Centr trainer Alexz Parvi performs a sumo squat holding a sandbag in her left hand, right arm extend
Luke Zocchi

5 sand bag exercises to boost functional cardio

Luke Zocchi

When it comes to building cardio fitness and functional strength, sand bag workouts are seriously underrated.

They’re a versatile and effective piece of equipment, which is why – with my fellow trainer Alexz Parvi – we’ve made sand bag training a key part of our workout program Centr Circuit: Elevate+.

I’ve rounded up 5 of my favorite explosive sand bag exercises so you can experience the difference.

Are you ready to step up?

Centr’s sand bags are built to withstand rigorous workouts. Get yours from shop.centr.com.

The benefits of sand bag workouts

Before trying these exercises with a sand bag, let's explore why they’re such a great addition to your home gym.

1. Unilateral movements for balanced strength

Because sand bags can be held in one hand and the weight distribution is unique, they’re a great way to target and strengthen smaller stabilizing muscles. By engaging each side of the body independently, you’re building balanced strength.

2. Improved grip & forearm strength

Holding onto a flexible sand bag challenges your grip and forearm strength, which translates to a performance boost in daily tasks and other training.

3. Better hand-eye coordination

Because sand bag exercises are usually dynamic, you’re forced to focus and coordinate your movements – dialing up your hand-eye coordination. This can improve your sports performance and reduce your chance of falls.

4. Add resistance anywhere

Unlike a dumbbell, you can safely balance a sand bag on your body – like on your back during a plank – for an extra layer of resistance and intensity.

5. Blend strength and cardio

Sand bags can be carried, dragged, thrown and used for explosive movements. This makes them a fantastic tool for high-intensity cardio workouts that elevate your heart rate and burn calories while also building functional strength.

So grab your sand bags and let’s get to work.

1. Sand bag swings + alternating hand catch

While your posterior chain gets a workout from the ‘swing’, the alternating catches add elements of agility and coordination to give your brain a workout.

How to do it: Hold a sand bag in one hand and stand with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart. Bend slightly at the knees and hinge at the hips, letting the sand bag swing between your legs. Push your hips forward to return to standing, letting your arm swing up with the momentum this generates. When the sand bag reaches chest height, release it and quickly catch it with the opposite hand. Continue swinging and catching with alternating hands.

2. Sand bag alternating reverse lunge + pass-unders

Reverse lunges strengthen your lower body while the sandbag pass-unders challenge your core and improve coordination.

How to do it: Take a step back with one foot, lowering your back knee to the ground in a lunge. At the bottom of the lunge, pass the sand bag between your legs from one hand to the other. Push up from your front foot to return to standing. Lunge your other leg back and repeat the passing motion on the opposite side.

3. Sand bag knee-to-elbow + overhead hold

This compound movement targets both your upper and lower body, combining knee-to-elbow crunches with an overhead hold for a full-body functional burner.

How to do it: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a sand bag above your head with both hands. Draw your left knee up toward your chest while keeping your back straight and core engaged, and bring the sandbag down toward your raised knee at the same time. Push the sand bag back up overhead and lower your left knee. Repeat with the right knee and continue alternating.

Intensify this move by holding a sand bag in each hand like Alexz.

4. Sand bag squat + throw + pop-squat

This explosive move will elevate your heart rate and challenge your coordination. While the pop-squat works your quads and glutes, the throw will bring the shoulder burn.

How to do it: Start with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart, holding a sand bag in front of your chest. Sink into a shallow squat and then jump your feet together, throwing the sand bag up as you do so. As it begins to fall back toward your hands, jump your feet wide again and sink into the shallow squat. Repeat.

Modify this move to be low impact by removing the jump like I do here.

5. Sand bag pyramid plank switch

Get set to elevate your core strength and mobility with this plank variation. The sand bag is going to demand control, balance and shoulder strength.

How to do it: Begin in a high plank position with a sand bag between your hands. Grab the sand bag with one hand and push your hips up and back, moving the sand bag toward the space between your feet as you do so. Return to your position, dragging the sand bag back to the space between your hands as you do so. Repeat.

Modify this move by taking breaks as often as you need – it’s tougher than it looks!

Want more functional movement advice from the experts?

Luke Zocchi

Chris Hemsworth may wield the hammer, but it’s his personal trainer Luke Zocchi who cracks the whip. A certified personal trainer, Luke is renowned for his fast and efficient training methods, using weights and bodyweight to get maximum results in minimum time. He’ll also show you how to fuel your training with quick, easy and healthy recipes.

Luke Zocchi

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