Sandbag Bench Press

The more I find I can do with sandbags, the more enamored I become with them. Dollar for dollar, I don’t know if there is a more cost-effective form of equipment. For around $50 I have two military duffles and 300+ pounds of sand. The amount of movement options are staggering enough that I have to force myself to stay focused on the lifts in the current routine I’m working through. However, every two or three weeks I like to do a “freestyle” work-out. During this time I simply play around with the various equipment I have. I load up sand, or use a vest, or the TRX, or any combination of these and other tools and experiment with different ways of moving weight. Sometimes it’s a bust, but sometimes I find something that I really enjoy (or that really destroys me).

Recently, I found one such movement. While I’ve tried using sandbags for floor presses in the past, I wasn’t able to do it in a way that was satisfying. With light weight (sub-150 pounds) it was easy enough to get into position and perform the movement. As I started to increase the weight, the bag became too unwieldy and pivoting from a seated position to a lying position was crushing my tailbone. After watching a beast of a man perform 300 pound presses off a bench, I decided to try it on a bench myself.

In addition to using a bench, this video helped me realize the importance of having the bag packed as tightly as possible. Whereas previously I was more concerned with distributing the weight fully across the bag, I realized that I needed to pack it in as tight as possible and then tie up any loose material at the end of the bag.

The difference was night and day. I was able to put the loaded bag on the bench. Getting the bag in position for each set was significantly easier as well. The grinding on my lower back was a non-factor on the padded bench. The first time around I was super-setting with some high-volume bearhug squats. After warming up I performed six or seven sets at 170lbs, generally reaching 7-10 reps in each set. Between the press and the squats I felt pretty good (or horrible), but most importantly I finished the workout with a real sense of excitement for increasing the weight and focusing on the press in the future.

A few days later I performed a more focused workout. I had some issues with keeping the bag tightly packed, which forced me to cut a couple sets short and added to the “rest” time between a few sets. I’ve found this to be pretty common when working with sandbags, especially as I’m ironing out the wrinkles for a new lift. All told, my final sets were done at 200lbs. I did around 7 sets at that weight and varied between 5-8 reps per set. I’ll probably try bumping the weight up another 25lbs the next time I do it.

It’s definitely still in the experimental stage, but so far I think the movement has a lot of promise. As opposed to a traditional bench press, the movement places the hands in a neutral grip position which is easier on the shoulders. With a maximum dumbbell weight of 90lbs (180lbs total), my presses have been fairly limited. Perfecting this movement opens up a lot of potential weight.

One Comment on “Sandbag Bench Press”

  1. […] to bolster some of my stability/back work with things such as bird dogs. I continued with rows, sand bag bench presses, and cycling […]

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