Improve your leg and core strength with sandbag training.

Apr 10, 2012 at 0:03
Apr 10, 2012
by James Wilson  
You must login to Pinkbike.
Don't have an account? Sign up

Join Pinkbike  Login

For a training tool to make the list of things I use at my facility it has to unique but tangible results. I’ve been around long enough to know that trendy pieces of equipment that promise to build balance and stability usually have little translation to the trail. However, I was recently reintroduced to something that has been seeing more and more action at my facility – the sandbag.

Sandbag training is certainly not new and you’ve probably heard of them before or maybe even played around with some. I had a couple of old sandbags in my facility that I almost never used and didn’t really see much value in. However, after seeing a demo by someone who knows how to really use them – Josh Henkin, inventor of the Ultimate Sandbag - I realized that I had missed the boat completely when it came to the types of unique exercises and results they offered.

Josh calls it Dynamic Variable Resistance and it goes beyond trying to mimic your favorite barbell/ dumbbell/ kettlebell exercise with one and unleashing something completely new on your body. After seeing an Ultimate Sandbag in action I knew that it had some unique things to offer mountain bikers

First, it offers some unique way to train the legs and core that are very specific to the balance and stabilization demands of mountain biking. The Rotational Lunge in particular is an exercise unique to sandbag training that allows you to perform a split stance and single leg exercise while having to stabilize against an unstable object moving around the body. The ability to swing the sandbag around the body offers an important training variable that you can not get from a dumbbell or kettlebell. In fact, it has made my "must use" exercise list with kettlebell swings and snatches for building lower body strength and power - it is that good.

It also improves the effectiveness of any home gym set up while taking up minimal space. Face it – a lot of us would just as soon never enter a gym and so training at home is a must. Being able to invest in a single piece of equipment that allows us to do a wide variety of exercises and can be used to increase strength and cardio is important for the home gym that has to fit into limited space.

Seeing that it offers some truly unique results and can easily be integrated into your home gym set up (if not become your home gym by itself) it is a great tool to add to your toolbox. Here is a 4 exercise circuit using sandbag exercises along with a 4 week workout plan to help you get started with your sandbag training:

- Rotational Deadlift
- Clean and Press
- Rotational Lunge
- Around the World

Week 1: 20 seconds work/ 40 seconds rest X 4 rounds
Week 2: 20 seconds work/ 30 seconds rest X 4 rounds
Week 3: 30 seconds work/ 30 seconds rest X 4 rounds
Week 4: 30 seconds work/ 20 seconds rest X 4 rounds

You can see a demo of these exercises plus some ways to advance the exercises in this video:

Views: 9,153    Faves: 73    Comments: 4

If you are going to invest in a sandbag so you can start taking advantage of the unique advantages they offer I highly recommend the Ultimate Sandbag. While being a high quality sandbag that will last through years of abuse it has an external shell and internal filler bags that you can fill to different weights. This allows you to have a variety of different weights without having to buy and store multiple sandbags. You can learn more about the different types of Ultimate Sandbags and about sandbag training in general at this website:

Sandbags offer a great way to improve your mountain bike specific strength and cardio while keeping your routine fun and challenging. Adding one into your training toolbox is something I highly recommend. Try this routine out for the next 4 weeks and see how much it improves your balance and stability on the trail.

MTB Strength Training Systems is the world leader in integrated performance training programs for the unique demands of mountain biking. As the strength and conditioning coach for World Cup Teams and 3 National Championships, his programs have been proven at the highest levels. James has helped thousands of riders just like you improve their speed, endurance and skills on the trail. Visit to sign up for the free Trail Rider Fundamentals Video Mini-Course.

