Training

One Movement To Replace Barbell Workouts | Exercise Tips

May 16th 2020

Strength training without a barbell can be done if you have an open mind.

And no, I am not just talking about bodyweight or lightweight exercises.

This article is for those who do not have access to their gyms and need to do a home workout.

But unfortunately, you might not be used to training without a barbell.

As a result, lifters are left slowly deteriorating in their home.

Some lifters have gone wild and purchased home gym equipment, so much so that most stores have run out of stock.

Some lifters have elected to incorporate bodyweight movement such as calisthenics, while some have gone mad and started running.

Regardless, for those who are into strength training, you could still maintain your strength and gains without breaking your budget through sandbag training.

What exactly is sandbag training? What exactly can you do with a sandbag?

All of these will be answered later down in the article.

But first off, the reason why I suggest sandbag training is because it is an inexpensive way to get stronger.

You do not need to spend hundreds on a barbell, weights, etc. (not to mention how crazy shipping is on that equipment). You simply need a sandbag and sand!

So, let’s dive into what exactly a sandbag is and what sandbag training entails.

Sandbag lifting

Why is this good and how does this train strength?

I will tell you.

Sand is heavy and it can compress.

A single sandbag can hold up to 125 lbs.

This is great for the bench press, deadlift, squat, overhead press, etc.

In addition, sandbags are great for functional strength and conditioning.

Due to the sand and the force of gravity, the shifting weight inside the bag makes it more challenging and works your stabilizer muscles.

This is akin to lifting random heavy objects which might not have as good of a grip as a bar, and which might not be completely balanced in weight.

Because of this, many strongman competitors (who are more focused on functional strength rather than pure strength like powerlifters) incorporate sandbag training into their routines.

Sandbags can also be used for generalized conditioning, plyometrics, and adding to calisthenic routines.

Adding any sort of extra weight to your home program will definitely work on increasing/maintaining your strength during this outbreak.

Now, what makes a sandbag unique compared to filling an old backpack with sand?

You can certainly go for the old-school approach of filling an old backpack with sand but just know that it most likely will not last you long, and it will most likely leak sand and create a mess.

If you want to avoid this, especially if you plan on throwing/slamming the sandbag during certain exercises, you should really consider purchasing a sandbag that was designed to be thrown/slammed.

These sandbags will last you a long time and are less prone to leaking unless if you slam it on top of something sharp like a nail.

A sandbag is a great investment, could save you more time, money, and headache from cleaning/replacing the sand, and it will help you in your fitness journey which makes it worth it.

Sandbags allow you to strength train without a barbell.

What can you do with a sandbag?

You can lift it, throw it, slam it, squat it, bench it, you can do anything you’d like with it.

You are limited by your imagination and how many ideas can you come up with.

Here are some traditional barbell exercises that have been modified for use with a sandbag.

Squat

Front squat, goblet squat, back squat, doesn’t matter.

Whichever squat you wish to perform depends on how you hold the sandbag.

Cross both your arms and keep it in the front will simulate a front squat.

Hold the bag close to your chest will simulate a goblet squat.

Or, clean and jerk the bar over your head and you are in the position to perform a back squat.

Deadlift

Simple but may require some modifications.

Those who deadlift with a sumo stance will find it a lot easier to deadlift with a sandbag.

For those who deadlift with a traditional stance, it might be a bit harder because the sandbag is a lot thicker than a bar. Nevertheless, you could always opt to try sumo deadlifting which is much more functional for lifting heavier objects straight off the ground than the traditional stance is.

Bench press

As long as the bag is over your chest, you can train your chest for days.

The only problem is how you can get the bag on your chest.

If you have a workout bench, you can set it up by having the bag rest on your knees, and then kicking your knees up so that the bag is positioned over your shoulders before you begin.

This will be a lot more difficult to perform for those who do not have a workout bench.

Overhead press

Simply clean it and you are in the perfect position to perform the overhead press.

It might be a bit more tricky due to the size of the bag but you will find yourself getting used to it with time.

With these examples, I hope that you are able to see how you are able to keep up with your strength training without a barbell.

What to look for when purchasing a sandbag?

Weight

The first factor to keep in mind when purchasing a sandbag is how much weight you want to move.

For strength training, get a heavier sandbag (70-125 lbs).

For plyometric training or for those who want conditioning, get a medium weight sandbag (10-50 lbs) that you are able to lift for many reps.

Durability/material

If you plan on throwing or slamming the sandbag, you should look for a sandbag made out of a sturdy, durable material rather than one that is able to rip easily.

Most are made out of Velcro which is a sturdy material that is not prone to leaking.

Our recommendations for the top sandbags you can purchase online.

Sandbag trainer system from FringeSport

The sandbag trainer from FringeSport is an overall superb sandbag to use for those who wish to own a sandbag to perform all of the exercises I just listed.

The sandbag trainer is made out of heavy-duty, military grade Cordura (a type of nylon) as well as Velcro.

In addition, the bag is stitched with a double-stitched lining that prevents any sand from leaking out.

Overall a great training sandbag that comes in different sizes capable of handling different weights.

American barbell core sandbag

American barbell core sandbag is a state-of-the-art sandbag for those who are looking to seriously get into sandbag exercises.

Made out of a high-quality Velcro, the core sandbag was designed to withstand beatings.

Drop and throw this bag without worry of the bag breaking or of sand flying out.

In addition, the bag was designed with the ability to keep the weight evenly distributed which is more suited for those who do not care about training for functionality, and only care about getting stronger.

The more evenly distributed weight will allow you to train and target specific muscles a lot better.

Do you really need a barbell?

Barbell training is efficient at helping you gain strength and muscle in the shortest amount of time possible.

However, with that said, lifting heavy, blunt objects can also achieve the same results as long as you can progressively overload.

One reason why barbell training is so successful is that lifters know precisely how much weight to progress each workout or week.

With heavy objects, like rocks, anvils, steel parts, tractor tires, etc, you do not have that luxury. 

What can I use instead of a barbell?

You can use anything heavy lying around in your home. You can use gallon water containers or your heavy bag of pet food.

In the suburbs or countryside, there is access to many heavy objects lying around.

Rocks, tires, boulders, garden tools, wood, trees, etc.

In the city, you might be limited but that does not mean you cannot stress your body to an extent.

Closing Thoughts

You will not only make progress with using gym weights.

How else did people get strong before gym memberships were available and widespread?

Once you know about basic gym programming, the best gym workouts or even the best times to work out, you are miles ahead of the gym beginner.

And probably one of the best parts?

You won’t be making any gym mistakes that will slow down your progress!


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