One thing I like training with is a good sandbag. Back in the day before I was CrossFitting, I used to work out with a personal trainer, and he had us doing walking lunges and squats with 50# sandbags at every session. It was brutal but it worked. At CrossFit Firebase, where I’ve been working out for the last three years, we use sandbags in WODs frequently, in a variety of ways. I’ve grown fond of this particular piece of gear.
Here are just a handful of exercises you can do with a good sandbag:
- Any kind of clean
- Squats (front or back)
- Any kind of press
- Oblique swings
- Bentover rows
- Running with weight
If you want to see how versatile sandbags are, see this index of 33 sandbag exercises at Catalyst Athletics.
There are several advantages to having sandbags in your arsenal. First, they’re dynamic in movement and shape, so it takes more core strength to keep stable. This adds another degree of difficulty to any sandbag exercise. Secondly, they’re more forgiving than a barbell, so you can throw them on your back without smashing your neck or shoulders. And thirdly, they are far cheaper than a barbell and bumper plates. Don’t get me wrong, if you’re a serious CrossFitter sandbags aren’t intended to replace bar work, but they’re a great change of place and accessory movement.
One quick note. For the most part, tactical sandbags are designed to be super tough, but they’re not intended to be slammed on the ground because the sand liners themselves can open or even break inside the shell of the sandbag. The type of filler you use also makes a differences…if you use fine playground sand, expect it to work it’s way out of the liners. I’ve seen other folks use pea gravel and even mulch to alleviate this problem.
For the second part of this blog post, I’ll review the Tactical Sandbag by Firebase Gear, one of the higher quality ‘bags on the market. I had the opportunity to borrow a demo sandbag and work out with it long term. Full disclosure, I’m a member of CrossFit Firebase, who also owns Firebase Gear.
Tactical Sandbag by Firebase Gear
The first thing you’ll notice about the Firebase bag are the handles. It’s festooned with handles, seven handles to be exact, which is five more handles than the bags made by Rogue and Muscle Driver USA, both commonly found in CrossFit gyms all over the country. The two handles most common on tactical sandbags are perpendicular to the long axis of the bag itself, thus limiting you to a suitcase-style grip. With the Firebase sandbag, you’ve got a variety of different grips you can try. More grips means more angles and different ways to hit the muscles on your accessory lifts. There are even a pair of handles on the sides of the Firebase bag in case you want to try sharing the bag during a run with two people. Also notably, the two handles parallell to the bag allows a more natural clean grip.
Upon closer inspection, you’ll notice the Firebase bag is seriously rugged with near bulletproof construction. The primary material is MIL-SPEC 1000 denier Cordura, with the bottom having two layers of Cordura for insane-o ruggedness. I wouldn’t recommend dropping it out of an airplane, but if you did, it would probably survive. (If you do drop it out of an airplance, please send me the video). The stitching is high quality and the handles are sturdy and comfortable.
Another nice touch is the label window in case you want to slip in a piece of paper with the name of the gym or the amount of weight, useful if you’re using multiple bags in a WOD or competition. Firebase sandbags get a big plus for using American manufacturing as well. They are available in multi-cam and black.
The only potential drawback is cost. Firebase Tactical Sandbags are currently $90 for just the shell, with liners costing between $18 and $25 depending on the size you want (liners are sold separately). You can of course use any liner you want or just fill it with heavy stuff like slam balls if you have those handy. Compare that to the $55 MDUSA bag or the $55 medium-sized Rogue bag and you’re paying about double. I’ve used both before and I prefer the Firebase bag because of it’s off-the-charts ruggedness and extra features. It’s like a damn good sports watch…I can do more with it and I know the thing is going to last forever. I don’t mind paying a premium for high quality equipment.
Bottom line: A super high quality bag that’s rugged and gives you all the options for workouts at a premium price point.