Sandbags are useful for any fitness junkie. The uneven weight distribution makes them perfect for building stability. Every time you pick one up, you'll potentially be dealing with a new loading pattern that makes your body's central nervous system adapt and prime the correct motor-controlled response.
Don't believe me? Pick up a sandbag and do a few squats and then a few tosses. Pick it back up, and I bet you feel the weight distribution change a bit.
They're great teaching tools and perfect for at-home challenges. So let's get into the six best squat variations.
1. The Bear Hug Squat
The intra-abdominal pressure created while hugging 50-plus pounds adds a large degree of difficulty to the squat.
The bear hug squat forces your body to stay more upright, making it a valuable tool for perfecting the squat. The pressure created naturally forces your legs to have to do more of the work.
Try using this as a primer with pauses and tempo manipulation. Shoot for 2-3 sets of 3-5 reps. Or use them as density work following a leg session.
2. The Skater Squat
The thought of doing skater squats makes a lot of lifters cringe. Not too often do I see athletes or even advanced lifters come in and knock out sets of 10 perfect-form skater squats.
Why? They're HARD. What's more, they mimic one of the most foundational movement patterns in nearly everyone's arsenal, the deadlift.
The skater squat is a phenomenal unilateral exercise that improves hip strength and completely blasts the lower body. The more you hinge and get more torso lean, the more posterior chain it hits.
The learning curve is easy; the exercise itself is NOT. Try to get to depths higher than the floor and then work your way down. Once you can do 8-10 reps, move to external loading with the sandbag. Use them as primers for 2-3 sets of 6-8 reps or use them as assistance moves for the squat or deadlift.
3. The Suitcase Squat
You've likely heard of suitcase carries, holds, and maybe even deadlifts... but what about suitcase squats?
With a sandbag, this exercise becomes humbling for those with asymmetrical imbalances or noticeable hip impingement. The bag's weight distribution can almost act as a level, pulling you front to back and side to side. It's an anti-lateral flexion king, and if you're paying attention, you'll probably notice where you have some weaknesses.
The suitcase squat can be a standalone exercise. You may be strong, but if you lack a high degree of single-side loading and stability, these will challenge you. Sure, squatting 500 pounds is cool, but if you tip over like the Leaning Tower of Pisa from a 50-pound bag on your right side, you have some bigger questions to answer.
4. The Kang Squat
The bag helps reinforce the hinge to start the movement (a common struggle), then you shift the hips to bring yourself up into a concentric squat.
This is a mobility master's gold medal of exercises. Teaching the hips to hinge is no easy task, but the sandbag helps make this transition much easier with it up against your chest.
Slowly try to push your booty back to break the wall behind you and keep a neutral spine. It's a miracle how the bag makes this much easier than holding a barbell and trying to do the same thing! Follow it with the shift to make this a combination hinge/squat pattern, and you've got all your bases covered!
Do 3-5 reps as a primer to hip/joint movements, or use it as a standalone assistance exercise for 6-8 reps. The key here is taking the reps slow. You won't win any awards rushing through this one.
5. The Cossack Squat
Frontal plane work serves its purpose in any program. The Cossack squat itself will build side-to-side strength, stability, and flexibility. The sandbag helps you counterbalance the weight to keep a more upright torso, preventing you from leaning forward.
Focus on keeping the heel down on the working leg. Using the bag allows you to focus on mobility and stability, two components that will give you a squat challenge without the extreme loading.
6. The Overhead Press Squat
Try this for a bonus squat. It'll challenge the central nervous system and coordination. A lot of motor control is needed, so use these as primers or fun challenges.
Editor's Note: We've tested this sandbag and it's a good one.
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