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Best Way to Build Real World Muscle with Ultimate Sandbag Workouts

sandbag exercises

Pretty funny to admit, hearing from the guy that is know for Ultimate Sandbag workouts. I don’t think I told many people this…when I was a teenager I REALLY wanted to be a bodybuilder. 

I was never the fastest, could jump the highest, or really do anything all that terrific as an athlete. When I discovered lifting weights when I was 14 I found something I could do well and gave me an edge in sports. However, like many kids, I just wanted more and more. Truth be told I never expected to have Ultimate Sandbag workouts become such a big part! 

Yes, I had pictures of bodybuilders from magazines like “FLEX” on my wall and thinking, “man, imagine what type of athlete I could be if I could look like THAT!” Kinda embarrassing to admit now, but that early inspiration kept me looking more and more into what fitness actually meant. 

Once I gained the realization that only heavy drug use would allow me to look like these giants, I really put my energy into learning as much as I could about more real world strength ideas. Shockingly, eventually this would lead me back to bodybuilding. Not what you may think though, early bodybuilding had more in common with modern functional fitness than we may think. 

Overhead pressing, all types of squats, presses, and bodyweight movements made up the impressive physiques of these athletes. Unlike our more modern day bodybuilders though, they had athleticism, flexibility, and many fitness qualities that we would appreciate today. 


I tell you this because I see so many articles by coaches trying to find excuses to fit in more modern bodybuilding techniques and making functional training sound like something that is good for you, but won’t build the body you want. 

Largely this tells me that people don’t really understand what functional training really is and how it can be used for a host of regular fitness goals. Not only be used, but may be BETTER than what I was learning from all the Weider principles back in the day!

Use More Muscles!

There are really a few things that getting more muscle requires. That is longer time under tension and exercises that stimulate a lot of muscles. Sure, isolating can give you that burn, but it is a really inefficient way of building muscle. If you don’t believe me check out the upper body of gymnasts, how many triceps pushdowns and biceps curls do they do? 


If we look back into history, we can find some really good ideas that we can update for today’s training. For one is making use of the old clean and press. One of the inspirations for our DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training Clean and Press Test, was the fact that this use to be a staple of old time training. 

Dumbbells were often used because metal was expensive and barbells weren’t all that common. What many lifters had to use out of necessity we can appreciate now more for actually maybe being better! The use of dumbbells make the lift more unstable and therefore use more muscles in the shoulders and core to not only lift, but stabilize the body. 


You can imagine if the unstable nature of dumbbells are good how using the Ultimate Sandbag takes the exercise to another level. Not only do we hit so many muscles at one time, but we make the body healthier too. Using more stabilizers makes sure we build the body in balance not sacrificing the “mirror muscles” for our health and longevity. Additionally, an often overlooked benefit of the Ultimate Sandbag Clean and Press is the safety of the shoulder. 

The way we teach the Clean and Press in DVRT allows a neutral hand placement that takes more bad stress off of the shoulders. So many people that hurt during many other types of presses actually feel GOOD when they press in this manner. 


The simple beauty of this exercise is that hit heads everything from head to toe. We gain power, strength, stability all at once. There have been times when I have been short on workout time that I focused on Clean and Presses and maybe one other exercise. Funny enough I never thought my workouts got sacrificed. 

If you don’t believe me you can listen to the words of one of the men greatly inspired by the world of classic strength, Brooks Kubik. Mr. Kubik was one of the first modern lifters to really advocate the use of old time techniques, especially sandbag clean and presses. Why? As Mr. Kubik stated, “You feel sore as you do because the bags (sandbags) worked your body in ways you could not approach with a barbell alone. You got into the muscle areas you normally don’t work. You worked the “heck” out of the stabilizers.” (Kubik, p. 115)

Squat, Squat, Squat

So, if you think all strength tools are the same set out a goal. If you are a guy starting out use a 60 pound Strength Ultimate Sandbag (more advanced can go for a 80 pound Burly), ladies grab a 30 pound Force or 40 pound Strength Ultimate Sandbag. Put a timer out and see how long it takes you to knock out 50 repetitions. Break them up however you want, but see how your body feels after!

