How to Build Your Own Sand Bag in 30 Minutes

The demands of life do not stack up nice and neatly.  

Unlike the beautifully symmetrical barbell with its perfectly round plates and secure spring collars, the resistance we deal with on a day-to-day basis tends to be lopsided and even unpredictable:

  • Pulling your dog off of the mailman.
  • Carrying an asymmetrical load such as a suitcase or bag of groceries.
  • Picking up a squirming toddler (who may or may not be throwing a temper tantrum).

So, while you’re laying a solid foundation of superhero strength with barbells, dumbbells, and body-weight training, consider the occasional training session with odd objects. And when it comes to odd objects, you can’t go wrong with the sandbag!

If you are looking to build a sandbag to stop flooding and not for working out, follow the information laid out here [1]:

The most commonly used bags are untreated burlap sacks available at feed or hardware stores. Empty bags can be stockpiled for emergency use, and will be serviceable for several years, if properly stored. Filled bags of earth material will deteriorate quickly.

Commercial plastic sandbags, made from polypropylene, are also available from most bag suppliers.

Do not use garbage bags, as they are too slick to stack. Do not use feed sacks, as they are too large to handle. Use bags about 14-18″ wide, and 30-36″ deep.

A heavy bodied or sandy soil is most desirable for filling sandbags, but any usable material at or near the site has definite advantages. Coarse sand could leak out through the weave in the bag. To prevent this, double bag the material. Gravelly or rocky soils are generally poor choices because of their permeability.

Bags should be filled between one-third (1/3) to one-half (1/2) of their capacity. This keeps the bag from getting too heavy, and permits the bags to be stacked with a good seal.

The contents of a properly constructed sandbag will shift and move in a way that adds an element of instability, challenging your balance and working your “core” in ways that few other training tools can match.

And if you’re the do-it-yourself type of guy or gal, the sandbag is easy to make and will cost less than a copy of Diablo III.

How To Make Your Own Sandbag

There are several ways to make your own sandbag for weight training; I’ve tried many, and the method below is the best for constructing a mid-weight, low-cost bag. I’ll mention a few other options at the end of this section.

But first things first…gather your materials!

What You Need

  • 1 canvas laundry bag – $9.70.
  • 1 bag of pea gravel (40 – 50 lbs) – $4.39. (note: don’t use pea gravel if you’re building sandbags for flood protection)
  • 1 box of contractor garbage bags (3 or 4 millimeter) – $19.99.
  • 1 roll of duct tape – $8.78. Sure you could find cheaper duct tape, but this is one thing you don’t want to skimp on.
  • 1 package of zip ties – $4.90.

The total cost is less than 50 bucks. The time investment isn’t bad either – making the sandbag should only take about 30 minutes!

What To Do

1. Create the interior bags. Roll the top of one of the contractor bags down so that the bag will sit upright on its own. Pour the gravel/sand into the contractor bag. You’ll be making 3 or 4 interior bags, so don’t pour all of the gravel into one contractor bag. Instead, divide the gravel across one 20 lb. bag, and two or three 10 lb. bags (the weights do not have to be exact).

Once you have filled the contractor bag with gravel to your desired weight, fold down the opening of the bag and duct tape it closed. Be careful to allow some room for the gravel to move around. Wrap the bag in 4 or 5 other places with duct tape to make it secure. Next, double wrap the bag with a second contractor bag (repeat the duct taping process). Repeat this process until all the interior bags are complete.

2. Fill the exterior bag. Place each of your filled and taped contractor bags into the laundry bag. Pull the drawstring on the laundry bag so that the opening is tight. Now make it extra secure by cinching a zip tie or two around the top. The downfall of using zip ties is that if you want to change the weight of your sandbag, you will have to cut them off. But at less than 5 bucks for 100 of them, I don’t mind sacrificing an occasional zip tie when it’s time to increase or decrease the weight of the bag.

3. Enjoy an ice cold beer.  After all, it’s probably pretty hot outside 🙂

Here’s a video I found of a guy who made his sandbag a similar way!

Alternative Materials And Commercial Options

The laundry bag/contractor bags/pea gravel set-up is far from the only way to make your own sandbag.

For the exterior bag, especially if you want to make a sandbag that weighs over 50 lbs, consider using a heavy duty military-grade duffel bag.

For the interior bags, heavy duty zip lock freezer bags reinforced with duct tape can be used. Another option is to place your filling material directly into your exterior bag, and skip using the interior bags. However this options eliminates the option of changing weight easily and mess-free unless you use chain (see below).

For filler material, options other than pea gravel include:

  • Sand (duh), with play sand being most common. I’ve used sand in several bags before without much luck. It seems that a true “sand” bag always tends to leak for me.
  • Wood Pellets.
  • Rubber mulch.
  • Link chain. This is for the true bad-ass. Just toss several feet of heavy link chain into a heavy duty duffel bag, secure the top, and your sandbag is complete. But since it’s not sand, it will bruise you with repetitive shouldering. Consider yourself warned!

Given all of the options, and having made more than a handful of sandbags over the years, the laundry bag/contractor bags/pea gravel is my strongest recommendation for a mid-weight bag.

Commercial Sandbags

If you don’t want to do-it-yourself but still want the benefits of sandbag training, there are plenty of good commercial options. I have personally owned both of the models below:

Ultimate Sandbag: I absolutely love their interior sandbags. They come in various sizes, and the velcro closure is top notch and doesn’t leak. This is the only bag where I have used sand as a filler and not had any leaks. This bag has several handles as well which provide more exercise versatility when compared to bags without handles.

