Getting in a good, functional workout without a gym, a workout that builds functional strength, stamina, and injury resistance, can be tough – if you’re aiming to workout at home or avoid the $250 per month fees of a Crossfit gym or high dollar gym. Fortunately, the time-tested, military preferred “sandbag training” accomplishes every goal you could imagine with a single tool – a tough sandbag with handles.
In this GORUCK sandbag review, I’ll share with you how a single sandbag can replace your Crossfit gym, your Olympic bar, and a slew of kettlebells for helping you build muscle, practical & functional strength, and stamina with HIIT resistance workouts at home.
But first, I’ll share my experience testing the GORUCK sandbags during two months of lockdown, working out at home with just a sandbag, gymnastics rings, and some DIY parallettes.
Note: This article contains affiliate links
THE GORUCK SANDBAG: TOUGH BUILD, VERSATILE & FUNCTIONAL DESIGN, ESSENTIALLY A CROSSFIT GYM IN A BAG
Sandbags with handles in general, like the GORUCK sandbags, are a great piece of home workout equipment thanks to how versatile they can be in use and the value you get (amount of function per dollar paid). With the cost of a single sandbag and a few filler bags, less than $150, and a little imagination, you will have the functionality of an entire gym. Thanks to handle placement on the best sandbags on the market with a single sandbag, you can do Crossfit workouts, Olympic lifts, kettlebell workouts, and general free weights training. Going further, the standard “outer sandbag plus filler bag” setup of the GORUCK sandbag allows you to quickly add or drop weight, tailoring your weight/resistance to any level of workout. I personally purchased the 120lbs sandbag but was able to scale it down light enough (~20lbs), so my girlfriend could do the same workout with the same sandbag.
The GORUCK sandbag, in particular, is my favorite on the market thus far.
Eight well-placed, though, and padded handles make it a versatile and usable piece of kit, easily recreating Olympic lifts, kettlebell workouts, free weight lifting/dumbbell movements, and nontraditional sandbag moves.
The GORUCK bag design is logical (more logical than other bags) and makes functional workouts easier, and the build is tough.
The log-like shape and handle placement allow it to be moved (cleaned, front pressed, overhead pressed) like an Olympic bar. The side handles allow the bag to be swung like a kettlebell. The small amount of give, from shifting sand allows for tosses, shoulder carries, and other carries like a medicine ball or padded weight.
The GORUCK Sandbag’s build – abrasion and tear-resistant 1000 denier Cordura nylon, nylon webbing, and heavily reinforced stitching (box-stitched corners and double stitched seams) – is so tough that dropping 120lbs repeatedly had zero damage on the bag over two months of near-daily training for ~45 minutes. Last, as long as you use a filler bag, the sandbags are covered by the SCARS lifetime guarantee.
In total, for a sandbag and filler bags, the price will be as low as 1 to 2 months of a gym membership or half the price of a month of Crossfit at ~$145 for a full sandbag setup. That gets a 60lb sandbag with a filler bag, and you can adjust it down to any weight you prefer. The GORUCK sandbags go all of the way up to 120lbs, which is more than enough for the average athlete.
One plus of sandbags is the shifting weight. Because the soft sand within the sandbag shifts slightly, whatever weight you’re lifting feels heavier as the sand shifts during lifts and works everything from your nose to your toes. On a solid, stable Olympic bar, I regularly deadlift 400lbs, and my other lifts are proportionally strong. In contrast, over the two months in lockdown, VERY rarely did I use the full 120lbs capacity of my sandbag as the shifting weight smoked the bigger muscles and tiny stabilizer muscles accordingly. Bottom line: sandbag weight feels heavier than your regular “iron” weight.
PROS | CONS OF THE GORUCK SANDBAG
Bag shape and handle placement allow versatile use – as an Olympic bar, kettlebell, and more.
You’ll likely need two sandbags for a complete kit – one big and one small. I recommend ~120lbs and ~40lbs or ~80lbs and 40lbs/20lbs.
