Maniac Monday Workout: Sandbag Cycles

In my mud run training, I’m always looking for new ways to get the job done. Recently, I added sandbags into my workouts and the benefits go unmatched when it comes to training for strength, endurance and power. A sandbag is a cheap and effective training aid that is, well, awkward to lift. You can easily build a homemade version or you can pick-up a pre-made sandbag specifically designed for this type of training like the Power Systems Ultimate Sandbag.

Training with a sandbag makes you work hard for each repetition in order to compensate for a constantly shifting load, which is killer for your strength and conditioning. Maximum effort is required to stabilize both the bag and your body, which will better prepare you for real-life mud run situations over conventional weight training.

A few other benefits of sandbag training include:

  • Cheap – already mentioned above, but worth reiterating. Sand is cheap (or free) and anyone can make their own homemade sandbag.
  • Versatile – you can substitute nearly any weight-lifting exercise with a sandbag to reap the benefits.
  • Malleable – sandbags will shape to your body, meaning they are great for tossing over your shoulder or carrying on your back without the aid of a pad or towel…and they hurt a lot less if you drop them on your toe!
  • Great for grip – I’m always trying to increase my grip strength for obstacles like rope climbs, wall climbs, monkey bars, quarter-pipes…the awkward shape of the sandbag will work wonders here.

Sandbag Cycles:

The workout – remember, you can substitute just about any weight-training exercise with sandbag training, but here’s a few to get you started:

Complete 3 cycles for time:

  • 8 sandbag clean
  • 8 squat-throws
  • 8 bent over rows
  • 8 sandbag slams
  • 40-yard sandbag drag (20 right/20 left)

How to:

Sandbag Clean: Start by placing the sandbag at your feet and position your shins as close as possible to the sandbag at about shoulder-width. Reach down and grab the sandbag, and lean your butt down and your chest forward. You should feel almost as if you are falling backwards. Keep your arms straight and locked. In one motion, rip the bag up, let go and catch it at your chest. At this top position, you should be hugging the bag with your forearms, fists pointing up. Squat down and lower your arms, allowing the bag to roll to ground. Here’s a demo for reference.

Sandbag Squat Throws: Grip the sandbag and clean it to your chest without letting go of your grips. The next move is your choice. You can either squat down and explode with a vertical throw (directly up) to allow the bag to land at your feet. Or squat down and explode up with a horizontal throw (directly out). By using the horizontal throw, you can add in a short sprint to run to the sandbag and repeat the motion.

Sandbag Rows: Just like a bent-over row with a barbell or dumbbells, just with a stronger focus on grip strength. Be sure to keep your back straight and your core tight here.

Sandbag Slams: Stand with the sandbag at your feet. Bend down to pick it up and toss it on top of your right shoulder. With both hands, slam the bag back to the ground. Bend down and pick it up again and toss it on top of your left shoulder. Again, slam the bag down. Alternate shoulders each repetition.

Sandbag Drag: Get down into a bear crawl position with the sandbag directly across from your right hand. Grab the sandbag with your right hand and bear crawl backwards, dragging the bag with each step until you reach 20 yards. Repeat using your left hand.

Mud Run Maniac wants to know what you think…

Do you integrate sandbags in your mud run training? What other exercises work well with a sandbag? Leave your comments below. Cheers!

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Mud Run Maniac
Mud Run Maniac

I'm the proud owner of, specializing in mud run training and tips! The mud run community is growing fast and I’ve made it my responsibility to keep you up-to-date on the latest and greatest mud running topics.

6 comments… add one
  • Annie Nov 28, 2011, 1:04 pm

    What my trainer and I have done was lay out a bunch of steps (used for Step class) in a row and I’d have to run back and forth on the steps as fast as I could carrying sandbags. Really helped me with balance and stabilization.

    • Mud Run Maniac Mud Run Maniac Nov 28, 2011, 1:16 pm

      Nice added level of difficulty. I’ve done something similar where I’ll stack the steps at different heights and hit jumps with a sandbag, kettle bell or medicine ball. But I like the idea of running over the steps to keep your balance. Sounds similar to the tire obstacle at Tough Mudder. Great tips Annie! Thanks!

      • Annie Nov 28, 2011, 2:01 pm

        OOOOOOO! I never thought of doing that, so when my trainer and I start training for my mudruns, I’m gonna suggest doing your routine. 🙂

        And yeah, Im rather clumsy and my balance is pretty awful for some reason, so running with the sandbags helped me. Do you make your own sandbags?

        • Mud Run Maniac Mud Run Maniac Nov 28, 2011, 2:39 pm

          Spoiler Alert!! Yep, I’ll show you how in Friday’s TOTW! 🙂

  • Trey Crowe of Trey Nov 29, 2011, 8:50 pm

    I definitely need to make some sandbags for my work gym. I’ve never actually used them before but it look like tons of fun. Isn’t there a portion of the Tough Mudder where you have to carry a log? Surely if you can handle a sandbag you can handle a chunk of wood.

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