Sandbag lifting is hard. Since man first began to put things into sacks, lifting of said sack has been a test of strength. Sandbag lifting had been a stable of strength training for many years. There was a period where it had travelled underground, as it was considered messy, dangerous and unnecessary to many lifters but it has re-emerged thanks to the likes of Brooks Kubik and Josh Henkin.
Construction is easy and even the lifts themselves are rather well understood. The issue becomes the total lack of a groove during the lift and the extra grip factor involved. I know many guys who deadlift over 405lb and find shouldering 150lb sandbag a difficult exercise. So the question becomes, how do you start?
It’s easy really. Sandbag shouldering (getting the sandbag from the ground up on to one shoulder), deadlifts, clean and presses, bear hugs walks, zecher walks and throws will be more than enough. Loading is tricky when dealing with a sandbag. I’ve found for many of my athletes, starting off at 25-30% of load for the same exercise on a barbell and going from there seems to work well.
As to the science stuff that many are expecting, Donisch and Basmajian 2005 demonstrated by EMG that transversospinal muscles contract when lifting an uneven load and that the multifidus acts as a stabilizer during these types of lifts. Danneels et al 2001 demonstrated the roles of various back and abdominal muscles play during asymmetrical lifting such as sand bag lifting. Very few studies have been published (in English) concerning this type of exercise despite its clear benefit. Numerous athletes from all eras have reported an increase in overall strength shortly after adding sandbag training to their regimen. One would hope that more research is done into why this appears to be so.
So that’s sandbag lifting 101. The real question becomes after your first workout, will you have a second?