Tip: Sandbags for Lower-Body Strength & Size

Train anywhere and pack muscle onto your legs with this cheap tool.


A heavy sandbag is an underrated tool for lower-body strength training. The awkward size and shifting nature of the load stresses the body in a unique way that demands engagement and focus.

Sandbag training offers positions that can't be replicated with traditional free weights. The bag needs to be wrestled into position for each set which adds to the challenge.

That said, training with sandbags is nothing new. Their simplistic nature and functionality have made them a staple training tool of grapplers, strongmen, and tactical personnel.

Sand is accessible, cheap, and heavy. A trip to the local hardware store to pick up some sand won't break the bank. No bag? Just make your own by filling up an old duffel bag.

The Best Sandbag Lifts for Bigger Quads

Zercher Squat

Don't like the feeling of the bar in the crook of your elbows? This Zercher position will still tax the arms without the searing pain of a barbell in your elbows.

Shoulder-Loaded Squat

Squatting with a sandbag on one shoulder will challenge the body to resist lateral flexion as the weight attempts to pull to you to one side. It will quickly identify any gaps between the left and right.

Shoulder-Loaded Split Squat

For unilateral exercises like split squats and lunges, the bag can be loaded on the same or opposite-side shoulder of the working leg. Experiment with each option to see what feels best. You may find one feels smoother or stresses hip and core stability more. Master split squats before moving to reverse lunge variants.

Sandbag Bear Hug Reverse Lunge

A heavy bag held at the chest will make generating tension and bracing the midsection automatic. It'll also make you mindful of how you breathe with the weight pressing against you.

The Best Sandbag Lifts for Glutes and Hams

Bear Hug Good Morning

For hip hinge movements like the good morning, the bear hug is the ideal grip. Positioning the load against your torso will encourage core bracing and make it difficult to hyperextend through the lumbar spine. Keeping the bag against the body during the hinge also demands that the lats stay engaged. This also encourages a stable midsection.

Bear Hug Kickstand Good Morning

The kickstand stance will allow you to place more stress on one leg for higher reps without having to focus on balance.

Bear Hug Single-Leg Good Morning

This one will demand focus with a high stability requirement. Make sure you've got the kickstand version mastered first.

Bear Hug Kang Squat

The standard Kang squat is a nice hybrid between hinging and squatting. It'll hammer the posterior chain and groove a solid squat while sparing the knees. The anterior load of the bag really makes this movement feel natural.

Simple and Effective

Sandbag work can be surprisingly humbling. Depending on your ability and weight available, some of these variations can be substituted in as a main or accessory lift as part of your regular training.

Adjust your reps based on the difficulty of the exercise. Single-leg exercises will be more challenging whereas regular-stance squats and good mornings can be pushed into the higher ranges.

Training doesn't need to be fancy to be effective. This simple implement may be just what your legs have been missing.

Bradford Cooke is a strength and conditioning coach with a primary focus on tactical personnel. He has a master's degree in Human Kinetics and Recreation and competitive experience in arm wrestling and bodybuilding.