August 27, 2022

How To Sandbag Deadlift ?

The sandbag deadlift is a functional training variation of the standard deadlift that allows you to get more out of the movement. It also allows you to perform a deadlift workout beyond the gym – in fact, you can do it at the beach, in your bedroom or anywhere else you happen to be. In this article, we provide a complete guide on how to perform the sandbag deadlift.

Why Train with Sandbags?

The main reason that you should train with a sandbag is that it is a dynamic and unstable form of resistance. It is also awkward to use. At first glance, these might seem like reasons NOT to use them. However, when it comes to making your body bigger, stronger, and fitter, you want the exercise to be as challenging as possible. The more stress you put on your body, the more opportunity it has to respond by growing back better than it was.

 

When you use a sandbag instead of a traditional weight bar, you are putting your body to make use of the small stabilizer muscles that do not usually get activated. The instability of lifting a bag filled with sand is far more functional than picking up a perfectly weighted implement.

This is not to say that sandbags are better than perfectly weighted equipment like barbells and dumbbells.  Each of these tools has its own purpose.  However, one thing that makes the sandbag shine is that it enables us to train multi-planar movements which is a far more realistic way to train and translates well to physical activities we perform outside of the weight room and in our daily lives.  In other words, a better way and a great opportunity to train for all this real-world strength and conditioning and to be functionally fit.

Heavy things outside of the gym are not evenly weighted. When you lift them you need to adjust your body to accommodate the unstable resistance. This involves the core, trunk, shoulders, back and lower body working together in a coordinated manner. Every time you lift a sandbag, you are working all of those muscle groups, while also improving your body’s proprioception and coordination.

Training Smart with Sandbags

Training with sandbags provides some unique advantages over functional training compared to other weights like barbells and dumbbells. First, is mainly due to the element of leverage. When you grab a barbell or dumbbell, you hold onto the weight right through the center of mass of the object.  With the sandbag, the center of mass of the sandbag is offset in relation to the axis of our grip.  This element of leverage in the sandbag provides more challenge in moving the weight.  This, coupled with sand in the bag constantly shifting around, forces the body to adjust balance and muscular stability.

To get the most bang for your buck when training with sandbags, you should focus on compound exercises that work more than one muscle group and joint. This type of training produces the greatest metabolic effect so that you burn the most calories and produce the greatest strength and muscle growth gains. Sandbags are ideal for performing such compound moves as squats, presses and cleans.

Sandbag Deadlift Benefits

The sandbag deadlift is a variation of the standard barbell deadlift, in which, rather than picking up a bar, you are lifting a bag filled with sand from the floor to an upright position. The sandbag will be made from a strong, waterproof material and will feature reinforced nylon stitching. It will also have straps and hand grips that you can grab onto.

This sandbag deadlift will directly work the following muscle groups:

  • Hamstrings
  • Glutes
  • Quadriceps
  • Erector Spinae
  • Rectus abdominis

At the same time, the exercise will also engage the multitude of smaller, stabilizing muscles throughout your body. When done quickly, and for high reps, this exercise is also a very effective calorie burner and metabolic enhancer.

This exercise will also help you to improve your grip strength.

Sandbag Deadlift Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Place the sandbag on the floor in front of you. Stand directly behind it with feet shoulder width apart and your spine in a neutral position. Pull your abs to engage the core and look directly at your head.
  2. Hinge the hips as you push your butt back and bend your knees as you lower towards the sandbag. Grab the bag by its side handles. In this position, your thighs should be parallel to the floor, with your torso at an angle of about 30 degrees. Straighten your arms, keeping them that way throughout the entire movement.
  3. Powerfully drive your feet into the floor as you lifted the bag to a full standing position. The bag should be kept in close to the body, so that it tracks up your legs. Squeeze your glutes tightly in the top position.
  4. Maintaining a neutral spine position, lower the bag down to the floor again. Place it on the floor completely to end the rep. Now move directly into the next rep.

Training Tips

  • Perform the exercise in a controlled manner. It should take 2 to 3 seconds to lift the bag, and the same amount of time to lower it; do not simply drop the weight back down.
  • Keep your core engaged at all times.
  • Keep looking directly ahead throughout the whole movement.
  • Do not allow your chest or shoulders to collapse at any time.
  • Avoid any jerky movements.
  • Do not use a heavier sandbag than you can safely handle.

Sandbag Deadlift Variations

Single Leg Sandbag Deadlift

This version of the sandbag deadlift allows you to focus on working one leg at a time. It will allow you to develop lower body strength, power, and explosiveness faster than the two-legged version. However, this version requires quite a lot of balance to perform properly.

