Strength Training Like Ancient Egyptians
Athletes often train with dumbbells and barbells to improve their strength. But before the invention of these devices, the ancient Egyptians used sandbags to increase it. For the modern athlete, the use of sandbags offers benefits that cannot be replicated through the use of standard weight lifting equipment. Sandbags come in various designs, sizes, and weights. You can buy them ready-made or make them yourself with a duffel bag and sand. They can be used for lifting like you would a barbell in order to increase strength and power. One of the major benefits to using sandbags is that the weight shifts around when you lift the bag and it forces your body to adapt. This provides a more serious challenge to the core muscles than standard weight lifting equipment.
For a boxer or martial artist, a stronger core gives your arms and legs a more powerful base for punching and kicking. Of course, a strong core benefits other types of athletes as well, like football, basketball, soccer, and more.
While you can do just about any lifting exercise with a sandbag that you can do with a barbell, one of the biggest advantages to using a sandbag is with loaded carries. The exercise consists of carrying weight (hence the term "loaded") over some distance. This distance depends on the weight of the sandbag and the relative importance to the athlete of endurance versus strength. For example, picking up a heavy sandbag and walking 50 meters will develop strength. On the other hand, carrying a light sandbag for 100 meters would build relatively more endurance.
Two of my favorite loaded carries with a sandbag are the over-the-shoulder carry and the bear hug. The over-the-shoulder carry is simply picking up and slinging the sandbag over one shoulder and walking. It is important to do the exercise over the other shoulder as well, so that you are strengthening equally. The bear hug carry is picking up the sandbag and gripping it in a bear hug and walking.
Of course, these loaded carries are unique to sandbags and cannot be replicated effectively with barbells.
In addition to lifting sandbags or carrying them, you can combine lifting and carrying into one exercise. For example, the military press is great for building arm, upper chest, and, especially, shoulder muscles. You can clean a sandbag from the floor and pump out shoulder press reps. Instead of replacing the bag to the floor, you can keep it extended overhead and do then walk. Another example is to grab the sandbag in a bear hug and do reps of squats. There are indeed an endless variety of lifting, carrying, and combination moves that can be done with sandbags.
Sandbag training can be used to increase total body strength, muscular endurance, and grip strength as it offers a unique alternative to barbells and dumbbells. Any athlete can benefit from using sandbags for lifting exercises and loaded carries -- will you join the ranks?