Thursday, 31 May 2012

Overcoming The Barriers To Exercise

Most people think that the Sandbag Fitness Blog is about sandbag training. Well, it sort of is and it sort of isn't.

You see, what it's really about is my attempt to make exercise (most notably resistance training) as accessible as possible to as many people as possible.

I started the Sandbag Fitness Blog because I didn't have the money or the time to get to the gym. A bag of sand is both easy to find and inexpensive so it seemed like a great option. And if you can't get a bag of sand then you can get a bag of soil, or wood chippings or pea get the point. Between deciding to try sandbag training and having a 'fully equipped' sandbag training facility was a period of 2 days. I simply went out and purchased 100 kgs of sand and a roll of tape and I was good to go.

I fully understand that motivation also plays a huge part here. But when you start taking away some of the natural barriers that stop people exercising then I think you're increasing the chances of someone starting.

I know people that talk about starting a training programme. Lots of people. I know one guy who has been talking about it for nearly 10 years. A decade of procrastination.

I often talk about the benefits of sandbag training on the blog but I rarely talk about the reason behind this blog - and perhaps the greatest benefit of all.

Anyone can start today. Right now.

You need a bag of sand (or anything to start with) and the willingness to get going. Once you start to build momentum then you'll find it easier to keep going. And with momentum, consistency and hard work there is nothing you can't achieve.

Information Overload

Spending hours trawling through the web to find ways to exercise is just plain confusing.

Most people end up in a state of overwhelm and end up doing nothing as a result.

I try to avoid making any outlandish claims here on the blog. You'll find no promises of 'Hollywood Physiques' or single digit bodyfat percentages - although both are easily attainable. But I will make you one promise.

If you just get started then you'll achieve far more than the person that just thinks about it.

YOUR Barriers

It's easy to list a whole host of reasons why exercise is tough - no time, no money, no idea and on and on.

But what barriers have you overcome? Are you still struggling to overcome barriers?

What are your greatest challenges? And what are your greatest achievements?

I'd love to hear them.

Do Something Now

Try one of these workouts today:

Sandbag Fitness: Todays Workout: "Run 200m with a Sandbag, 10 Ground to Overhead with the Sandbag. Repeat for five rounds. Record your time. Train hard!"

Sandbag Fitness: Todays Workout: "100 Skips, 20 Sandbag Thrusters (35kg target). 5 rounds. Record your time. Train hard!"

Sandbag Fitness: Todays Workout: "5 Chin Ups, 10 Press Ups, 15 Sandbag Push Press, 20 Heavy Sandbag Back Squats. 5 Rounds. Record your time. Train hard!"

Train hard!


Monday, 28 May 2012

Todays Workout - Stagefright

I did this workout about a year back and have purposefully avoided it ever since. Hence the title, 'Stagefright'. If you're brave then you'll see why.

10 Pull Ups
10 Sandbag Push Press
20 Sandbag Back Squats

As many rounds as possible in 25 minutes.

Men aim for a 40kg sandbag; women aim for 20kg.

Record your time. If you can get more than 10 rounds done then I will personally buy you a drink.

Train hard!

'Stagefright', Def Leppard:

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Weekend Sale - 80% Off!

This weekend only, you can get the Kindle version of The Complete Guide To Sandbag Training for just $2.99. That's less than the price of your favourite coffeeshop Latte - and it'll do a lot more for your health and fitness.

You'll get over 200 pages of the very best sandbag training exercises (fully illustrated), the benefits of sandbag training and three 10-week programmes. That's over half a year of programmes!

Here's what others had to say about the book:

"Matt Palfrey has done a great job of providing clear, concise instructions on safely and effectively implementing sandbag training into your workouts. I've met few trainers whose knowledge or passion for sandbag-specific fitness rivals that of Matt Palfrey - he is truly an expert in the field. The photos and demonstrations in the book are also excellent. If you are looking for top notch info on sandbag workouts, you're in the right place." Al Kavadlo, author of "We're Working Out!" and "Raising The Bar"

"I work as a strength and conditioning coach in the uk and have been looking for a training protocol for my mma/jujitsu guys that has a direct carry over to their sparring work; specifically grappling and grip strength, which is harder to work on with a traditional strength and conditioning set up. I can honestly say that this book has provided me and my clients with the answers we had been looking for. As an added bonus we saw a major inrease not only in strength, but stamina as well when these principles were applied to our regular training schedule. This book contains everything you could possibly want to know on the subject of sandbag training and is a fresh and exciting addition to the world of results based fitness." Pete Stables,

"This book is simply the definitive written work on sandbag fitness. It outlines a huge variety of sandbag fitness training regimes, progressions and of course a huge array of the best and most effective sandbag excercises, all shown with high quality photos and discriptions. The book also throws in some great bodyweight exercises to compliment your training. It takes you through a 10 week course of weekly progressions to improve conditioning and strength. The 10th week being some sandbag fitness challenges to really test yourself. It is obvious that a lot of time and effort has gone into writing this book and this shows in the attention to detail throughout. There is one other thing I really like about this book - there is no fluff and it proves that you don't need a gym or loads of equipment to get super fit and super strong. It even shows you how to make your own sandbag for less than £10. Buy this book you wont regret it." Mike Eves,

Don't worry if you don't have a Kindle - you can download the Kindle App for iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad, Android Tablet, Blackberry, PC, Mac, Android Smartphone and Windows Phone 7 get your app here

Train hard!