Filler bag and design keep the bag stiff enough for powerlifts (cleans, presses, thrusters, etc.), yet forgiving enough for tosses and carries.
Build materials (1000D Cordura nylon + webbing) and stitching redundancy/strength are tougher than most bags on the market
The price for one kit is the price of a one-month gym membership
QUICK VERDICT ON THE GORUCK SANDBAG
If you’re interested in functional fitness and working out at home, you can’t beat the value, function, and efficiency of sandbag training. After an entire lockdown with months of training at home with a GORUCK sandbag, I highly recommend sandbag training and GORUCK sandbag.
The tough build, tough materials, and the GORUCK Scars guarantee to make the GORUCK sandbag a great option and a great value.
GORUCK SANDBAG REVIEW
Read on to discover more about my experience with the GORUCK Sandbag.
Or, visit GORUCK to see available sizes and colors before they sell out.
VALUE: Not cheap, but worth every dollar – 5/5
MATERIALS: The best and toughest you’ll find in any sandbag 5/5
CONSTRUCTION: Redundant stitching that stood up well in my abuse 5/5
DESIGN AND FUNCTION: Handle placement makes these a versatile tool 5/5
DURABILITY | RELIABILITY: No issues in months of hard use, and backed by the SCARS lifetime guarantee
DON’T FORGET YOUR GORUCK EARNED SERVICE DISCOUNT
Be sure to check out our list of GORUCK discounts and coupon codes to see if your earned service (veteran, LEO, firefighter, teacher, or student) qualifies you for a 15% discount, and how to get it.
FULL REVIEW OF THE GORUCK SANDBAG
WHY YOU NEED A SANDBAG + THE BENEFITS OF SANDBAG TRAINING
In short: you need a sandbag to replace your gym altogether and do resistance and HIIT training at home, in the park, or wherever you want.
For anyone that wants to build functional strength and practical fitness from the convenience of their own home, I highly recommend considering getting a sandbag and starting sandbag training.
The newest iteration of sandbags is essentially a tightly packed log of sand with thick, padded handles strategically placed on the top, sides, and end. The resulting tool is a weight that can be trained with using the same movements you might use on an Olympic, with a kettlebell, with dumbbells, and with medicine balls – allowing you to recreate an entire gym (at least the useful parts) with a single sandbag.
If you’re a treadmiller, just go for a run.
If you’re a rower, substitute rowing for sumo deadlift high pulls with the sandbag.
And the list goes on.
Beyond the “replacement exercises,” there is a slew of exercises you can only do with a sandbag – thanks to its relatively “soft” makeup. Shoulder carries, partner tosses, generally tossing, and use as a truck weight are a few of the long list of ways that sandbags deliver productive pain.
All for a price that costs less than 1 to 2 months at the gym.
Use any Crossfit WOD page, the GORUCK workout program, or sandbag program**, and you’re set.
The Bottom Line: Sandbags with handles make it possible to do functional resistance training or HIIT workouts at home or anywhere you want to.
THE QUICK BENEFITS OF SANDBAGS AND SANDBAG TRAINING
- Sandbags eliminate the need for a gym for anyone looking for a HIIT workout.
- Creates a versatile workout that mimics Olympic bar lifts and kettlebell training
- Do Crossfit at home
- The “shifting weight” of a sandbag creates odd lifts and a more functionally strong body
- Adjusting the weight is easy and far cheaper than adding more iron dumbbells.
Now on to the reason for this review – the GORUCK sandbag and my experience (trying) to abuse it
THE GORUCK SANDBAG IS THE TOUGHEST, MOST FUNCTIONAL BAG ON THE MARKET. I RECOMMEND IT FULLY, AND HERE’S WHY…
Though there are plenty of great sandbags** for sale on the market, I recommend GORUCK for three reasons.