Ironmind Tough As Nails Sandbag: As much as I love Ironmind products (their Captains Of Crush grippers are the standard for grip training), I had some trouble with this sandbag leaking. Perhaps pea gravel or some other filler would have improved this bag’s utility.

How To Work Out With Sandbags

Nearly any exercise that you can do with a barbell, you can do with a sandbag. Now if you’re laughing at a 400 lb deadlift like Staci, then you may have to stick with a barbell for that lift. But for most other exercises, you can substitute the sandbag.

Here are a few examples:

  • Push Press
  • Thrusters
  • Bent Over Rows
  • Lunges
  • Overhead Squats
  • Power Cleans

And those are just a few examples.

For more sandbag workout ideas, check out the three short videos below:

Sandbag Turkish Getup

Sandbag Walking Lunge – Zercher Carry

Sandbag Man Maker

Each of the workout examples above can be done in the following manner:

  • Max reps in a designated time. Set a timer for 5 – 15 minutes and do as many repetitions as possible. Rest as needed, but get back to work as soon as possible. Record the number of completed repetitions and try to beat your score in your next workout session.
  • Beat the clock. Decide on a number of repetitions you will complete. Time how long it takes you to finish the designated reps. In your next session, try to complete the same amount of repetitions in less time.
  • Intervals. Since the exercises in the example videos lend themselves to longer work periods, a good interval structure may be 1 minute of work, followed by 30 seconds of rest, repeated for 10 rounds. Experiment with increasing and decreasing the work and rest intervals in order to find the appropriate intensity level.

Nerd Fitness Nines

The following workout should be performed as a circuit.

Complete nine repetitions of each exercise before moving to the next, taking as little rest as possible between exercises.

Do at least three complete sets of the circuit.

Or if you are up for the “Nerd Fitness Nines” challenge (WARNING: It will kick your ass), complete nine repetitions of the nine exercises for nine sets.  If you don’t know how to do the exercises listed below, watch the videos above.

  1. Sandbag Get Up Left (keep bag on left shoulder).
  2. Lunge Left (keep bag on left shoulder, lunge forward with left leg for all 9 reps).
  3. Push Press
  4. Sumo Deadlift High Pull
  5. Zercher Squat
  6. Alternating Sandbag Shoulder
  7. Man Maker
  8. Lunge Right (keep bag on right shoulder, lunge forward with right leg for all 9 reps).
  9. Sandbag Get Up Right (keep bag on right shoulder).

Get Your Sandbag, Sucka!

Four Traditional Sandbags Hang Whether you make one yourself or buy one ready-made, the sandbag is a great training option when you’re ready for a new challenge in balance, strength, and general conditioning.

What other questions do you have about sandbag training?

Let me know in the comments below!

~ Steve


Photo Source: Tj Cowboy Go run some hills

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    48 thoughts on “How to Build Your Own Sand Bag in 30 Minutes

    1. The 9-9-9 plan…What is this? A Hermain Cain campaign workout?

      In my garage gym, we’re all about the sandbags – they let you be all sorts of creative.

    2. Made one of these out of a parachute bag for yard pulls (embarrassing youtube footage including me pulling it: ) it’s too heavy for these workouts, but I can also pull the gravel out and lighten it up. I’ll give these a shot tonight and see how it feels. Looks legit. 

    3.  Wow, this workout looks awesome. Honestly, it reminds me of hauling around bags of soil for the yard, which as I recall completely kicked my ass, so it’s a genius workout idea!

    4. Best solution I’ve found…water softener salt bags.

      They are 40 or 50 pounds (40 is easiest to find) and are already in a tough package. All I do is reinforce the corners with duct tape and it’s perfect…way less that $50 and you can even get all the materials at one local hardware store or even a supermarket (some sell salt bags).

    5. Odd coincidence — 23 hours and 40 minutes before the email alerting me to this post arrived in my email inbox, I placed an order for a sandbag and fillers.  I’m traveling abroad for two weeks and want to be able to continue lifting while I’m away.  Glad to have this post for ideas of what to do with it while I’m away.  Thanks!

    6. You can also swing sandbags…not easily.

      I used to just use sandbags from the hardware store for weighting down trucks. They came in 60lb increments so there wasn’t much room for adjustment but they were cheap. This DIY project is much better…though I don’t see how a heavy sandbag is any more appropriate for traveling workouts than a hotel gym. I would consider buying a cheap one on a trip for a few days, but not actually transporting it.

    7. Great idea! Salt is probably one of the cheapest things to fill them with!!! My “sandbag” is made of an old gym bag filled with salt-packages, 500g each. To make them less “cubic” I put 10 of them into one old pillow case, and put another pillow case as a cover all around those 5 kg packages. Works perfectly!

    8. Great post man!
      Too many people think the gym is the only way to get fit.
      You can start at any stage and with any equipment you can get your hands on.


    9. Hey, can we fill it with rice or sugar or maybe it won’t be the best idea?

    10. Sandbags are a great workout. Very satisfying and hard work.
      I’ve only got a 33lb 55Ib and 66lb. 33lb to warm up, 55lb for higher reps and 66lb for low rep sets. I mostly do overhard lifts and squats and often combine the two and it really gets the heart rate up. I’ll be making another bag with another 10lbs or so as strength increases.
      Just 10-15 days ago I struggled with 5 x 55lb overhead lifts and doing 10 now without too much trouble.
      I’d definitely recommned to anyone doing a home workout. They cost next to nothing, are easily made in different weights to suit and being free weights you really feel your whole body engaging in the movements.

    11. Brute force sandbags! Service is great and there are multiple options. Small US company. Check Them out!

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    15. Don’t forget you can get a good old fashioned military duffel bag at Army/Navy surplus stores as well. For a cheap and very tough and durable bag.

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