A great story is a few years ago a coach training for our DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training certification had his wife very worried! She thought he might be on steroids, but he told her, “nope, just training for my Clean and Press Test!” Simple isn’t the same as easy, so be ready! These Ultimate Sandbag workouts are no joke!

Just about any lifter will tell you to squat, that isn’t anything new, or is it?! Squatting as we know it is a rather recent innovation. It wasn’t until the development of the squat rack around the 1930’s that we began to see the crazy squatting we see today. In fact, chances are lifters used a variety of ways to train their lower body other than heavy squatting because of the lack of heavy barbells and squat racks. 


The reality is that as much as people like to talk about big squats being around forever, they really haven’t. Much more possible is that if people did squat big weights they held the weight in front of them. It would have been much more reasonable than trying to get a heavy weight on their back. 

Nostalgia or not, that does make me appreciate the Front Load Squat in our Ultimate Sandbag workouts so much more. It is one of the most humbling ways to squat because it really is a test of your whole body. I’ve seen big squat lifters struggle to do the Front Load Squat because it just won’t let any part of your body cheat! 

sandbag workouts

A great way to build functional strength, flexibility, and torch your whole body in your Ultimate Sandbag workouts, the Front Load Squat is a “go to” almost every time! Try this your next workout, guys grab a 100 or 120 pound Burly Ultimate Sandbag, ladies grab a 60 pound Strength or 80 pound Burly. Do this ladder 12-10-8-6-4-2. Do one set of reps (like 12) then allow yourself 12 deep breathes, then follow down the ladder matching breathes with reps. If you are strong enough and aren’t throwing up a lung during these Ultimate Sandbag workouts, try two rounds!


I never heard of the get-up until I took my kettlebell certification back in 2003. I instantly fell in love with the drill and would work up to performing reps with a 115 pound dumbbell (such kettlebells weren’t around at the time). One of the big reasons that I fell in love with the get-up was that it worked on some of my weaknesses.

One of the big ones was REAL core strength! That meant making sure not cheating in the get-up like letting my knee cave in, or one leg popping off of the ground. As I paid attention to the details I found my core strength carried over to so many different exercises.  Surprisingly, it was also a key in examining my hip mobility as well. 

If I slacked on working on keeping myself flexible it showed up in my get-ups. Not too surprisingly, if I neglected my get-ups, my other lifts started to feel tighter and tighter! So, doing get-ups was very important. 

Things really changed as I started implementing our Ultimate Sandbag Leg Threading and Get-ups. While most people think it might be the same thing, it is a WHOLE different ball game! Especially if you pay attention to the details like in this video and how we build these Ultimate Sandbag workouts

Why is the get-up in a muscle building arena? Well, it fits into our idea that we want to hit a lot of muscles, longer time under tension, and I’ll add, that it fits the old time idea of flexibility with strength! 

While you might think you don’t get the shoulder work that you would in an overhead get-up, don’t be fooled! Check out how much work that downward arm receives and see how your overhead get-ups improve by working on these drills. 

Guys, grab a 60 pound Strength or 80 pound Burly, ladies a 30 pound Power or 40 pound Strength will work well. Try this little workout putting everything together….

Two Get-ups Right

Five Clean and Press

Two Get-ups Left

Ten Front Loaded Squats

Repeat this work for as many rounds as possible in 25 minutes. You will begin to realize that real world strength does mean looking better as much as it does mean training smarter! These Ultimate Sandbag workouts are a great measure of true functional fitness. 

Don’t take my word for it, listen to old time strength expert, John Wood….
“My thoughts have always been that sandbag training offers many more possibilities than most people give it credit for though. Every exercise you can think of is different when performed with a sandbag. As you touch on, there can be much more to it than simply mimicking the basic movements; a sandbag can provide a style of training that no barbell or dumbbell could ever match. One reason for this is the awkwardness of the sandbag itself. A chunk of iron is dense and concentrated – thus easier to maintain its center of gravity as it is moved through space. 

A sandbag, on the other hand, moves every which way causing you to have to make constant adjustments even on a rep-by-rep basis. I have commented many times on just how “heavy” a 15-25-pound sandbag can feel for some movements. Not to mention the sequence/circuit training idea that you have lends itself more effectively to a sandbag than any other type of equipment.”

Love these ideas? Check out our DVRT Ultimate Sandbag workouts HERE