaus created the five-move sandbag circuit below.

Each exercise in this workout builds core strength and stability, which are key to good posture, efficient cycling form, and injury prevention. Beyond firing up your core, these movements will also light up your posterior chain and activate every major muscle group, so you gain total-body strength, too.

Plus, thanks to the novelty and unpredictability of the sandbag, your brain will get a workout as well.

How to use this list: Perform each exercise below the number of reps listed, resting as needed between sets. Complete 3 to 4 rounds. Each move is demonstrated by certified trainer Jeff Burmeister, also of WORK Training Studio, in the video above so you can master the proper form. You will need a sandbag.

1. Reverse Lunge

sandbag workout, reverse lunge
Dane Miklaus

Why it works: By holding the bag on the opposite side of the working leg, you recruit more of the lateral hip and trunk stabilizers, including the obliques and gluteus medius. This is important for cyclists who spend most of their time operating in what we call the sagittal (forward/backward) plane of movement, Miklaus says. “Here, the lunge still occurs in the sagittal plane, but we are recruiting and firing up muscles that stabilize in the frontal (or lateral) plane.”

How to do it: Stand with feet hip-width apart and sandbag draped over left shoulder. (Use left harm to hold it in place.) Take a big step back with left foot, landing on ball of left foot. Bend both knees until right thigh is parallel to the ground and left knee is hovering just above the ground, legs forming 90-degree angles. Pause, then push through right heel to stand back up. Repeat. Do 10 reps. Then switch sides.

2. Deadlift to Row

sandbag workout, deadlift to row
Dane Miklaus

Why it works: “Any exercise that strengthens the posterior portion of the legs and the upper body will help create better musculoskeletal balance and reduce the potential for injury,” he says.

How to do it: Hold sandbag horizontally with both hands and stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Allow arms to hang straight so sandbag is in front of thighs. Maintain a soft bend in knees as you hinge at hips, sending butt straight back, and lower torso until sandbag is hovering above floor. Keeping back flat and core engaged. Bend elbows to pull sandbag up to chest, drawing shoulder blades back and down. Lower sandbag back down, extending arms. Drive through feet and engage glutes to stand back up. Repeat. Do 10 reps.

3. Squat to Press

sandbag workout, squat to press
Dane Miklaus

Why it works: The squat to press, a.k.a. “thruster,” hits every major muscle group while demanding core strength and stability. “This exercise can be performed with heavier weights as a part of a general strength-training program or with lighter resistance for speed in a metcon circuit,” Miklaus says.

How to do it: Holding sandbag horizontally in front of shoulders, elbows bent, stand with feet hip-width apart, core engaged. Send hips back and down, bending knees to lower into a squat. Press feet into ground and, as you stand back up, press sandbag directly overhead, extending elbows. As you lower sandbag to shoulders, immediately lower into next squat. Repeat. Do 15 reps.

4. Swing

sandbag workout, swing
Dane Miklaus

Why it works: A more ballistic version of the hip hinge, the swing builds power and strength all along the posterior chain, especially in the glutes, hamstrings, and calves. The benefits for cyclists cannot be overstated, Miklaus says.

How to do it: Grasp middle of sandbag with both hands and stand with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Allow sandbag to hang between legs. Maintaining a flat back, bend knees slightly and hinge at hips, pushing butt straight back. Allow sandbag to travel backwards and between legs. Thrust hips forward and squeeze glutes to stand up, swinging sandbag up in front of chest, stopping at shoulder height. Allow sandbag to swing back between legs. Repeat. Do 15 reps.

5. Plank Crawl With Pull

sandbag workout, plank craw with pull
Dane Miklaus

Why it works: This movement delivers all the benefits of a traditional plank and then some. The pulling of the bag activates your upper back and arm muscles in a more functional and arguably more stimulating way for cyclists who don’t enjoy traditional weightlifting, Miklaus says. Crawling, combined with reaching and pulling, builds deep core and back strength. “On top of all of this, there is an increase in CNS [central nervous system] activity from performing a non-normative exercise, which leads to even greater metabolic output. Long story short, it’s really good for you!” Miklaus says.

How to do it: Start in a plank position about one arm’s length from sandbag on floor. Keep core engaged, shoulders over wrists. Body should form a straight line from head to heels. Grab sandbag handle with right hand and drive elbow toward rib cage to pull bag toward torso. Place right palm on ground and, keeping hips level with shoulders, crawl backward until you’re about one arm’s length from sandbag. Again, grab sandbag handle to pull sandbag toward torso. Continue to crawl and pull for 8 reps. Then switch arms.

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