Why Do Sandbags Feel Heavier Than Weights?

November 28, 2022 0 Comments

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In this article I will be answering the question “why do sandbags feel heavier than weights?”. Sandbags are a great training tool that are often overlooked by the majority of lifters.

They offer a unique challenge because they are deadweight and awkward to hold. It is a fact that sandbags feel heavier than dumbbells and barbells of equivalent weight.

This article will examine why and also show the utility of using sandbags in your training.

Why Do Sandbags Feel Heavier Than Weights?

Sandbags feel heavier than traditional weights as they are deadweight – think about what it would feel like to pick up a heavy dead body!

In addition they are unstable and awkward to hold – lots of stabiliser muscles are recruited when you are handling sandbags. There are no convenient spots to hold unlike with barbells and dumbbells.

With sandbags the weight is also distributed further away from your body. This makes working out with sandbags a lot harder – it also can make them feel even heavier. 

Sandbags Are Awkward To Handle

The main reason why sandbags feel a lot heavier than normal weights is due to the fact that they are a lot more awkward to handle. There are no handles for you to hold onto like with dumbbells.

There are different ways of gripping a sandbag. You can attempt to lift a sandbag by bear hugging it first, placing it on your knees and lifting it up that way. This is similar to how strongmen lift atlas stones.

You can also hold onto the sides and deadlift it up that way. This is more akin to a traditional deadlift in the gym. 

Are Sandbags Good For Hypertrophy?

Sandbags are good for hypertrophy and improving functional strength in general. However, they wouldn’t be as optimal for hypertrophy as the way that bodybuilders train in the gym.

This is because gyms have lots of machine exercises and free weights – you can isolate and hit your muscles from infinite angles. This is superior for hypertrophy.

Sandbags can certainly be used though to add slabs of muscle all over your body. One of the big benefits of sandbags is that you can replicate many big compound movements such as squats, deadlifts and presses.

It will just be a lot more cumbersome to pick up a heavy sandbag off the floor and get it across your back in the squatting position. This is a challenge in itself, once you can progress to doing this with heavy sandbags you will have certainly gained explosive power and strength.

Deadweight Aspect

Sandbags being “deadweight” is another huge reason why they feel heavier and harder to handle than free weights.

The centre of gravity when lifting a sandbag is wherever you support the load from. There is no support as it were from the sandbag. This is why deadweight feels heavier. 

It is an important point to make and one that many people are still unaware of. 

Brian Arlsruhe’s Views On Sandbags

There is a good video from Brian Arlsruhe on the merits of sandbag training and whether it is worth it. The video can be viewed below.

Brian makes some good points in the video. I thought I would discuss some of the points that he raises and share my own views. 

I do agree with him about the versatility of sandbags. You can use them for loaded carries, you can do clean and presses with them and so much more. This is what makes them a great tool and a very functional one. 

They are also great for explosive training, you could do sandbag throws over your head or a distance throw. Brian also makes a good point about using liners inside your sandbag to ensure the sandbag keeps the same weight and doesn’t leak everywhere. 

Sandbags Can Improve Deadlift Case Study

One thing I found very interesting is that sandbags can actually improve your deadlift. I am going to share a case study to illustrate this point. This case study comes from Reddit user VladimirLinen.

He described himself as an “average powerlifter” and said that he purchased some sandbags from Cereberus during the coronavirus lockdown.

His deadlift before the lockdown was 220kg and after the lockdown he was deadlifting 240kgx2!

His intial goals with the sandbag training were to improve conditioning and work capacity, maintain strength and gain size. He had two sandbags filled to 58kg and 68kg. He also had a light band and a bar to do pull ups on.

It should be noted that every two weeks he went to a warehouse space that his coach had put together which had squat stands, a bench and a deadlift platform. He went there to work up to something heavy on the squat, bench and deadlift and maintain the proficiency of the movements.

His first four week block was geared towards work capacity. An example would be squats for 12 to 15 reps for a few sets and rows for 10 reps. In block two of his training he kept the sandbag weights and reps the same, but added in tempos and pauses.

From the sandbag training he noted that his forearms grew and his upper back got a lot stronger. The fact that he gained significant strength in his deadlift and squat is very impressive and demonstrates just how useful sandbags are.

You can view the case study here from this reddit user. 

Final Thoughts

Why do sandbags feel heavier than weights? Overall it is due to the deadweight property of sandbags combined with the fact that they are very awkward to handle.

Sandbags are very versatile and can allow you to strengthen weak links such as upper back strength and grip strength. As you get stronger with using sandbags on big compound movements, you will also gain strength in the gym on similar exercises. 

If you have any comments about sandbag training please leave them in the comments. As always, stay safe and enjoy your training!

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