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4 Myths of Sandbag Training

By Josh Henkin

Sandbags remind me a great deal of kettlebells in the early 2000’s, a lot of interest, but also a lot of confusion. Unlike kettlebells though, people feel as though they know how to use sandbags and don’t realize that like all training tools there are definitive techniques and methods that make sandbags one of the most powerful training tools.

Myth: “They are just like kettlebells”

Truth: Movement is movement, meaning the very basics of squatting, pressing, cleaning, etc. are all the same no matter what the implement. Outwardly, it would seem that sandbags are so similar to kettlebells that they really wouldn’t warrant much attention. A closer examination though actually proves to us that they are distinctly different tools.

Kettlebells Groove: One of the main reasons kettlebells lend themselves so well to strength endurance training is that they are relatively easy to groove. In fact, the whole kettlebell sport is about properly grooving the lifts to be more efficient. However, sandbags absolutely do NOT groove. Because of the shifting weight of sandbags it makes it virtually impossible to get into a similar groove accomplished with kettlebells.

Having an implement that is not possible to groove makes every repetition different. This increases the coordination of the muscles to work together and deal with more real world situations where awkward implements or live opponents are the challenges people face. Not grooving also means that the body has to expend more energy and can potentially lead to better long-term fat loss. Remember once you groove a lift you have to change the stimulus either by changing the load, speed of movement, or amount of work done.

Holding Positions: Kettlebells are amazingly versatile tools, but sandbags often can easily match this versatility. One reason kettlebells are perfect for so many different training situations is because of how they can be held in different positions. Various holding positions lead to being able to add or decrease load depending upon the goal.

The standard kettlebell holding positions are: rack, by the horns, overhead, down by side of the body, behind the back. That means any exercise can be altered five different ways just by changing the holding position.

Sandbags have a similar advantage but with additional variations: bear hug, zercher, headlock, down by side of the body, shoulder, overhead, behind the head, behind the back, and mixed grip. These EIGHT variations give even more options to the lifter in choosing how to modify an exercise.

Planes & Angles: The “functional” training era began with good intentions and got a little goofy when it moved towards circus training techniques. Yet, some premises of “functional” training were very valid yet poorly applied. One of those is training at different angles and positions. Since sport and life rarely occurs at stable and easy to predict situations, it make sense that we have to work in those angles and positions.

Kettlebells can be used to work in some of those positions and angles, but unfortunately many of simplified kettlebell training to only a handful of exercises. The Ultimate Sandbag Training System is about moving into more complex movements. This is evident in the amount of rotational drills that are at the core of the program as well as changing the placement of the load in familiar drills such as cleans and snatches. By trying to be powerful from these unique angles means developing true “functional” strength that will transfer to live and sport.

Kettlebells Are Awkward to Lift: Initially kettlebells are awkward to lift because of their different center of mass. However, it is not true that this last long as it would not be possible to perform the hundreds of repetitions that are common in kettlebell sport if they were too awkward. It doesn’t make sense that an implement would be easy to groove an awkward at the same time. Yet, this ability to groove does benefit kettlebells greatly by allowing them to be a tremendous tool for endurance training as well as a perfect tool for people to pick-up rather quickly to spend more time training for results than learning.

Sandbags on the other hand are notorious for being the most awkward implement to lift. This is because of their shifting weight that can be only half the equation of why sandbags are so challenging to lift. The various dimensions of sandbags can be quite different and lend themselves to adding challenge to any type of lift. A more tightly filled smaller bag is going to be significantly different than a bigger bag that has more shifting. Lastly, the most pronounced difference with sandbags that people rarely take into consideration is when one lifts a sandbag the weight begins to drop away from the body. This requires the lifter to continue to accelerate longer to perform the lift. A strong benefit for those that wish to become more powerful.

Almost ten years ago, kettlebells open up the door for some powerful training tools to be reintroduced to our current physical culture. A great coach or smart lifter understands the benefits of having a lot of effective tools in their tool box and combining implements such as kettlebells and sandbags can result in the ultimate combination.

Josh Henkin, CSCS is an International Presenter on Fitness and Performance Based Training. His Ultimate Sandbag Core Training System is quickly becoming one of the most highly sought after training programs.

About The Author

Josh Henkin has been a Strength Coach for the past 15 years and owner of Innovative Fitness Solutions in Scottsdale, Arizona. Josh is also a highly sought after speaker for his Ultimate Sandbag Core Training System. He can be reached at Make sure to check out his website at:

The Ultimate Sandbag

The Ultimate Sandbag

This Sandbag is by far the best one on the market. No other model even comes close. No more sand showers with this baby! In addition it has handles on it which come in handy for cleans, presses, and tons of other great exercises. Sandbag training rocks for variety or as a stand alone training system. It hits your body in ways that no other training system can duplicate. If you love kettlebell training, you will love Sandbag training.


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