Sandbag Deadlifts

Ahh deadlifts. On the one hand, these are my favorite lift. On the other, these have also been the most difficult lift to build into my current setup. My “gym,” as mentioned earlier, is little more than a small bedroom on the third floor of a multi-family home. For this reason, I’m not able to use traditional olympic weights. I have a number of RSS feeds that keep me updated on used gym equipment available on CraigsList. If I was able to piece something together, cheaply, I would jump on the opportunity. The only problem is that it would have to be used outside. The often cold/rainy climate of Boston would prevent this from being a year-round option, as well as likely causing significant wear and tear over time. Due to these reasons, I haven’t wanted to invest in more expensive equipment until I have the space for it.
I was recently referred to Rogue Fitness, a company based in Ohio that sells training equipment. Not only does their equipment look great, the prices are very competitive. As soon as I have the space (hopefully in the next year or two), I’ll definitely be spending my next $1k on some olympic equipment from these guys.
All that being said, I’ve tried to find a way to incorporate deadlifts (or at least something that resembles them) into my routines. Suitcase deadlifts with the Powerblocks are an option, but I’m limited to 90lbs per hand. In the past six months I’ve turned to sandbags, as these are the only option I currently have that can be used in the 300lb range. While far from ideal, I’ve been able to establish a routine with sandbags that is both taxing and has appeared to deliver appreciable results.
I have two different sandbags. Both are the same size, but one is sealed at the top with the use of rings and a clip. The second bag is a a more traditional, zippered style. I’ve found the zippered bag to be much easier to load and use. My initial fear was that the zipper would break under load, but I’ve found that the seams are much more likely to break before the zipper does. I perform lifts with over 300lbs of sand in the bag and there is no noticeable wear on the zipper. The side handles, on the other hand, ripped off around 220lbs.
To perform the movement, I start at 115lbs and slowly move up by performing descending sets (10-8-8-6-4-2-etc) at increasing weight. Five sets of 10 is the goal, but I’ve recently hit that point and now, without the ability to add additional weight, will have to adjust by either increasing the amount of sets or the amount of reps.I try to balance the weight as equally as possible across the bag and then grab the sides of the bag at the middle point. The trickiest part, once the weight is evenly distributed, is to shake the bag around until the interior sandbags are condensed at either end. This will open up (in the case of the bag/weight that I use) a slight amount of free space in the center that I can use as a grip. The free space also acts as a point for the bag to bend through the movement. Gloves of some sort are definitely needed for this lift. I tried for a long time going without gloves, but the the blisters that I would get on my knuckles would take too long to heal and would prevent me from training with the sandbags for 1-2 weeks. I just use a pair of running gloves that I bought in a different life. They’re light, have some grip, and breathe pretty easily.
This is definitely one of the most exhausting and hunger-driving lifts. I can hardly eat enough the day after I do these. However, I know that my current setup is not ideal and that this is the one movement that I am most limited in. I will continue to experiment, including trying to squeeze the Powerblocks into the bag (for an additional 180lbs), but a good deadlifting setup is #1 on my list of priorities for the day that I’m able to expand into a more accommodating space.


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