Sandbag Training and the CrossFit Ethos

If you’re into fitness training then it’s hard to ignore the impact that CrossFit has had on
the industry. At over 10,000 affiliated gyms, their rise in popularity has been rapid indeed.
If you scan various popular blogs and news sites you’ll quickly come across a post either
praising or damning it – there seems to be little balance when it comes to peoples views
surrounding CrossFit. Why is this? What has CrossFit done so right or wrong? In this
article we take a look…
Most people reading this won’t remember the early days of CrossFit and probably only
know it by its current incarnation of named WOD’s, the ever-expanding community and
the CrossFit Games. But early on in the development of the CrossFit movement, there
was less structure. In fact, you can still see some of the original challenges on their
website here:
Despite the limited structure there was clearly a strong desire to bring an element of
performance into fitness. Something that, although it existed, was perhaps not all that
common in the commercial fitness industry. For many years the commercial fitness
industry was in fact overly focused on attendance. If you showed up then you were doing
things right. While consistency is important, we all know that intensity has a huge part to
An overly rigid viewpoint can stifle progress and that’s exactly what the fitness industry
had at that point in time – a pretty rigid view of how things should be done. There was
little new happening (save for the next BodyPump release) and the industry was crying
out for some creativity. CrossFit sparked the imagination of a number of people who were
looking for something new.
Fast forward a decade or so and there is an incredibly passionate community of
CrossFitters worldwide, and also an incredibly passionate group of people who think
CrossFit is a bad idea.
The thing is, despite all of the negativity surrounding CrossFit, the ethos is difficult to
fault. At its heart, the CrossFit ethos is about looking outside of your existing skills and
experience to find ways to improve. You can argue until you’re blue in the face about
specificity but the basic concept is sound. It’s really no surprise that the CrossFit
movement is courting such controversy – after all, it has forced many traditional fitness
training methods to closely examine their effectiveness. And when you upset the apple
cart, apples get spilled…
What Does it Mean to be a CrossFitter?
I imagine everyone has their own views on this, largely governed by their particular goals
and the elements of CrossFit that they’ve been exposed to. For me, it’s not specifically
about the games or the WOD’s or even the general exercise selection. It’s about looking
at your current training and taking a multidisciplinary approach to improving it. It starts
and ends with the CrossFit ethos – looking outside of your existing skills and experience
to find ways to improve.
Yes, beginners will undoubtedly end up following the path of someone before them and
that might not be quite right. But isn’t that true of beginners in all fields? We learn, fail,
correct and develop – over and over again.
The intrinsic value of the CrossFit community is that we now have a large group of
individuals who value continued improvement. The danger comes from assuming that
improvement for all is achieved with a simple formula and that, if you follow this formula,
you’ll achieve the same results. The true value of CrossFit, and the key to the success of
the very best CrossFitters, is the ability to make your own choices regarding what works
for you. Follow the pack when you need to, but be brave enough to break away if
required. Isn’t that true with most things?
What Does All of This Have to Do With Sandbag Training?
CrossFit made great leaps in the field of performance-based fitness by looking at the
current state of fitness and asking “does this work?” and “how can we improve this?”.
How often do you look at your own training and ask the same questions?
Are there better ways for you to train with your sandbag?
• Do you need to integrate other forms of training e.g. bodyweight, yoga, swimming to get
better results?
• Are you training at the right intensity?
• Could you adjust the performance elements of your workouts to encourage better
As always, we’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below – how do you
-Matthew Palfrey, Brute Force Europe

Sandbag Training And The Spartan Race

The Spartan Race is an obstacle course with a difference. With courses ranging from the 3km+ Spartan Sprint all the way up to the 40km+ Ultra Beast, this is no joke. To get through the Spartan Race you’ll need strength, conditioning, agility, endurance and a bucketload of determination. But what’s the best way to train for this? In this article we explore some of the ways you can utilise your sandbag to build the fitness you need…

Why Sandbag Training?