- The construction quality and materials are rugged and have stood up to abuse and slamming in isolation with no signs of weakness. The stitching is redundant and 2x stronger than most other bags. 1000 denier abrasion and tear-resistant Cordura nylon on the outer and filler bags gives more than double the durability of other bags that don’t use high denier nylon or filler bags
- The GORUCK sandbag design (eight handle placement, zipper placement, etc.) has made this a more versatile piece of gear than I excepted. Other bags don’t have nearly the level of detail.
- The GORUCK SCARS lifetime guarantee encourages you to be abusive.
We’ll go over why the GORUCK sandbag is a great pick – materials, construction, design, and durability – but first, I’ll share my firsthand experience sandbag training with the GORUCK sandbag.
MY EXPERIENCE USING THE GORUCK SANDBAG DURING ISOLATION: EASILY REPLACED MY CROSSFIT GYM
For me, sandbag training is nothing new. For my first few years in the Marine Corps, sandbag runs – jogging for miles while passing a 40lb duct-taped ball of sand between among a four-person team – and sandbag “pt” (physical training) were the standard at least once a week. These sandbag sessions were loathed for their intensity but still respected for their ability to train stamina as well as functional strength and those tiny muscles we weren’t even aware of. No one could deny the effectiveness of “sandbag PT.”
Lifting a duct-taped ball of dirt from floor to overhead, throwing it at a partner, having it thrown back to you, and slamming it on the ground repeatedly will build the functional, practical, injury resistant kind of strength that is hard to build in gyms with a Smith press and biceps curls.
Fast forward quite a few years to “the new normal,” and I’ve returned to old habits – using balls of sand to build an adventure-ready body.
Except for this time around, I’ve upgraded from “ruck pills” (a duct-taped ball of dirt) to super functional and tough Cordura nylon sandbags with handles – the GORUCK sandbag. The “new” sandbag is an infinitely more versatile piece of gear that allows me to train for functional strength and stamina at home with a single piece of gear (plus my gymnastics rings).
I’m a Crossfit Level 1 trainer, calisthenics enthusiast, and lately been obsessed with combing gymnastics and kettlebells. Unfortunately, while I was at my peak of curiosity and fitness, a lockdown hit in my hometown.
Lucky for me, my 120lbs GORUCK sandbag kit had just arrived in time to isolate.
Breaking in my GORUCK sandbag started by continuing my regimen of a Crossfit WOD + training a calisthenics skill (e.g., ring muscle upstairs, planche, handstand, etc.). Not having an Olympic bar at home didn’t stop me.
Thanks to the GORUCK sandbag’s long shape, firm structure, and well-placed handles, I was able to recreate the core lifts. With just the sandbag, I was able to do light deadlifts, cleans, presses, front squats, back squats, rows, sumo deadlift high pulls, and high pulls. Also, because sand constantly shifts as you move, as a slight bit of instability, that 120lbs sandbag felt MUCH heavier than the scale showed, as it tested my form and those stabilizer muscles. Not once did I feel like I needed a heavier bag for any of my workouts.
For deadlifts, I switched to single-leg deadlifts with the sandbag for extra resistance. For squats, I shifted to pistols and weight shrimp squats (both single leg). And with that, I was maxed out for my workouts, building muscle with a single bag.
Pair this sandbag with either a gymnastics rings set or a door pull-up bar and a pair of cheap parallettes from Amazon or some DIY parallettes out of PVC, and you have a well-rounded home gym. I’ll share more about the two pieces of equipment I recommend for a complete home exercise system, but for now, just keep those in mind.
THE BOTTOM LINE FROM MY EXPERIENCE
With a little imagination, there are virtually no weight lifting or kettlebell exercises that you can’t recreate using a good sandbag with handles, and the GORUCK sandbag’s materials, tough build, and design add up to a versatile bag that’s tough enough to be “appropriately abused” and the best bag on the market right now.