Matt, Sandbag Fitness

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Exercise Technique Series - The Sandbag Windmill

The Sandbag Windmill is the ultimate exercise for core strength and mobility. It’s also an excellent movement for shoulder stability.


  • Lift your sandbag up to shoulder height and hold it in one hand 
  • Turn your feet at 45° to the working arm 
  • Press the sandbag overhead and keep the arm straight for the remainder of the exercise 
  • Push your hip out to the side and reach down towards the floor 
  • Look up towards the sandbag and allow the shoulder to rotate if necessary 
  • The working arm MUST stay fully extended 


  • See ‘Sandbag Bent Press’

All images and text taken from The Complete Guide To Sandbag Training (available on Kindle and All Other Formats)

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Exercise Technique Series - The Sandbag Floor Press

The Sandbag Floor Press is our version of the bench press. It develops upper body strength and power, particularly in the chest and arms.


  • Lie down on the ground with the sandbag in both hands, lying across your chest 
  • Push the sandbag straight upwards by extending your arms 
  • Arms should go to full extension 
  • Return the sandbag to the starting position and repeat 


  • Perform the exercise with a Hip Bridge (as pictured)

All images and text taken from The Complete Guide To Sandbag Training (available on Kindle and All Other Formats)

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Exercise Technique Series - The Sandbag Back Squat

The Sandbag Back Squat is one of our top 3 strength building exercises, the others being the Sandbag Deadlift and the Sandbag Overhead Press. At Sandbag Fitness we perform it exactly (with just a few small adjustments) as you would with a regular Barbell. The major variations are based around working specifically with the bag as opposed to the bar. With that in mind, you could use the sandbag back squat as part of a modified Starting Strength or Wendler 5-3-1 programme.

The Sandbag Back Squat is the squat variation that will allow you to lift the most weight - it is therefore a vital component for building strength. However, we also include Sandbag Front Squats, Sandbag Zercher Squats, Sandbag Shoulder Squats and Sandbag Bear Hug Squats in this programme for the other benefits they provide.


  • The first challenge is to get the sandbag up onto your back - I normally Clean and Press it into position 
  • The sandbag should sit horizontally across your upper back - use your hands and traps to keep it in place 
  • Your feet should be at least shoulder width apart and slightly turned out 
  • Begin the movement by pushing your hips back into the squat 
  • Bend your knees and squat down so your knees are at least parallel with the crease in your hip 
  • Drive the hips back upwards and return to standing 
  • The chest should stay fairly high 
  • Feet should stay flat with the weight predominantly in the rear of the foot 
  • The knees can track forward but try to avoid them passing excessively in front of the toes 
  • The knees should remain in-line with the feet at all times - do not allow the knees to track inwards toward each other

All images and text taken from The Complete Guide To Sandbag Training (available on Kindle and All Other Formats)

Monday, 14 May 2012

Exercise Technique Series - The Sandbag Deadlift

The Sandbag Deadlift is a key strength movement like the Sandbag Back Squat and the Sandbag Overhead Press. It should be your strongest exercise in terms of the amount of weight you can lift.


  • Start with your feet right next to or under the bag 
  • Take your grip - this could either be via the handles or the material of the bag 
  • Set your back in the correct position - neutral spine 
  • The knees should be slightly bent 
  • Keep the sandbag close to your legs throughout the lift 
  • Your shoulders should be over the sandbag 
  • The arms stay straight - just like hooks 
  • Maintaining the natural curve in your back, stand upright 
  • Be sure to open out your hips fully in between lifts 


  • See ‘Sandbag Suitcase Deadlift’

All images and text taken from The Complete Guide To Sandbag Training (available on Kindle and All Other Formats)

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Exercise Technique Series - The Sandbag Overhead Press

The Sandbag Overhead Press is another key movement found in many different programmes like Crossfit, Starting Strength and Wendler 5-3-1. Again, we perform it with few changes - except for the additional challenge of having to stabilise the bag overhead and the different grips needed.


  • Start with the sandbag at chest/shoulder height - as in a front squat 
  • Without additional help from the legs, press the sandbag upwards and above the head 
  • The arms should go to full extension 
  • The head should be slightly in front of the arms at this point of full extension 
  • Stay in neutral spine throughout 
  • Return to the starting position and repeat 


  • See ‘Sandbag Push Press’ 
  • See ‘Sandbag Push Jerk’

All images and text taken from The Complete Guide To Sandbag Training (available on Kindle and All Other Formats)

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Exercise Technique Series - The Sandbag High Pull

The Sandbag High Pull is a progression exercise for the Sandbag Clean and also develops power in the posterior chain.