Besides being a training tool that demands a high level of fitness to master, the sandbag is actually an integral part of the Spartan Race itself and you may well find yourself having to carry one during the event. The Object Carry, which is a signature obstacle, requires a carry of up to 60lbs over a set distance. The longer the event, the more times you’ll find yourself performing the Object Carry.

Sandbag training is a great training method for the Spartan Race for a few other reasons too:

• Your sandbag is designed to be used outside and in all weather conditions. If you want to truly prepare for the Spartan Race then you’re going to need to get outside, get used the elements and better your chances of coping on race day.

• The sandbag is the perfect tool for loaded carries – that’s why they use them for the Spartan Race. While they are a real challenge to hold onto they are malleable and sit comfortably across the shoulders. This also allows you to be a lot more creative with the types of exercises you perform. For example, Sandbag Get Ups are a great way to build strength and agility.

• Sandbag training is based on compound exercises that have real-world crossover. We squat, lift, push and pull the sandbag using our biggest muscles. This develops strength and conditioning and also your ability to handle a real-world free weight. Building strength and conditioning in the gym, using resistance machinery, just doesn’t compare!

What Should I Actually Be Doing To Prepare?

Like any event, the preparation that you should do is specific to your particular strengths, weaknesses and goals. Following a training program that may have been designed for somebody else is always going to a different proposition. That said, there are a few key fundamentals that we recommend to get the best from your race.

1. No matter what distance you are attempting you should have the endurance to cover the course. While we don’t necessarily basing the majority of your training on long, slow distance training you should have the ability to run/jog between the obstacles. Those that aren’t gifted runners may need to include some running sessions to achieve this.

Try this workout:

Find a hill 30-60 metres high. Throw your sandbag over your shoulders and sprint up the hill as fast as you can. Drive your arms to help generate the power you’ll need to get to the top. Jog back to the start point, rest as needed and repeat for 5-10 sprints in total.

Start a stopwatch at the start of the session and stop it once you’ve finished all of your sprints (include rest time in this total). Next time you repeat the session aim to improve your time or carry more weight in your sandbag.

2. You’ll need strength to overcome many of the obstacles, especially for those like the Wall Climb, Traversal Wall and the Rope Climb. Specifically, these obstacles require a good strength-to-weight ratio. You may well be incredibly strong, but if you are also incredibly heavy then these types of obstacles may cause problems for you.

To improve your strength-to-weight ratio we recommend that you also include a variety of bodyweight exercises in your fitness program. These don’t necessarily need to be performed in huge volumes but certain key skills will definitely be an advantage. The following are good minimum bodyweight benchmarks to attain:

• 50 Squats
• 30 Burpees
• 30 Push Ups
• 15 Dips
• 10 Pull Ups (or 20 body rows)
• 1 Rope Climb
• 1 Muscle Up (bar)

The more challenging movements, like the Muscle Up, will typically call for a lower volume, higher quality approach to your training (e.g. performing one at a time, with long rest periods). If they are new to you then we also recommend seeking some coaching to learn proper technique.

Try this workout:

20 Squats
15 Burpees
5 Pull Ups
15 Push Ups
1 Rope Climb

Repeat for a total of 3-5 rounds, with rest as needed. Again, we recommend timing your session so that you have a target to aim for the next time you repeat it.

For those that have achieved the benchmarks above or want an additional challenge you can try this more advanced sandbag training session. Men should start with a 50lb sandbag, women can start with 35lbs. As you build strength aim to add more weight and improve your overall time for the workout.

10 Sandbag Back Squats
10 Sandbag High Pulls
10 Sandbag Cleans
10 Sandbag Push Presses

Repeat for a total of 3 rounds, with rest as needed.

3. Your ability to move well over obstacles is going to be largely reliant on your agility. Many of the obstacles, such as the Barbed Wire Crawl or the Log Jump, require participants to jump, hop and crawl. You can easily replicate these demands in your own training program with a little forethought.