The MTB Strength Training Systems Logo
Must Read This Week


  • + 23
 damn now everyone knows how to do sandbagging at the races Blank Stare
  • + 7
 Sandbagging IS the best way to improve your results, bar none.
  • + 2
 Now you'll be able to do sandbagging at the races for $130 - what a prestige! tup Seriously, why does the bag of sand cost that much!?
  • + 14
 so you could do that with a sportsbag loaded with crap?
  • + 7
 Do you crap into your sport bag? yuck!
  • + 2
 Oh look. Its bodyrock. I liked watching Zuzana better.

Though showing this to my wife will give her more ammunition if I try and blow off a bodyrock session with her in the future.

PS use bags of rice in the sandbag. I buy em in 5lb sizes. And when I forget to stock up on rice can always steal some from the gym Smile
  • + 6
 Does your rice taste like sweat and protein farts?
  • + 2
 as a former spinal surgery patient promoting rotational weight excercise has me scratching my head. i realize you want to try and keep a neutral spine throughout the movement when doing rotational deadlift etc. but it seems like a way to ASK for lower back issues for most people as the ability to do this wrong is quite high and the consequences are large.
  • + 1
 While I understand where you are coming from my opinion is that ss long as your lower back is not moving then it is fine. In fact, it is a movement you do on a daily basis when picking up a kid beside you or getting a bag of groceries out of the car. It is a great way to teach you the mechanics behind proper rotating and bending and perhaps help riders avoid low back problems in the future.

Rotating is part of our natural movement patterns, we just have to make sure we are rotating at the right areas and stabilizing with the right areas. The low back is meant to stabilize, not move, and if you substitute rotation at the hips for rotation at the low back you run into big problems. Using a 35 pound (it can be even less if you need) sandbag to groove and strengthen those rotational patterns is an essential part of a training program.
  • + 1
 James: at 1:21, when you about to pick up the bag, your right foot is planted unlike the left which twists. I cringed. Not because of poor technique, but i get the impression someone with a reconstructed ACL might not be able to plant his/her foot like that and putting what seems like torsion on the knee. My cringe aside, what is the impact of that sort of movement for those with reconstructed knee ligaments. Is it advisable?
  • + 2
 The twisting is through the hip, not the knee. There is very little added pressure to the knee joint in that position. In fact, lack of mobility at the hips, which is essential for that exercise, is one of the main reasons people blow out their ACLs. Your knees want to be stable and you want to move from the hips but if the hips don't move then the knees have to take up some of the slack. It is a great way to teach the movement pattern needed behind moving rotationally at the hips without driving that rotation through the knee.
  • + 2
 Kapricorn,,, that was my first thought to, I tore my ACL and I gave this a shot, it does NOT bother you knee, Like James said, your knee stays straight.
  • + 2
 Looks good. I'll probably get a sandbag right after I fit the pull up bar to my bedroom door, which I've been thinking about for at least the last three years!
  • + 3
 Thanks for these James! Always good workouts.
  • + 1
 The rotational deadlift and rotational lunge look good for hip/knee stability as well as core work. Not sure why a sandbag is required.
  • + 1
 Those exercises require you to move the implement around the body, which inevitable results in that implement making contact with the body. The sandbag is soft and allows you to move without worrying about getting smacked by a weight or medicine ball. I have tried those exercises with other tools and they don't work as well. It is like using a dumbbell for swings or Turkish Get Ups - you can do it but something about the kettlebell changes the whole dynamics of the exercise that once you experience you realize how inadequate the dumbbell was. Same thing with those exercises and the sandbag - something about the unstability and nature of the sandbag add something unique to them.
  • + 2
 cheers for that, looks good
  • + 1
 Awesome. Helping my piriformis syndrome too with those rotational lunges. Thank you James
  • + 0
 Hey bra my tool box is full of bags full of everything. I've been sandbagging and flimflaming for fifty yeears meng.
  • + 1
 i'll be giving this a try with a gym back full of stuff
  • + 0
 Ill try this move with a 24 pack of beer.
  • + 1

Post a Comment

Copyright © 2000 - 2017. All rights reserved.
dv56 0.031005
Mobile Version of Website