I’ll be honest.. I’ve wanted a sandbag for a long time.
Sandbag training has always interested me because of how versatile a sandbag is; you can do so many exercises with a single piece of equipment. It’s a functional, weighted implement that typically caters to full-body, compound movements.
What sparked this project was the fact that most home gym equipment has been sold out due to the quarantine caused by COVID-19. In my opinion, it is a wonderful thing that people are investing in their health and fitness with home gym equipment. However, I was unable to purchase a sandbag for a reasonable price, so I decided to make my own.
Now, let me preface this article with this message: My sandbag does not have the same finish that you may find from top fitness equipment manufacturers. It is made with duct tape and a tarp. However, one thing I am confident in is the durability of my sandbag! If you aren’t concerned with looks or a brand name, I’ve got a DIY solution to scratch your sandbag itch!
Here is a list of necessary materials and approximate costs (obviously variable) at your local home improvement store:
Sand ($5): Buy ‘play sand.’ This is a high-quality sand that is filtered of contaminants like dirt or other things that can decay, rot, and stink. Play sand is granular and won’t turn to powder like some alternative sands. I paid around five dollars for a 50 lb bag of play sand.
Heavy-Duty Tarp ($10): You may not need a heavy-duty tarp, but I decided on the thickest one I could find. I figure, if i’m throwing this thing and slamming it to the ground, I want something that can hold up. Don’t worry about the color of the tarp. You’ll be covering it with duct tape anyways. The tarp I purchased was 6’x8’ in size.
Garbage Bags ($5): Grab a few garbage bags. I used three flex bags (20 gallon) from my supply at home under the sink. This is purely the innermost layer and does not have to support the weight of the sand. We will empty the sand into these bags and shape it for the tarp.
2 Rolls of Duct Tape ($12): This is, perhaps, the most important ingredient of your sandbag recipe. The duct tape is not only the exterior, but it is also the structure that holds everything in place. I suggest buying two rolls. I bought a regular roll for the inner layer (red) and a heavy-duty roll for the outer layer and the handles (black). The heavy-duty duct tape is a must if you plan to thrash on this bag like I have. There is a clear difference in quality and thickness between the two rolls.
Start by unfolding your tarp on the floor (inside of the tarp, face-up) to create a work space. Cut open your bag of play sand and empty it into a garbage bag. You can tie the garbage bag off, but don’t make it air-tight. We want to be able to shape the sand within this bag. Next, wrap this garbage bag in another garbage bag. I repeated this process until I had a triple-ply wrap of garbage bags around my sand.
Place your triple ply garbage bag full of sand in the top-center of your tarp. Start to roll it like a burrito. Do so with care – imagine you work at Chipotle and your favorite customer just walked in.. you want to make them the PERFECT burrito.
You don’t want to wrap the sandbag too tightly – this turns your sandbag into a rock. The bag will naturally tighten up as you wrap it in tape. Shape the form of the sandbag as you roll it in the tarp. Once you roll the sandbag to the end of the tarp, fold the ends on opposite sides and secure the excess tarp in place with a couple pieces of duct tape.
Now that the bag has taken its form, you can begin wrapping the tarp in duct tape. Again, there is probably an exact science to this procedure, but I just wrapped the heck out of it. Wrap around one direction, then cut the tape and wrap around the adjacent direction. Wrap the corners, wrap around the ends a few extra times – do whatever feels right. Make your sandbag bomb-proof. I give you full permission to use too much duct tape.
This is the tricky part. Now, you create the handles. I don’t have a great picture of this process, but I created a loop of duct tape with the sticky side out. The loop should be large enough to pass the roll of remaining duct tape through it (you may have to in order to secure the loop to your bag). Once this loop is made, wrap the loop several times with duct tape (sticky side to sticky side) so that both sides of the loop are the outer layer of the duct tape.
Repeat this process until you have 6 separate handles. I place two on the side of the bag parallel to one another (hammer grip), two on the opposite side of the bag adjacent to one another (regular grip), and one handle on each end of the bag.
To secure the handles to the bag, I placed them where I wanted them with a few smaller pieces of duct tape. Then, I proceeded to wrap the roll of remaining duct tape through each handle and around the bag in one continuous loop. I felt that this method provides the bag with structural integrity and the entire bag would have to come apart for the handle to come off. Repeat this method until you have 5 continuous loops through each set of handles.
Use any remaining tape you have left to strengthen the bag. Now is your chance to over-indulge in durability measures. Wrap the outside of your handles a few more times around the bag, wrap the corners, make a cool design, the sky’s the limit!
Now is the time to test your bag. I can’t stress this enough – you need to do this in a safe place OUTSIDE where, if this thing explodes, you don’t have to vacuum your living room floor for an eternity.
Throw the bag around, test the handles, do some deadlifts, squats, cleans, over the shoulder throws, etc. Make sure you find out if your craftsmanship can live up to the beating this thing will need to endure. If you’ve followed all the steps correctly (especially Step 5), then you’ve got yourself a completed workout sandbag!
So you’ve got yourself a new piece of homemade fitness equipment for your home gym. Now what?
Be sure to use your sandbag. No sandbag deserves to sit lonely out in the garage and not taken care of. I use my sandbag on a weekly basis – especially now, during this quarantine. Sandbag training is archaic and primal in the very best of ways. Take your sandbag outside, heave it to your shoulder, throw it up in the air, put it on your back and squat it 50 times. You have the opportunity to get creative with your training.
At the time of writing this, we have filmed nearly 50 different sandbag exercises (with more on the way).
Have you made a sandbag already? What is your favorite sandbag exercise? Leave us a comment below and until next time, stay moving!