Getting in a great functional strength workout without traditional weights may seem tough, however, sandbag training and the latest sandbag designs makes it possible to do any Olympic lifts, power lifts, and Crossfit exercises at home, on the beach, in the park, or anywhere — and the sandbag deadlift is one of many functional strength and muscle building exercises that are possible with a solid sandbag with handles.
In this article, we’ll review step by step how to do a proper, safe sandbag deadlift, the benefits of the lift, and the variations you need to know for a well-rounded workout.
What is the sandbag deadlift
The sandbag deadlift is a weightlifting exercise in which the lifter picks up a sandbag (or other weight) from the ground and lifts it to a standing position. The movement ends with the weight handles at mid-thigh with arms fully extended and hanging and the hips fully extended with legs straight and glutes fully contracted.
The sandbag deadlift is an adaption of the power lift known as the deadlift and is a valuable tool to train functional strength in the legs (quads, hamstrings), glutes, and core (abdominals and lower back).
How to do the sandbag deadlift (Steps)
1. Assume the start position: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, setup 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. Arms stay straight throughout the movement
2. Perform the deadlift by driving through heel and contracting the glutes to extend the hips until the legs are straight
3. Reverse the movement to lower 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
Muscles Worked in the Sandbag Deadlift
- Legs (quads, glutes, and hamstrings)
- Traps (upper back)
Sandbag Deadlift Benefits
The Benefits of sandbag training the deadlift movement include the following:
- Protects the lower back and by building lower back strength and muscular balance
- Relieves lower back pain by cultivating strength and mobility in the posterior chain and lower back
- Improves hip mobility by training strength and full range of motion in the hips
- Supports healthy levels of training related hormones
- Trains hip extensors (glutes and hamstrings) better than squats
- Improves bone density
- Trains core strength (abdominals and lower back) in a balance, healthy, functional way
- Boosts the metabolism and calorie burning
- Develops grip strength
- Builds whole body strength, legs, core strength, and shoulders
Sandbag Deadlift vs. Barbell Deadlift
Training with sandbags has countless benefits over training with barbells, kettlebells, and traditional weights, but here are the main benefits of the sandbag deadlift vs. barbell deadlift and why I prefer sandbags in my home and travel gym:
- Sandbags are cheaper: Sandbags are relatively inexpensive compared to barbells and dumbbells
- Sandbags deliver the freedom to workout anywhere: Simply empty your sandbag and refill in your new training location
- Sandbags deliver movement and training versatility: Recreates all barbell, kettlebell, and dumbbells movements and add/reduce weight and resistance simple by adding or removing sand
Example Sandbag 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
- 10 Sandbag Deadlifts
- 7 Sandbag Hang Cleans
- 7 Overhead Sandbag Presses
- 5 Pull Ups
Rest 1 minute and repeat
TIPS AND POINTS TO KEEP IN MIND FOR A SAFE AND EFFECTIVE SANDBAG DEADLIFT
- Feet shoulder-width apart
- Feet point out 0 to 15 degrees with knees out pressed out, tracking over the knee
- Knees tracking over the feet and pushing out – never collapsing in
- Arms hanging like straps
- Neutral spine with engaged core (abs and lower back)
- Ensure the bag travels in a straight line vertically, staying close to your body
- Fully extend the hips (legs fully straightened, glutes fully contracted) at the end of each repetition
- Shoulders back and down
- But back with chest up in the bottom position
- Exhale on the way up
- Don’t rush progressing by increasing weight, increase time under tension, repetitions, and mobility first
Sandbag Deadlift Variations
Single leg sandbag deadlift
The single-leg sandbag deadlift has two benefits, increasing the difficulty of the sandbag deadlift by 1) allowing us to train with double the resistance and 2) using balancing to increase the difficulty by stressing support muscles
To do the single leg sandbag deadlift, set up and perform the movement the same way as the sandbag deadlift except keep one foot off the ground and leg bent at the knee.
Sumo Deadlift High Pull
The sandbag sumo deadlift high pull builds on the deadlift with focus on performing in a more powerful fashion, explosively with speed, and pulling the weight higher (to the chest) thus adding an upper body training component. The sumo deadlift high pull is a great alternative to the simple deadlift when performing full body workouts or high-intensity interval training
To perform the sumo deadlift high pull, start in the normal deadlift start position, and powerfully performing a full deadlift but continue the movement by pulling the bag up vertically with the arms, shoulders, and trapezius muscle groups.
Sandbag Good Mornings
Good mornings, performed with much lighter weight and with straight legs, are an excellent variation for training lower back strength and healthy as well as posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings, lower legs) mobility focusing on a combination of strength throughout the range.
Be sure to start with an extremely light weight with good mornings, aiming for higher reps instead of higher weight, maintaining and engaged core and lower back throughout the movement, and performing the movement very slowly.
To perform sandbag good mornings, start with the sandbag in the “back racked” or “zercher racked” position with an engaged core (abs and lower back) while maintaining the natural curve of the spine. Then, bend at the waist, maintaining stretch legs and a protected spine and lower back. Stop at the end of your range of motion and reverse the movement.
Alternative sandbag exercises for legs and glutes strength
- Sandbag squats: Sandbag front squats, back squats, split squats, and overhead squats are excellent leg exercises
- Cleans: Sandbag cleans are a perfect continuation of the sandbag deadlift to train full body strength or for high intensity interval training. Read this sandbag cleans tutorial to learn more about how to do sandbag cleans
Barbell Deadlift strength standards
- Beginner: 1x Bodyweight
- Intermediate: 1.5x Bodyweight
- Advanced: 2x Bodyweight
- Elite: 2.25x Bodyweight
- Tend to hip and posterior chain mobility for maximum longevity benefit from performing deadlifts
SANDBAG DEADLIFT FAQ
Can you deadlift a sandbag?
We can deadlift a sandbag as long as the bag is equipped with durable, sturdy handles
Is sandbag training effective?
Sandbag training is as effective and potentially more effective than barbell, kettlebell, and dumbbell training. Sandbag training allows us to train with significant resistance just like we would in other training, but increase difficulty and activation of stabilizer muscles due to potentially shifting loads, making sandbag training a more functional and effective training means than many other training modes.
How heavy should my sandbag be?
For sandbag training, start with a lighter than average load for any movement you attempt, increasing difficulty via time under tension and repetitions. Train for strength, in high intensity interval training workout structures, and for mobility before increasing weight.
Women should start with a 20lbs to 40lbs sandbag and men should start with a 40lbs to 6lbs sandbag.
Are deadlifts safe?
When performed properly, deadlifts are very safe and actually prevent injury and relieve back pain when performed properly.
How to do a safer deadlift
When performing deadlifts, maintain an engaged core with a neutral spine to protect the lower back, and sure the knees track in line with the feet and not beyond the toes to protect the knees.
Beyond deadlifts, train for hip and ankle mobility (flexibility and range with strength throughout) for the safest and healthiest movement possible.
You know how to Sandbag Clean…what next?
Learn the Sandbag Clean 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.