CATEGORY BY CATEGORY REVIEW OF THE GORUCK SANDBAG
- Materials & Construction of the GORUCK Sandbag
- Design & Function
- Durability + Scars Guarantee
- Size, Specs, and Measurements
MATERIALS & CONSTRUCTION OF THE GORUCK SANDBAG
- 1000D Cordura Nylon Outer: Abrasion and tear resistance, read for abuse.
- 1000D Cordura Nylon Inner Layer with heavy-duty velcro on filler bags: The filler bags effectively create a second layer of Cordura nylon holding this monster together. This bag hasn’t leaked a grain of sand or ever come loose in months of use
- Heavy-duty stitching EVERYWHERE: After thousands of swings, cleans, and presses, and dropping the bag carelessly after nearly every set, every stitch is still in place. Double-stitched seams and box stitched handles more than any other bag manufacturer goes for.
- Big YKK zippers never came undone and still worked after being dragged through beach sand. Large zippers withstand more stress and are less likely to malfunction due to sand and grime.
- Padded handles wrapped in tough Cordura Nylon and nylon webbing reinforcement tested my grip but stayed relatively comfortable through 500 sandbag swings a day.
GORUCK SANDBAG DESIGN & FUNCTION
From a functional standpoint, the GORUCK Sandbag handle placement is one of the best design elements on the bag. Three separate sets of handles (eight in total) allow you to vary how you use the bag – in place of Olympic bars, kettlebells, and dumbbells.
The sandbags’ two end handles allow you to drag the bag or use the bag much as you would a kettlebell. Kettlebell overhead presses, high pulls, and kettlebell front squats are possible thanks to this design.
HORIZONTAL SIDE HANDLES
The long horizontal handle that runs the length of the bag is my favorite part. This handle can be grabbed at any point with two hands and allows you to move the sandbag just as you would an Olympic bar.
This horizontal handle, heavily padded and stitched, is what sets this bag apart from others.
Cleans, presses, snatches, front squats, back squats (with easy setup), deadliest, high pulls, rows, thrusters, and more are all possible to do with the GORUCK sandbag because of this handle.
TWO SETS OF VERTICAL SIDE HANDLES
The vertical side handles open many more movements if you’re creative.
Grabbing one handle on each side sets you up for kettlebell swings.
Grabbing one each handle on the side sets you up for the sumo deadlift high pull – an excellent alternative to the rowing machine.
BOX STITCHED REINFORCED HANDLES, DOUBLE PASS STITCHING
Having stitched tens of pieces of load-bearing climbing gear and backpacks, I know the box stitches are an excellent touch that adds years of life to the stitching on these handles before you’ll have to worry about it.
The double stitching means every seam is stitched as tightly as possible; THEN, the sewing machine does a second pass to double up on reinforcement. At the moment, the GORUCK Sandbag has heavier duty stitching than any other bag on the market.
On this bag, there are only two things that can go wrong- tears/holes in the cloth and stitching. With this approach, you can rest assured stitching won’t go out first.
SEPARATE FILLER BAGS: DOUBLE VELCRO’ED, HEAVILY STITCHED, AND ALLOW FOR QUICK WEIGHT ADJUSTMENT
Instead of letting you fill the bag with sand (and destroy the zippers), the GORUCK team came up with a “filler bag + sandbag approach.”
Filler bags are nylon bags that come cut to fill with 20lbs, 40lbs, or 60lbs of sand. These tough bags close with two heavy-duty layers of velcro – on the inside and outside. These bags are then loaded into the sandbag so you can get the work.
I love the filler bags approach because
1. It allows you to quickly adjust the way accurately if you have multiple filler bags
2. It keeps the sand contained in one spot in the bag when you’re underloaded
DURABILITY + SCARS GUARANTEE
Though I’ve only been abusing (and using) this sandbag a few months in total, I can already tell it’s insanely durable. First, not even a single stitch has loosened, Velcro sections don’t come unstuck, or zipper come undone. Second, if anything does go wrong, the SCARS GUARANTEE has me covered for life.
