Sandbag Training And The Spartan Race

The Spartan Race is an obstacle course with a difference. With courses ranging from the 3km+ Spartan Sprint all the way up to the 40km+ Ultra Beast, this is no joke. To get through the Spartan Race you’ll need strength, conditioning, agility, endurance and a bucketload of determination. But what’s the best way to train for this? In this article we explore some of the ways you can utilise your sandbag to build the fitness you need… Why Sandbag Training? Besides being a training tool that demands a high level of fitness to master, the sandbag is actually an integral part of the Spartan Race itself and you may well find yourself having to carry one during the event. The Object Carry, which is a signature obstacle, requires a carry of up to 60lbs over a set distance. The longer the event, the more times you’ll find yourself performing the Object Carry. Sandbag training is a great training method for the Spartan Race for a few other reasons too: • Your sandbag is designed to be used outside and in all weather conditions. If you want to truly prepare for the Spartan Race then you’re going to need to get outside, get used the elements and better your chances of coping on race day. • The sandbag is the perfect tool for loaded carries - that’s why they use them for the Spartan Race. While they are a real challenge to hold onto they are malleable and sit comfortably across the shoulders. This also allows you to be a lot more creative with the types of exercises you perform. For example, Sandbag Get Ups are a great way to build strength and agility. • Sandbag training is based on compound exercises that have real-world crossover. We squat, lift, push and pull the sandbag using our biggest muscles. This develops strength and conditioning and also your ability to handle a real-world free weight. Building strength and conditioning in the gym, using resistance machinery, just doesn’t compare! What Should I Actually Be Doing To Prepare? Like any event, the preparation that you should do is specific to your particular strengths, weaknesses and goals. Following a training program that may have been designed for somebody else is always going to a different proposition. That said, there are a few key fundamentals that we recommend to get the best from your race. 1. No matter what distance you are attempting you should have the endurance to cover the course. While we don’t necessarily basing the majority of your training on long, slow distance training you should have the ability to run/jog between the obstacles. Those that aren’t gifted runners may need to include some running sessions to achieve this. Try this workout: Find a hill 30-60 metres high. Throw your sandbag over your shoulders and sprint up the hill as fast as you can. Drive your arms to help generate the power you’ll need to get to the top. Jog back to the start point, rest as needed and repeat for 5-10 sprints in total. Start a stopwatch at the start of the session and stop it once you’ve finished all of your sprints (include rest time in this total). Next time you repeat the session aim to improve your time or carry more weight in your sandbag. 2. You’ll need strength to overcome many of the obstacles, especially for those like the Wall Climb, Traversal Wall and the Rope Climb. Specifically, these obstacles require a good strength-to-weight ratio. You may well be incredibly strong, but if you are also incredibly heavy then these types of obstacles may cause problems for you. To improve your strength-to-weight ratio we recommend that you also include a variety of bodyweight exercises in your fitness program. These don’t necessarily need to be performed in huge volumes but certain key skills will definitely be an advantage. The following are good minimum bodyweight benchmarks to attain: • 50 Squats • 30 Burpees • 30 Push Ups • 15 Dips • 10 Pull Ups (or 20 body rows) • 1 Rope Climb • 1 Muscle Up (bar) The more challenging movements, like the Muscle Up, will typically call for a lower volume, higher quality approach to your training (e.g. performing one at a time, with long rest periods). If they are new to you then we also recommend seeking some coaching to learn proper technique. Try this workout: 20 Squats 15 Burpees 5 Pull Ups 15 Push Ups 1 Rope Climb Repeat for a total of 3-5 rounds, with rest as needed. Again, we recommend timing your session so that you have a target to aim for the next time you repeat it. For those that have achieved the benchmarks above or want an additional challenge you can try this more advanced sandbag training session. Men should start with a 50lb sandbag, women can start with 35lbs. As you build strength aim to add more weight and improve your overall time for the workout. 10 Sandbag Back Squats 10 Sandbag High Pulls 10 Sandbag Cleans 10 Sandbag Push Presses Repeat for a total of 3 rounds, with rest as needed. 3. Your ability to move well over obstacles is going to be largely reliant on your agility. Many of the obstacles, such as the Barbed Wire Crawl or the Log Jump, require participants to jump, hop and crawl. You can easily replicate these demands in your own training program with a little forethought. Specificity is key, so make sure you take some time to practice obstacles. It’s unlikely that you’ll have access to an obstacle course before race day but there’s nothing to stop you being creative. Is there a local park with climbing frames you can climb or benches you can clamber over? Perhaps you live near woodland where you’ll be able to jump over logs and run between trees and low hanging branches. Try this workout: 1 Sandbag Shoulder Get Up (each side) 10 Sandbag Floor Presses 50m Bear Crawl (25m there and back to your sandbag) 10 Sandbag Overhead Walking Lunges Repeat for a total of 3 rounds, with rest as needed. Summary Properly programmed, the sandbag can be a fantastic training tool for helping you to develop the strength and conditioning you’ll need to not only make it through, but also perform well in the Spartan Race. When it comes to sports/event performance the key is to stay focused on specificity, so be sure not to devote too much of your training time to purely fitness based improvements. Your fitness training program should be designed to aid performance. As always, we’d love to hear how you’ve prepared for the Spartan Race in the comments below. - Matthew Palfrey To purchase sandbag training gear head over to

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