Savage Simplicity: Training With a Sandbag, Sledgehammer and Tires

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When was the last time you stepped away from the gym and trained in less than perfect conditions? Have you ever loaded a sandbag with 200lb and gone through a full session with it? Have you ever thrown tires or swung a sledgehammer until your heart is beating out of your chest?

Well, the time is now.

Call it farm boy training, call it a warrior workout, call it gladiator training, call it what you like. The term I have coined for it is savage simplicity. Regardless what you call it, this type of training is tough. It’s brutal and intense, but with that it builds serious full body strength, power, endurance, toughness, mental strength and torches fat in the process.

Related: Tire Sled Drag and Sandbag Conditioning for Only $20

This training is, more often than not, the break you need from the mundane day-to-day of your current gym routine. It’s easy to get into a rhythm and stop seeing gains. This training is a much needed escape into new realms and a style that brings with it mental toughness, physical confidence and a well rounded athletic physique.

Don’t for a second though think that this training is light, high rep bodyweight work that “feels the burn.” In reality it’s quite the opposite. The work is heavy. It’s strenuous. It puts you under tough conditions and it expects you to come out fighting with a struggle and a determination to finish the task at hand.

This training is not pretty. It’s not about flexing in the mirror after a set, but rather gasping for breath and convincing yourself you have what it takes to carry on and finish the workout you started.

Sandbag Zercher

What Equipment Will You Need?

It’s simple.

  • Heavy Sandbag. You’ll need a heavy sandbag – one with no handles. Think the World’s Strongest Man style sandbags. No handles means no convenient grip. You’ll be forced to fight with the bag each and every rep. After, your forearms, hands and fingers will let you know what grip strength really is.
  • Sledgehammer. You’ll need a Sledgehammer. One around 16lb is usually more than enough. Going too heavy on the swings means sacrificing speed, power and velocity for force. 16lb is more than enough to bring a big guy to his knees.
  • Tires. You need a couple of tires. These are generally free from garages that’ll have to pay someone to come and take them away. You’ll be doing them a favor and getting one hell of a training tool in the process. Grab a few while you’re there. Larger truck tires work the best, as they can be used to throw, as a makeshift sled and as a shock absorber for the sledgehammer swings.
  • Chain or Rope. Lastly you’ll need to get a good length of solid chain or rope that’s around 2” thick. This rope or chain is used to drag the sled. It’s also used in hand over hand rope pulls similar to that in the World’s Strongest Man competitions.

When you’ve gathered your equipment, throw it in your garden, in the back of your truck or keep them in the garage and you’ll never be short of a brutal workout again. You can’t make it to the gym? Get out and drag the sled. Need a short conditioning circuit? Work in 10 solid minutes of swings and let me know how badly your midsection and forearms hurt the following day.

Don’t be put off though if you don’t currently have access to any of the above equipment. More often than not, it can be purchased for next to nothing, or in some cases even free. Like I said above, garages and junk yards will have plenty of tires that they have to pay someone to take off their hands to recycle. You can do just that for free. If you want something on the heavier side, then look for a truck tire or even one with the wheel still attached.

The sandbag can either be purchased from a specialist company or you can just get your hands on an old military duffel bag. Remember – no handles. You want to have to grip the thing to really get all the incredible benefits of using a sandbag. The weight inside the bag can be easily adjusted by creating smaller taped up bags of sand, gravel or dirt. It’s even a viable option to throw some heavy duty chains in there as well to increase the weight.

The sledgehammer will be your best friend for fat-loss and your worst enemy for making you dig deep and getting you tougher. It’s imperative that you use it safety though. Make sure your hands do not slip off the handle, make sure no-one is around when you’re swinging it and certainly make sure you’re swinging it into a large absorbent surface – a large tire. The hammer will have a bounce back at the bottom, so always be on guard and in control at all times.

Sandbag Training

This training may be rustic, but it’s incredibly fun. There is a warrior spirit that shines when you are swinging a sledgehammer into a tire repeatedly with force. There is a sense of being unstoppable when you can throw around a 200lb sandbag with relative ease.

These movements will work the body like no other training offers. They are all full-body movements that include numerous different mechanics- pulling, pushing, rotating, level changes, stability, explosive work, etc. Just 20-30 minutes of this training will make you a beast. It will get you strong all over and in a comparatively short space of time.

So, read these words. Get inspired. Take action to step away from the gym every now and then and tear things up in your backyard, on a field or car park.

Sandbag Beat Down

Thorough Warm-up First then:

  • 1a. Sandbag Zercher Carry x 150ft
  • 1b. Sandbag Zercher Squat x 10, 8, 6, 4, 2

The superset above begins with the sandbag held tightly in the crux of the elbows. You carry the sandbag for 150ft maintaining solid posture the entire time and when you reach the end of the carry, immediately perform 10 ass to grass squats with the bag. This is followed by a 60-120 second rest and then repeated.

The squats in the second round reduce to 8. The third round 6. The fourth round 4 and the fifth round is just 2. Get the sandbag heavy in this superset. None of this 50lb crap! Get the bag loaded up with at least 50% of your bodyweight.

  • 2a. Sandbag walking lunges 4 x 150ft

In this exercise, the sandbag can be lightened by 50% depending on your starting weight. The legs will already be pretty fried after the first part of the workout. This is a true test of mental toughness and strength endurance that will get your heart rate up through the roof. Keep the reps smooth and fluid. Flow from the first step into the second and repeat until the entire distance is covered.

  • 3a. Sandbag Power Clean x 50 total reps

Sandbag Press

This is a tough finisher. The sets are determined by your own mental drive. The set calls for 50 total reps. If at this stage you need to hit 50 singles – so be it.

Dig deep. Keep pushing and always maintain a solid posture throughout. Form is always the key. Killing yourself with intensity always follows solid form and perfect posture.