As long as you use the filler bags (instead of putting sand directly in the sandbag), don’t drag the sandbag on concrete, and don’t use the sandbag as a slam bag, GORUCK has you covered with the SCARS lifetime guarantee. This means they’ll repair or replace the bag if it ever breaks.
At $145 for a 60lbs sandbag, or $165 for a 120lbs sandbag that allows you to replace half your gym with a home workout. Add the lifetime guarantee on the bag and the fact that this is arguably THE best sandbag on the market (for material, stitching, and handle placement), and the value for quality is pretty good.
Pair your preferred sandbags with gymnastics rings set or a door pull-up bar and a pair of cheap parallettes from Amazon or some DIY parallettes out of PVC, and you have a well-rounded home gym for about $30 and much cheaper than months of gym membership, and you have a “full” home gym for well rounded upper body and lower body resistance training kit.
I think that proposition in total is an EXCELLENT value.
SIZE, SPECS, AND MEASUREMENTS
- 20lb sandbag 7″ Diameter x 20″ Length $85
- 40lb sandbag 9.25″ Diameter x 24″ Length $135
- 60lb sandbag 9.25″ Diameter x 28″ Length $145
- 80lb sandbag 10.25″ Diameter x 32″ Length $115 (on sale)
- 120lb sandbag 10.5″ Diameter x 36″ Length $115 (on sale)
- The average 45lbs/22kg plate is 17″ Diameter
- The average 45lbs/22kg kettlebell is 15.”
THE GORUCK SANDBAG IN ACTION
HOW TO FILL AND PREP THE GORUCK SANDBAG
Setting Up the GORUCK Sandbag
1. Open up the filler bag
2. Fill with sand
3. Closer the inner Velcro layer and outer Velcro layer
4. Load the filler bag into the sandbag
5. Zip up the sandbag
And you’re ready to go!
Though some people have used pea gravel as filler, I prefer and recommend sand. Sand will have less of a hard “hit” or feel during tosses or shoulder carries.
MY FAVORITE SANDBAG WORKOUTS & WORKOUT SOURCES
If you’re new to sandbag training, you have a few options.
1. Sign up for GORUCK’s sandbag training subscription
2. Check out out this free list of 31 Sandbag workouts
3. Do Crossfit with the sandbag for great HIIT workouts. I recommend Crossfit.com daily workout for starters, then upgrade to the Crossfit Virtuosity daily WOD posted on their Instagram account. Both resources are free
TIP: ADD A PULLUP BAR AND PARALLETTES FOR A BALANCED “PUSH+PULL” FITNESS REGIMEN
Sandbag workouts are great for working the resisted movements of pulling from ground to shoulders and pressing from shoulders to overhead, in addition to leg movements. However, any good fitness plan needs to maintain the balance of push/pull in training. To balance this, you’ll need to work movements pushing towards the ground (dips) and pulling overhead (pull-ups).
Once you’ve grabbed your GORUCK sandbag, to train the resisted pulling movement from overhead to chest (pull-ups) and the pressing movement from chest to ground (dips) as well as horizontal pushing and pulling movements, I only had to add two more tools – gymnastics rings (or a pull up bar) and parallettes I made of PVC pipe. Those extra couple pieces added pull-ups, dips, muscle-ups, levers.
I recommend rounding out your home gym with a set of gymnastics rings or parallettes. These will allow you to do those dips and pull-ups and continue balanced strength and muscle development.
Pairing the bag with my pull-up bar and gymnastics rings, I was able to continue my Crossfit HIIT workouts with no gym, at home, and with just those few pieces of kit.
YOU HAVE A SOLID SANDBAG WITH HANDLES. WHAT NEXT?
Get after it and put in the work with these great resources. Start with our list of 31 Great Sandbag Workouts followed by this 10 minute shoulder mobility routine to keep things functional and loose while you pack on that muscle.
Last, check out all of our home and travel Crossfit and kettlebell workouts in the ABA travel fitness section.