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The Perfect Sandbag Clean: The perfect exercise for training strength, power, and stamina at home

WHAT IS A SANDBAG CLEAN?

The sandbag clean is an adaption of the Olympic lifting movement – the clean – to be done with a sandbag that consists of pulling a weight from the ground, with power and speed, transitioning into a semi-squatted position to catch the rising weight, and completing by standing with the weight resting at shoulder height.

The sandbag movement, and the clean movement in general, is a valuable exercise as it trains functional strength and practical power in a way that is used daily in active lifestyles and a variety of sports.

Perfect Sandbag Clean Tutorial
The perfect sandbag clean

BENEFITS OF DOING SANDBAG CLEANS AND SANDBAG POWER CLEANS

The Benefits of training the clean movement include the following:

  • Training for power (a combination of strength and speed) in the legs and hips, in the pulling movement of the shoulders and traps.
  • Conditioning a strong core (abs and lower back) and spinal erectors for injury resistance and a generally higher quality of life,

The benefits of training sandbag cleans, over barbell cleans, include the following:

  • Cheap: Sandbags are relatively inexpensive compared to barbells and dumbbells
  • Allows the freedom to workout anywhere: Simply empty your sandbag and refill in your new training location
  • Versatility – Recreates all barbell, Kettlebell, and dumbbells movements + adds resistance to calisthenics with a single piece of fitness equipment

HOW DO YOU DO SANDBAG CLEANS?

1. Assume the start position: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, set up in the bottom of a deadlift with shins vertical, knees bent and glutes back, maintaining the natural curve in the spine and engaged core, grab the bar with an overhand grip and arms fully straight

2. Perform a powerful deadlift by driving through the heel and simultaneously pulling with the arms in the same motion as an upright row/high pull pulling with high elbows

3. “Dip”, bending the knees and the hips with the motion of a proper squat and dropping the elbows under the SANDbag to catch the bag in a front racked position

4. “Drive” continuing a front racked sandbag squat to full hip extension and completion of the movement

5. Reverse the movement to drop the bag in a controlled manner and repeat

Note: In the traditional clean (squat clean), aim to catch the clean at the bottom or near the bottom of a squat

Sandbag Clean
The perfect sandbag clean, detailed step by step

MUSCLES WORKED IN THE SANDBAG CLEAN

  • Legs (quads, glutes, and hamstrings)
  • Shoulders
  • Traps (upper back)

Difficulty: Medium

HOW DO YOU POWER CLEAN SANDBAGS?

The “Sandbag Power Clean” is performed similarly to the sandbag clean (sandbag squat clean) except the sandbag is pulled with more power/speed and as a result caught in a higher position eliminating the need to catch the sandbag at the bottom of a squat

1. Assume the start position: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, set up in the bottom of a deadlift with shins vertical, knees bent and glutes back, maintaining the natural curve in the spine and engaged core, grab the bar with an overhand grip and arms fully straight

2. Perform a powerful deadlift by driving through the heel and simultaneously pulling with the arms in the same motion as an upright row/high pull pulling with high elbows

3. “Dip”, bending the knees and the hips with the motion of a proper squat and dropping the elbows under the bag to catch the bag in a front racked position

4. “Drive” continuing a front racked sandbag squat to full hip extension and completion of the movement

5. Reverse the movement to drop the bag in a controlled manner and repeat

Note: In the sandbag power clean, there is a much more powerful pull bringing the weight higher, as we aim to catch the weight relatively close to the front rack position

SANDBAG POWER CLEAN MUSCLES WORKED

  • Legs (qauads, glutes, and hamstrings)
  • Shoulders
  • Traps (upper back)

Difficulty: Medium

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE SANDBAG CLEAN AND THE SANDBAG POWER CLEAN

The sandbag clean requires more hip mobility and core strength to execute properly and safely because the sandbag weight is caught in a lower and potentially more vulnerable position than the receiving position of the sandbag power clean.

As long as you 1) start with a light enough weight and 2) maintain an engaged core and supported neutral spine and 3) continually develop hip mobility and warm up properly before the movements, the standard sandbag squat clean carries more mobility and more functional strength gains.

However, the power clean offers a lower risk way of developing pulling Olympic lifting style functional strength and focus on developing power and speed without being hindered by mobility issues

SANDBAG CLEAN WORKOUT

This quick, sandbag clean centric workout delivers a full-body high-intensity interval training workout that develops strength, power, and stamina, with only a sandbag and a pullup bar

Perform 7 Rounds of the following:

  • 10 Push Ups
  • 7 Sandbag Cleans
  • 7 Overhead Sandbag Presses
  • 5 Pull Ups

Rest 1 minute and repeat

TIPS FOR PERFECTING THE SANDBAG CLEAN SAFELY

  • Initially power the movement by driving through the heels, powered by the hips, and then pulling to combine the power of the hips with the power of the high pull
  • Pull and get your elbows high
  • Keep the weight moving straight up (vertically) and close to the body
  • Aim to catch the bag at the moment and position where it is weightless
  • Get a good sandbag with handles in the right places

SANDBAG CLEAN ALTERNATIVES AND VARIATIONS

Sandbag Clean and press (squat clean or power clean): Upon completion, in the front rack position, perform a strict overhead press**

Sandbag manmakers (Sandbag Burpees): Combine the clean into this full body exercise by starting with a push up, jumping your legs forward the bottom of a deadlift, and then performing a sandbag clean and press**

Sandbag clean and jerk: After front racking the clean, in the standing position, dip and push the sandbag overhead, and powerfully stand underneath the weight extended above**

You know how to Sandbag Clean…what next?

Learn the Sandbag Deadlift to add more exercises to your sandbag training arsenal

Consider checking out the GORUCK Sandbag, my favorite sandbag for training in the coming year to properly equip your home gym.

Next, check out these 31 sandbag workouts.

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