Specificity is key, so make sure you take some time to practice obstacles. It’s unlikely that you’ll have access to an obstacle course before race day but there’s nothing to stop you being creative. Is there a local park with climbing frames you can climb or benches you can clamber over? Perhaps you live near woodland where you’ll be able to jump over logs and run between trees and low hanging branches.

Try this workout:

1 Sandbag Shoulder Get Up (each side)
10 Sandbag Floor Presses
50m Bear Crawl (25m there and back to your sandbag)
10 Sandbag Overhead Walking Lunges

Repeat for a total of 3 rounds, with rest as needed.


Properly programmed, the sandbag can be a fantastic training tool for helping you to develop the strength and conditioning you’ll need to not only make it through, but also perform well in the Spartan Race. When it comes to sports/event performance the key is to stay focused on specificity, so be sure not to devote too much of your training time to purely fitness based improvements. Your fitness training program should be designed to aid performance.

As always, we’d love to hear how you’ve prepared for the Spartan Race in the comments below. – Matthew Palfrey

To purchase sandbag training gear head over to

10 Reasons To Add Sandbag Training Into Your Fitness Program Now

As we’re getting into the New Year you may be starting a new training program, or revamping an old one, and you’ll no doubt be looking for ways to maximise your training efforts and results. If you haven’t yet given sandbag training a try or you want to learn some more ways to utilize it then read on…

Reason 1

It’s free weight training and we all need to include that in our training programs. Free weight training builds muscle, improves bone density, speeds up your metabolism and can greatly improve sports performance – plus a whole host of other benefits.

Reason 2

You can integrate sandbag training into your fitness routine without having to attend a facility or with any other specialised equipment or environment. People use their Brute Force Sandbags in garages, spare bedrooms, basements, on fields, in the desert, on boats and everywhere in between. If you want an exercise option that you can do literally anywhere then sandbag training is for you.

Reason 3

Sandbag training is an easily adjustable form of resistance training. It’s easy to add weight to your sandbag when you need to progress, and it’s easy to remove weight if you need to take your sandbag with you when you travel. There are very few other methods of free weight training that are that practical for long distance travel.

Reason 4

The sand in your sandbag is affordable or, in some cases, free. When you need to add more weight it’ll cost you a few dollars, as opposed to hundreds of dollars for other options like weight plates and kettlebells.

Reason 5

You can perform a whole range of exercises with a Brute Force Sandbag that simply aren’t possible with many other free weights. The sandbag lends itself perfectly to loaded runs, carries, drags and throws. Because it moulds itself to your body it also makes certain exercises more comfortable.

Reason 6

Odd object training, and that includes sandbags, is fantastic for building strength that you can use in daily life. A gym program that is based around aesthetic improvements (looking better) is all well and good. But what if you have goals that include being able to lift, carry, drag and throw heavy objects with ease? And what if those objects, such as other people or furniture, don’t conform to the normal parameters of many commercial gym tools like dumbbells and barbells? Then you need to include sandbag training in your fitness program.

Reason 7

The sandbag is a dynamic, constantly shifting load that can be used to replicate a human body, especially if you have one of our Heavy Hitter sandbags. If your sport or profession requires the ability to lift or control another person (e.g. firefighter, first responder or football player) then the sandbag is a great training tool for specific drills and exercises in a safe environment.

Reason 8

All those exercises that you know you need to be doing (squats, deadliest, pushes and pulls) can all be done with your sandbag. If you don’t have access to a range of training tools then you can follow a whole-body training program with nothing but a Brute Force Sandbag.

Reason 9

A strong grip is vital for sandbag training as you’ll need to fight hard to control each lift and handle the bag. If you’re looking to develop your grip strength then sandbag training can help – without the need to include a host of other additional exercises.

Reason 10

What, 9 great reasons to try sandbag training aren’t enough for you? What are you waiting for?!

As always, we’d love to hear your stories about how you’re using your Brute Force Sandbag – we’ve even been given some great ideas by our community that are now staples in our training programs. Just add your ideas to the comments below.