  • Stand over the sandbag, as if you are going to Deadlift or Clean it 
  • Take the weight 
  • Explode powerfully upwards - extending the hips fully and pulling the weight quickly up to chest/chin height 
  • Try to use the power generated through your hips to do most of the work 
  • The elbows should be high at the top of the movement 
  • Open the chest out at the top of the movement 
  • Return the sandbag to the floor and repeat 


  • Single-arm High Pulls

All images and text taken from The Complete Guide To Sandbag Training (available on Kindle and All Other Formats)

Friday, 11 May 2012

Perfecting Your Pull Ups (and other bar exercises)

We do a lot of pull ups and bar callisthenics here at Sandbag Fitness, and for good reason. They develop an amazing strength to weight ratio, an iron grip and the ability to pull yourself over a bar (or wall/obstacle) is a great skill. While we tend to focus on the basics of Pull Ups, Leg Raises and other variations there are a huge number of progressions out there.

My friend, and fellow coach, Al Kavadlo has recently released Raising The Bar - the definitive guide to bar callisthenics. Raising The Bar takes a systematic approach to developing great skill and ability in a range of upper body and core focused exercises. One of the best features of this book is the progressive way in which Al takes you from the base level version of each exercise all the way up to super-advanced things like One Arm Pull Ups!

Here's Al doing some very advanced stuff:

Chapters include:

  • Pull Up or Shut Up
  • Oh Dip!
  • Hard Core Training
  • Enter The Muscle Up
  • Zen and The One Arm Pull Up

Ideal for anyone who wants to develop strength and agility, I can highly recommend it.

And there's an even better reason to pick up a copy - my next eBook release will contain some of the exercise variations in Raising The Bar so you need to get practicing!

Click on the book to find out more:

Raising the Bar The Definitive Guide to Bar Calisthenics

Train hard!

Exercise Technique Series - The Sandbag Get Up

The Sandbag Get Up is another exercise that is traditionally done with either a kettlebell or a dumbbell. Using an unstable object like the sandbag makes for a much more challenging movement.


  • Take hold of the sandbag in either one hand or across one shoulder 
  • Powerfully roll out onto your elbow on the opposite side 
  • Keep a wide base with your legs when you do this 
  • Push up onto your opposite hand 
  • Get your legs under you - ideally in a lunge position 
  • Stand up fully 
  • Return to the ground and repeat 


  • Perform the movement with the sandbag across the shoulder or in your extended arm

All images and text taken from The Complete Guide To Sandbag Training (available on Kindle and All Other Formats)

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Exercise Technique Series - The Sandbag Clean

This is the first in a series of posts aimed at teaching and improving your technique in a variety of the key exercises that we use at Sandbag Fitness.

The Sandbag Clean

The Sandbag Clean (and it’s derivatives - the Sandbag Power Clean and the Sandbag Hang Clean) is one half of the Olympic Lift, the Clean and Jerk. It is also the standard technique for getting your sandbag, or any other weight, from the ground to chest height.


  • Start as you would for a Sandbag Deadlift, with your feet slightly under the bag 
  • Set yourself ready 
  • Lift the bag from the ground and, as it gathers some momentum, explosively pull the bag upwards 
  • Try to use the power generated through your hips to do most of the work 
  • As the sandbag travels upwards prepare yourself to catch 
  • Do not throw the bag upwards, keep hold of it, it should become almost weightless 
  • Catch the bag with a Zercher grip or at either end of the sandbag 
  • Descend into a Squat 
  • Return back to standing as though coming out of a Sandbag Front Squat 
  • Return the bag to the ground in a fluid movement 


  • A Sandbag Power Clean is the same except you do not squat as part of the lift 
  • A Sandbag Hang Clean is the same except the sandbag is pulled from mid thigh instead of from the ground

All images and text taken from The Complete Guide To Sandbag Training (available on Kindle and All Other Formats)

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Todays Workout - Tabata Sandbags for Super-Conditioning!

Complete the following exercises in a Tabata interval style i.e. 20 seconds of work followed immediately with a 10 second rest period. Repeat for a total of 4 minutes (8 intervals). Take a 1 minute rest between each exercise.

Sandbag Power Cleans
Sandbag Front Squats
Sandbag Push Jerks
Sandbag High Pulls

Aim to complete an equal number of repetitions in each subsequent interval.

Men aim for a 30kg sandbag; women aim for 15kg.

To make timing easy, I'd recommend getting a Gymboss Interval Timer

Add your performance (total reps per exercise) to the comments.

Train hard!

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Todays Workout - Running On Empty

400m run

25 Sandbag Back Squats
25 Sandbag High Pulls
25 Press Ups

Repeat for a total of 4 rounds.

Complete as quickly as possible and record your time.

Men aim for a 30kg sandbag; women aim for 15kg.

Train hard!

And if you start feeling uncomfortable in the last couple of rounds then consider Cliff Young, the remarkable australian farmer who turned up to compete in the Sydney to Melbourne Ultra Marathon in overalls and work boots. Unbelievably he went on to win a margin of 2 days!