  1. Place the sandbag on the floor in front of you. Stand directly behind it with feet shoulder-width apart and your spine in a neutral position. Pull your abs to engage the core and look directly ahead. Now lift your left foot off the floor and bend the left knee slightly. Keep this foot off the floor throughout the entire exercise.
  2. Hinge the hips as you push your butt back and bend your knees as you lower towards the sandbag. Grab the bag by its side handles. In this position, your thighs should be parallel to the floor, with your torso at an angle of about 30 degrees. Straighten your arms, keeping them that way throughout the entire movement.
  3. Making sure that the weight is evenly balanced so that you do not topple over, drive through the right foot as you come back to a standing position.
  4. Slowly lower the bag back to the floor until it is completely resting in its starting position.
  5. Perform all of your reps on the right leg and then repeat with the left leg.

Training tips

  • Do not round your back at any time.
  • Be sure to use a full range of motion.

Sumo Sandbag Deadlift High Pull

The Sumo Sandbag Deadlift High Pull is a more explosive version of the standard sandbag deadlift that sees you pulling the sandbag all the way up to your chest. By doing so you are engaging more of your upper body muscles, including the deltoids and trapezius.

  1. Place the sandbag on the floor in front of you. Stand directly behind it with feet wider than shoulder width apart and your spine in a neutral position. Pull your abs to engage the core and look directly at your head.
  2. Hinge the hips as you push your butt back and bend your knees as you lower towards the sandbag. Grab the bag by its side handles. In this position, your thighs should be parallel to the floor, with your torso at an angle of about 30 degrees. Straighten your arms, keeping them that way throughout the entire movement.
  3. Powerfully drive your feet into the floor as you lift the bag to a full standing position. The bag should be kept in close to the body, so that it tracks up your legs.
  4. As you approach the standing position, continue pulling the bag up to drive your elbows above your ears, with the bag finishing up at chest level.
  5. Lower under control and repeat.

Training Tips

  • Do not overextend your lower back as you pull the bag up to your chest.
  • Keep the elbows up and out during the pulling motion.
  • Do not round your back or shoulders during this exercise

Stiff Legged Sandbag Deadlift

The stiff-legged sandbag deadlift shifts the focus to the back of the lower body, emphasizing the hamstrings and glutes, as well as the lower and middle back.

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and the sandbag held at arm’s length as if you were in the fully correct position of the standard sandbag deadlift.
  2. Keeping your legs, hips, and back straight, extend through the waist as you lower the sandbag to the floor.
  3. Touch the bag to the floor and then rise back to the starting position.

Training Tips

  • Move steadily and with control.
  • Do not round your back as you bring the bag to the floor.
  • Avoid using the momentum to raise or lower the bag.
  • Do not use a heavier weight than you can handle.
  • Keep your legs straight throughout the movement to keep the emphasis on the hamstrings and glutes rather than the quads.

Sample Sandbag Workout

Here is a combination sandbag bodyweight workout that will work the entire body, while also revving up your metabolism to burn more calories. As well as your sandbag, you will need a pull up bar to complete this workout.

For maximum metabolic effect, do this workout as a circuit where you move from one exercise to the next without any rest. Once you have gone through all five of the exercises, allow yourself a two-minute break and then go through it all again. Work up to completing four rounds of this  circuit.

  • Pull Ups – 10 reps
  • Sandbag Deadlift – 15 reps
  • Sandbag Hang Clean – 15 reps
  • Push Ups – 15 reps
  • Sandbag Front Squat – 10 reps

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it safe to do the deadlift with a sandbag?

 

Yes, it is perfectly safe to do the deadlift with a sandbag so long as the bag has handles that you can grab and is made of sturdy material. Do not use a sandbag that is heavier than you can handle and make sure that you are working out on a stable surface.

What weight sandbag should I use on the sandbag deadlift?

 

You should begin with a relatively light weight. Exercising with the sandbag is very different to using barbells and dumbbells. They take quite some getting used to, especially with regard to the constantly shifting center of gravity. As a result, you will not be able to use as much weight as you would with standard free weights. We recommend that men begin with a sandbag weighing between 40 and 60 pounds. Women should start with a bag that weighs between 20 and 40 pounds.

Is the sandbag deadlift better than the standard barbell deadlift?

 

No, the sandbag deadlift is not better than the standard deadlift. But it is different. If your sole goal is to develop explosive strength and power, you will be better off with the standard barbell deadlift as it will allow you to lift more weight. However, if you are after a more functional exercise that can be done anywhere and that will activate all of the stabilizer muscles in your body, then the sandbag deadlift is the exercise for you.

You may also want to read are articles on Sandbag Training for Fat Loss, Cardio & Muscle Mass

Summary

The sandbag version of the deadlift offers a more versatile, functional, and engaging way to perform a classic weightlifting exercise. Follow the guidelines provided in this article to perform it safely and effectively. While you’re at it, give our sample workout a try and let us know in the comments below how you found it.

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Sandbag Training for Fat Loss, Cardio & Muscle Mass

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Steve (Qualfied Personal Trainer and Nutritionist)


Steve Theunissen has qualified from the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) and is a certified Personal Trainer and Nutritionist. He has over 30 years experience in fitness and nutrition and currently working with famous fitness professionals. He is currently living in New Zealand with is wife and daughter.

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