Brute Force Sandbags Highlights

Sandbag Strength Program

Sandbag Strength Program

Posted by Keith on 1/3/2013 to Sandbag Training Workouts
Strength - a vital component for all athletes and those that want to improve their fitness, functional movement and quality of life. More than ever before, strength is being heralded as a key component of fitness and perhaps the most important of all. Traditionally a staple of male training programs we’re also seeing many more females involved in strength training on a recreational and professional level. But how do you improve strength? And how can sandbag training help?
One of the most over-thought aspects of modern fitness, strength is actually a pretty simple concept. Lift, rest and repeat with a little more weight. It really can be that straightforward. There are many other factors involved here but, in essence, most could see amazing results from following that standard, linear progressive approach to strength training.
Sandbag training can be used effectively for developing strength as it shares many characteristics similar to other forms of free weight resistance training. While it might be more challenging to lift a comparable weight in a sandbag to a barbell, that is not to say that it won’t work in the same way. Good quality programming that includes a range of compound lifts (multi joint, multi muscle), adequate rest and progressively adding weight to your sandbag will be the keys to making a sandbag training strength program work for you.  There are also a number of unique features that sandbag training offers that could make it the perfect strength training choice for you.
Sandbag Training For Strength
#1 Sandbag Training Is More Affordable
A Brute Force Sandbag is a considerably more affordable option than other forms of free weight. Plus, increasing the weight of your sandbag (which you’ll need to do as you get stronger) requires that you purchase more sand – an incredibly cheap form of weight, and in many cases free. With our Heavy Hitter sandbag you can have a 300lb free weight for a fraction of the cost of purchasing the same weight in kettlebells, barbells and plates or dumbbells.
#2 You Can Create More ‘Usable’ Strength
Most people know that they need to improve their strength but have you ever really asked yourself “Why do I need to improve my strength?”. If you want to be able to improve strength for your sports (particularly for things like Football, Rugby, MMA, Wrestling and Judo) then sandbag training has a great carryover. Likewise, anyone wishing to be able to do more in daily life (like lifting and moving boxes or furniture) can get great results from sandbag training.
The old advice of “you get better at what you do” holds true with sandbag training. Improving your ability to operate a machine in the gym may not have a great impact on your usable strength, improving your ability to lift a real-world awkward object like the sandbag will.
#3 Sandbag Training Forces You To Get Better At Everything
Are you guilty of neglecting certain lifts?
Do you rarely pay attention to things like grip strength?
Do you struggle to organise the programming of your strength sessions?
These are all common problems in strength training. We routinely see people who don’t deadlift, don’t squat or do too much pressing. The great thing about sandbag training, some would call it organic, is that it’s actually pretty tough to make these mistakes.
Even if we look at the example of the back squat we can see a few key points that illustrate this. In order to back squat the sandbag you’ll first need to clean the sandbag up to chest height before pressing it overhead and then lowering it across the shoulders. This takes tremendous strength, power and grip – all before you’ve even started the main lift. While some see this as a disadvantage I actually see the exact opposite. It forces you to create the ability to handle this awkward object in a range of different ways and positions.
Creating Your Sandbag Strength Program
There is no need to re-create the wheel here. A good quality strength training program will normally contain:
Back squats
Overhead presses
Bench presses/floor presses
There should be a focus on lifting heavy so that means lower reps (1-5) and higher rest periods (3 or more minutes). While most strength training programs will traditionally utilise the barbell, there is absolutely no reason that you cannot substitute it for the sandbag. The Starting Strength program or Wendler 5/3/1 are both excellent programs with a history of producing great results. The simplest way to approach a strength training program is to pick 1 or 2 lifts per session, work hard and then increase the weight for each subsequent workout. You should not underestimate the power of taking this approach.
If you’ve been putting off starting your strength training program due to lack of access to the traditional tools or a gym then you should get started with a sandbag strength training program – it might just be the catalyst you need to start seeing great results.
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