Straddle the bag, find your hinge, get your back flat, grip the bag and rip it up to chest height in one clean movement. Pause and brace briefly before squatting the bag back down to the ground. This is one of the 50 reps.

The Workout Recapped

  • Warm-up
  • 1a. Sandbag Zercher Carry x 150ft
  • 1b. Sandbag Zercher Squat x 10, 8, 6, 4, 2
  • 2a. Sandbag walking lunges 4 x 150ft
  • 3a. Sandbag Power Clean x 50 total reps

Car Park Conditioning

Thorough Warm-up First then:

  • 1a. Forward Sled Drag x 150ft
  • 1b. Backwards Sled Drag x 150ft
  • 1c. Hand over Hand Sled Pull x 75ft
  • 1d. Forward Sled Sprint x 75ft
  • Repeat for Three Total Rounds

This is a real lung, leg and heart buster. The sled quickly becomes incredibly heavy and the legs become exceptionally pumped. The hand-over-hand pulling gives the legs a little rest, while the grip and lats get a hammering. That’s over quickly though and the legs and glutes are called in for a final sprint. This is a true test of mental toughness and a steel will to grind through the task at hand.

  • 2a. Push-up x 10
  • 2b. Pull-up x 10
  • Repeat for Four Total Rounds

This may seem pretty simple, but putting 100% attention into a full-body focus and full range of motion on both the push-ups and the pull-ups makes this little superset challenging for anyone. The humble push-up is a full body act. The legs, the glutes, and the core must to remain braced throughout.

The hands grip the ground, creating torque in the shoulders and lats. The head down to the heels remains in a constant straight line and the only movement comes from the elbows. This is how every push-up needs to be. Anything less is a failed rep.

  • 3a. 100 Alternating Sledgehammer Swings

SledgehammerThe swings are all done overhead, directly down into the tire. The repetitive slams really make you aware of your back, shoulders, traps, mid-section and forearms. Ensure that your feet are firmly planted every time you swing. Keep your body straight and aligned throughout each and every swing. The back remains flat throughout and each swing is done with force. Sledgehammer swings are amazing for full body power and a killer way to condition the body.

The Workout Recapped

Warm-up

  • Repeat for Three Total Rounds
  • 1d. Forward Sled Sprint x 75ft
  • 1c. Hand-over-Hand Sled Pull x 75ft
  • 1b. Backwards Sled Drag x 150ft
  • 1a. Forward Sled Drag x 150ft
  • 2a. Push-up x 10
  • 2b. Pull-up x 10
  • Repeat for Four Total Rounds
  • 3a. 100 Alternating Sledgehammer Swings

Playing with the Odd Objects

  • 1a. Sandbag Clean and Press x 5-8
  • 1b. Pull-up/Bodyweight Row Variations x sub max
  • Four Rounds Total

The sandbag clean and press is a monster of a movement. The sandbag is relentless from the second it leaves the ground. You’ll have to fight with it, grip it tightly and brace and stabilize throughout. No two reps will ever be the same with the sandbag, but that’s all part of the beauty. Ensure that the back remains flat, the glutes and stomach are tight throughout the movement. The sandbag is to be returned to the floor after every rep.

  • 2a. Sandbag Bearhug Carry 3 x 200ft

If you want to understand what the lats are and what grip strength is all about, then look no further than the bear hug carry. Rip the bag up to chest height, wrap your arms tightly around the bag, get the grip tight and pull your elbows back hard, engaging the lats. Maintain this tension as you walk the distance. Get tight, stand tall and dig deep.

  • 3a. Sandbag Row x Max
  • 3b. Sandbag Power Curl x Max
  • Three Rounds Total

Expect some major bicep, forearm and upper back pump after this quick superset. Gripping the bag tightly will make you very aware of all the musculature that makes up your hands and forearms. The shifting weight of the bag as you power curl and row constantly forces you to stabilize. It may not look like much on paper, but in practice, it’s a killer.

  • 4a. Tire Throw x 5 mins straight

Throwing is something that is so overlooked in gyms. It makes sense though. You can’t exactly throw around weights in a crowded indoor setting. This kind of work is not only brutal on the conditioning side of things, but for max power it’s unmatched. Throwing a tire for distance is a true power movement. You can fully exert your entire power, without having to slow down at any point during the rep.

In a gym setting, this movement would need to be slowed to a controlled stop at the top of the rep. You essentially have to put the brakes on your power every rep. Throwing an object to a full release is a true uninhibited power movement. So, squat down, clean the tire to chest height, dip slightly and throw it forcefully up and forward. Sprint after it and repeat for a full 5 minutes.

The Workout Recapped

  • Warm-up
  • 1a. Sandbag Clean and Press x 5-8
  • 1b. Pull-up/Bodyweight Row Variations x sub max
  • Four Rounds Total
  • 2a. Sandbag Bearhug Carry 3 x 200ft
  • 3a. Sandbag Row x Max
  • 3b. Sandbag Power Curl x Max
  • Three Rounds Total
  • 4a. Tire Throw x 5 mins straight

This type of training may be out of the ordinary, even out of your comfort zone, but that’s why it’s so great. Training at times can be tedious and this is primal escape you may need. It’s fun. It’s savage and it promotes full body athleticism.

Perhaps best of all though, is that once you have the gear in your hands, you’ll have a brutal workout whenever, wherever.

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Name: Phil Bennett

Bio: I became tired of being tired. I became tired of being skinny. I became tired of being unhealthy. I began weight training in the usual fashion. I reaped all the typical noob benefits despite the shotgun approach to training. I quickly realized though that this wasn’t me. Being outside has always something I have enjoyed. Lifting stones and logs felt more natural to me than barbells and dumbbells.