Sandbags, Barrels & Other Functional Training

I thought I’d start a thread to see if anyone would be interested in sharing their functional training exercises & routines using sandbags, barrels, logs, stones or anything else. There are a couple of threads that contain some of this but I thought maybe we could condense it. It’s great to see the interest and appreciation for functional training and to read Coach Davies contributions.

I myself have been using sandbags, stones, farmer's walks and so on for the past couple of years and for those of you who haven't tried it yet I encourage you do do so. You will get much stronger and you will notice your strength being carried over to the more conventional lifts you do. Also, it's great to get looks from people who are trying to figure out what you're doing when they see you hauling a 200 lb. sandbag around!

Anyway, I myself incorporate the various lifts in two ways depending on how I structure the cycle. One I’ll pick a lift or two and use it as a finisher for the day. For example, farmer’s walk with a trap bar. I like the trap bar better than the DB’s because the DB’s tend to bump/rub into your thighs too much when you’re walking. Or, bear hug the 200 lb. bag and carry it as far as possible for pre-determined number of reps.

There is also a hill nearby my house that is fairly steep and about 40 yards long. I use a variety of holds for the bag, e.g., bearhug and carry it up and down, right shoulder up & down, left shoulder up & down, deadlift hold up & down, squat hold (across back) up & down, and so on.

I also have a separate sandbag workout that I incorporate into some cycles that is done on a separate day. For example, I’ll train with weights on Mon, Tues, & Thur, and do a whole-body sandbag routine on Saturday. The Saturday routine consists of cleans & presses, deadlifts, floor presses, hammer curls, squats, front squats, rows, snatches and sandbag throws to mention a few things. We then sometimes finsih off with throwing stones for height and distance… a lot of fun.

Also, if you want to get a good cardio workout, get a army duffel bag and fill it with 100 lbs. of sand ( I use army duffel bags for all my sandbags - very versatile) strap it to your back and go hiking for a couple of miles... good workout! I've just mentioned a few of the things I do here. There's quite a lot more that I also do, but I've rambled on enough. Anyone else have anything they'd like to share?

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Ricoflex, that is some awesome stuff you’re doing. I started gearing my workouts toward functional strength three months ago. Since then, I’ve noticed strength increases and better performance in other activities. I want to include more functional work in addition to weight training. So the information you and Coach Davies have presented are very useful. I’m waiting to hear back from Coach Davies about recommendations for workouts, but until then, this is my plan.

I'll weight train Mon, Wed, Fri using Staley's CPT program (highly recommended). I'll start doing finishers after my weight workouts incorporating farmer's walks, bent side presses and a few other odd lifts. On Tues and Thurs, I'll incorporate more GPP and bodyweight stuff that Coach Davies has recently posted on the forum. For today's workout, I'm going to do the jump rope program he outlined followed by active rest of pushups and chins. I'll then do a few "complexes" of some of the other exercises (star jumps, burpees, etc). Then I'll finish the workout with short sprints with little rest and maybe some more bodyweight exercises. I think that will work quite well.

Great post! I hope to hear more from everyone. I don't have a wheelbarrow, but it may be possible to get an old tire for pulling/dragging. If not, I may get some sandbags and start doing other odd lifts as you mentioned.

Nate Dogg. Your routine sounds good to me. When you start to incorporate the sandbag training take it easy at first no matter how good a shape you are in. I guarantee you will be sore!

A couple other things I like to do with the sandbags are to take a bag attach a rope to it and hang it from a tree branch or other overhead object. Then walk up to the bag, take the slack out of the rope and press the bag. It’s like doing a standing incline press… very tough!! I got this idea from Dino Training.

Another cardio variation I do is to use a 50 lb sandbag, strap it to make back and powerwalk/jog and then stop every so often and then do a set of pushups, then walk/jog stop and do a set of squats, walk/jog stop and do a set of calf raises, etc., like a cardio-weight circuit routine. Works well for me.

Also if you’re not used to pressing something like a sandbag overhead, its a good ego check. The first time I tried to press a bag overhead I thought 150 Lbs. would be a piece of cake. After all I was doing seated BB presses with 225. No such luck. It literally kicked my butt until I got used to the shifting sand and the different technique involved in cleaning & pressing a sandbag as opposed to a nicely balanced barbell.

Today, after my weight workout I'll be doing the truck push and farmer's walk.

Let’s hear from some of you other guys!!

Laying 7 pallets of sod kicked my ass squarely. It was like doing 10,000 deadlifts. Come over to my house I have plenty of funtional training in the form of yard work. I can have you digging 2’x2’ holes in under 1 minute.

To kill your forearms buy a bag of shot (available at a gun store) and practice gripping it while doing a zottman curl movement.
When you are ready try throwing and catching the bag from hand to hand. For this part make sure you bag is in good condition. Some people who do this get bags made of leather or rip-stop vinyl.

the sandbag movements are great. Why don’t you try to implements some pulling as well. I use a “tug of war pull” - utilize a heavy item (such as a truck tire), attach it to a rope (as long & thick as possible), sit on the ground with your legs spread as wide as possible and pull hand over hand.

Try the wheelbarrow work on Monday with the Snatch Complex and the Tug of War pulls on Friday with Clean & Jerks. Let me know if you want me to expand on this.

In faith, Coach Davies

Coach Davies, thanks for the advice. I currently do the type of pulling movement you mention on certain cycles and days but I use my home-made sled to pull instead of a tire ( old wheelbarrow with the wheels taken off & with bags/weights in it). I’m thinking of attaching my rope to my truck and trying to do a pull with that, a standing pull though probably.

I aslo plan to start doing the wheelbarrow movement as well as part of my training regimen.

What is your opinion of thick bar training for functional strength? I currently use a home-made 2" bar ( made out of schedule 80 wall pipe) for curls, reverse curls, benches, holds, presses, deadlifts etc., I also do vertical bar lifts to build grip strength (again using a home-made bar…12 inch piece of 2" pipe with a pipe flange attached to the bottom) among other things like lever bar work, pinch gripping, etc?

I also try to incorporate some ideas I read about from Kim Wood, the Bengals strength coach, like doing a hammer curl and press with an OLY bar. Great for grip work due to leverage but it really takes some getting used to.

Also, what do you think of some of the so-called “odd-lifts” like a zercher lift, zercher squat, BB hack lift, one arm db swing, one arm snatch, squat & press to name a few I can think of now? I currently try to work some of these in during my programs or set up a separate “odd lift” day for a change of pace.

I sorry for all the questions but having you at this forum, reading your responses and advice, and realizing that there are other people here that also share my interests has really fired me up. I look forward to your future articles and thank you for the time you have spent with us here.

Ricoflex - truck pulls are awesome/started doing them a very long time ago. Thick bars are tremendous. I really dont consider those lifts as “odd-ball lifts” just functional. It appears to me you have just given me a article idea. Hey try the pulls and wheelbarrow movements for time (ie 20 minutes each), follow with towel chins and Zottman curls. Then tell me about your back and biceps.

In faith,
Coach Davies