How to make a sandbag is easier than you think, costs next to nothing, and offers a wide range of complementary exercises to your club swinging
Sandbags are a great option to barbells or kettlebells. You can also drop them on indoor floors without worries, and you can easily make them yourself for the price of a few hose clamps…
Any form of strength training should always be encouraged along with Indian clubs, regardless we are talking heavy or light clubs. And it doesn’t have to be complicated to be effective.
Indian clubs were a part of a larger system, where things like wrestling and weight lifting in one form or another where included.
When the Brits took the clubs back to Europe, the now lighter version of Indian clubs were integrated into the physical culture of the day, which also included gymnastic, boxing and fencing.
Lifting heavy things, and combining athletic pursuits and disciplines goes hand in hand with Indian clubs for developing all around fitness and strength. Don’t be a one trick pony!
I give you a free workout with a sandbag and Indian clubs at the end of this post. Read on!
Why train with a sandbag?
- It’s an effective way to replicate some real life action, you know, lifting things that are not pretty or perfectly balanced. The sandbag is soft, unstable and off balance. Basically it reacts like your average 4 year old when you decide to leave the candy store.
- Sandbags are much harder to lift than a barbell or dumbbell of the same weight.
- Without handles, you have to grip the bag and squeeze it in place. It’s more challenging for your hands.
- No 2 reps have the same groove. You’re fighting for every rep, and you basically always start off the floor. That’s extra work and conditioning built in right there.
How to make your own
You can go ahead and spend some money on a fancy sandbag with 7 handles if it’s your thing.
OK, let’s be fair, if you plan to use the sandbag as your only strength tool for all sorts of exercises, yes, it’s pretty nice to have handles. But commercial sandbags come in certain sizes, so you’ll be limited in weight. You’re NOT going to develop full body strength by lifting a 20kg sandbag for months on end.
Also, all inner bags go bust after a while, meaning sand everywhere.
I have had different models and sizes over since 2009, and I still prefer my homemade sandbags.
By using an old inner tube from a car or bus, your sandbags become pretty much bombproof. Talk to your mechanic or a tire workshop. Like old tires, they have to pay to get them removed. If you get a puncture, get your bike repair kit out and fix it.
And all the handles? You do not need them to do the most effective sandbag exercises.
The video below shows you exactly how to make the sandbag, and what you need for it.
The finished sandbag looks a bit like a Bulgarian bag, with 2 thick handles on the sides. Personally, I find the construction too wobbly and stretchy to do Bulgarian bag exercises with it, and do not advise it. Stay basic. If you swing clubs , you are already doing plenty of circular movements!
You want to fill your sandbag to about 80-90% capacity, so that you do not end up with a rock solid bag. The sand is suposed to move a bit around the bag while you lift it to create dynamic resistance.
If you’re new to strength training, start light with about 25% of your bodyweight. If you have some experience, and train regularly with barbells or kettlebells, just make a heavy one, 60-75% of bodyweight, and go to town.
Make sure to brace your core when lifting heavy things, and use good biomechanics when picking it up off the ground.
How to train with it
We have previously shown you how to make a drag sled by upcycling an old tire, and how to use it. The drag sled is a fantastic tool when you can train outdoors, but what if you can’t?
That’s why you should know how to make a sandbag if you do not have a barbell or kettlebells. The exercises that give you the most bang for your buck are pretty intuitive.
Training with a heavy sandbag is a full body workout. Combined with Indian clubs, you have both strength and mobility covered.
As I always say, you should always try to perform the exercises best suited to a training tool. A Swiss army knife can do many things, but if you had to fix your lawnmower, you’d most likely use proper tools if you could.
The most valuable sandbag exercise
If you’re going to do 1 sandbag exercise only, let it be shouldering.
After you have the technique in place with a light weight, progressively add more weight.
A good goal for men would be 100% bodyweight for 5 reps on each shoulder. It’s the closest you’ll get to a wrestling match without risking to be body slammed. This exercise activates every single muscle from toes to nose, and you have a few variation options.
Depending on weight of the bag, you could hoist it to your shoulder in one swoop, or use the 2 step technique demonstrated in the video.
- Shouldering (if you only do 1 exercise)
- Shouldering and carrying
- Shouldering and squat or lunge
- Throwing over the shoulder
Other good exercises
- Bent over row
- Clean and press
- Bear hug squat / good morning/ carry
Sandbag and Heavy Indian club ”Dangal” workout
Warm up properly, and pick the right weight for your equipment.
The Pahlavandle Gama would be the perfect club to use for this circuit, which is inspired by the training of Kushti wrestlers of India.
We’re going to use a circuit consisting of 3 exercises done for a 3 minute round followed by 1 minute rest.
Try to perform as much work in each 3 minute interval.
3 total rounds is a fine little workout out to aim for.
When you perform this workout later on, try to do more rounds, or add more weight.
If you enjoyed this workout and would like a full body program with heavy club and sandbag,check out Indian club challenge program.
The program is inspired from the physical training of Kushti wrestlers of the Indian sub-continent: swings, squats and push ups make up the main course.
Our revised version of the timeless Royal Court workout involves a heavy single club, a kettlebell or sandbag and loads of program variability built in.
You can do the Indian club challenge 3-4 times a week without burning out. Each workout session will take from 15 to 35 minutes, using our variable program protocol.
Training volume and exercise selection changes from session to session, where you’ll roll a die to select the workout parameters.
Think of variability as controlled randomness. We stick to strictly defined parameters (specificity of training) to ensure consistent progress and a sustainable training approach.