Intense, Full-Body Sandbag Workout: GORUCK Sandbag Sweat Sesh

Today, we're introducing you to a workout that has the potential to redefine your limits and reshape your understanding of what you're capable of: this is the GORUCK Sandbag Sweat Sesh

It's a workout that's as relentless as the mountain, as unyielding as the wilderness, and as transformative as the journey to becoming MTNTOUGH.

We had the pleasure of hosting the GORUCK team to our lab where we completed the sandbag workout together. Let's just say this one's a beast.

Before we dive into the heart of it, let's address a fundamental question for those new to this form of exercise.

Why Work Out with Sandbags?

Sandbag workouts offer versatility and engage a broad range of muscles due to their instability, enhancing functional strength. They're particularly effective in strengthening the torso and hips, and improving balance, making them an excellent choice for comprehensive resistance training.

The Core Strength of Sandbag Workouts

The sandbags can be lifted, thrown, or used in a variety of other exercises.

The unstable nature of the sand within the bag adds an additional layer of difficulty to the workout, as the shifting sand forces the whole body to engage more muscles to maintain balance.

This results in a dynamic, full-body workout that improves strength, endurance, and stability - each an important requirement for thriving in the backcountry.

For example, the unpredictable nature of the wilderness demands functional strength and stability - the ability to lift a heavy pack, navigate uneven terrain, or maintain balance under load. These are the exact skills that sandbag workouts develop.

By mimicking real-world movements, sandbag workouts prepare you for real-world challenges.

They don't just make you stronger; they make you more resilient, more capable, and better equipped to handle whatever comes your way.

Engaging and strengthening your core is one of the most important ways to prep yourself for the backcountry. Doing so impacts nearly every step of your hunt, whether that's side-hilling or working through deadfall, your core gives you the power to keep yourself together and the balance to stay safe.

Sandbag training isn't just about getting a good sweat. It's about pushing your limits, challenging your entire body, and building real, functional strength. It's about grit, determination, and the kind of toughness that doesn't just come from the ultra-efficiency of lifting weights.

It's about the kind of toughness that comes from lifting something that fights back, something that shifts and changes just like the challenges you face out there in the mountains.

We know the power of a solid sandbag workout, and after you complete the GORUCK Sweat Sesh, you'll know and feel it too.

This type of functional training is right in our wheelhouse. If you dare to consistently tackle workouts like this, you'll experience a transformation of body and mind.

6 Major Benefits of Sandbag Training

There are countless benefits to using just a sandbag for training, but let's focus on a few that every mountain athlete should know.

1. Core Power Amplified

We've already covered the core in great detail, but it's worth repeating since it's a bit unique in the traditional workout sense.

Thanks to the shifting weight of the sandbag, your core muscles go into overdrive, forced to work harder to maintain balance and stability.

The result? A rock-solid center that's ready for whatever comes its way.

2. Unrivaled Versatility

With sandbags, the possibilities for your workout are nearly endless. Lifts, squats, overhead presses, carries - you name it. Seriously, even the Turkish get-up can be done with a sandbag (not easily) but it's a thing.

Tailor your workout to your specific goals, or mix it up to keep your body guessing. The adaptability of sandbag training means you're always pushing your limits, breaking through plateaus, and continually improving.

3. Peak Functional Fitness

Functional strength is the name of the game with sandbag workouts. The sandbag exercises mimic real-world movements, like lifting heavy gear or maintaining balance on uneven terrain.

The strength and endurance you build aren't just for the gym - they're for life's challenges, whether that's a multi-day backcountry hunt or a challenging mountain trail.

4. Strength in Every Plane

Sandbag training doesn't just make you stronger. It makes you stronger in every plane of motion - sagittal, frontal, and transverse. You're not just building linear strength, like your typical movement of raising and lowering a bar or dumbbell.

You're building strength that translates into real-world movements and activities.

5. Grip Strength Boost

Handling sandbags regularly can take your grip strength to new heights. A strong grip is more than just a firm handshake.

It's essential for activities that demand a lot from your hands, whether that's climbing, rucking, or obstacle course racing. That's perhaps the real angle on this benefit - just like every other benefit of a sandbag workout, your grip strength will improve in functional ways.

Crush sandbag workouts and you can finally become the house hero for opening difficult jars.

6. Workouts That Engage

Sandbag workouts aren't just effective - they're a variety that can keep things interesting.

The shifting weight adds an element of unpredictability to your workout - and challenge for that matter.

It's a great way to mix up your routine and keep your workouts exciting. You're not just working out - you're engaging, focusing, and having a blast while you're at it.

Want to see the benefits for yourself? Let's put sandbag training to the test and dig into the GORUCK Sweat Sesh.

GORUCK Sweat Sesh: A Sandbag Workout Like No Other

The GORUCK Sweat Sesh is a unique blend of intensity, versatility, and real-world functionality.

This isn't your typical gym session - but you knew that already. With the GORUCK and MTNTOUGH crews uniting under one gym roof for a team workout, it was destined to be atypical. This demanding functional workout was too good to keep secret.

It will push the boundaries of what you might expect from a workout, while still still ensuring you develop functional strength and endurance that translates directly to the challenges you face in the field.

Ready to give it a shot? Here's the plan:


  • Males: 60-80lbs sandbag

  • Females: 40lbs sandbag

Warmup: 2 Rounds

The GORUCK Sandbag Sweat Sesh begins with a warm-up consisting of two rounds of various exercises.

The warm-up, like any workout, is your saving grace from injury and your ticket to max performance during the entire workout. Never skip it. And certainly don't start now.

  • Ski Erg x 10 cals

  • Overhead Band Squats x 10

  • Ham Rockers x 3/3

  • Pushup Toe Tap x 3/3

  • Plank Reach x 3/3

Buy In: 3 Rounds

Before diving into the main workout, there's the "buy-in". This is your bridge between the warm-up and the main workout, signaling your body that something intense is on the way. It's designed to ramp up your heart rate and get your muscles firing.

  • Sled Push/Pull x 130 lbs + sandbag (40/60lb) x 10yd/10yd

  • Sandbag Overhead Carry x 60 yards

Main Workout: 4 Rounds

This is where the real work happens and limits will be pushed. Each exercise is designed to target different muscle groups, ensuring a comprehensive, full-body workout.

  • Treadmill Incline Shoulder Carry x 1 min/1 min

  • Burpee over Sandbag x 6

  • Sandbag Clean x 6

  • Sandbag Squat to Press x 6

  • SB Walking Lunge (back carry) x 15/15

  • Plank Lateral Pull to Tuck x 6/6

Buy Out:

The "buy-out" is your last push, a chance to squeeze out every last bit of effort before you cool down. It's designed to challenge you one last time, making sure you've truly given your all.

  • Sandbag Front Rack Step Ups x 25/25

This compound exercise will test your mettle; focused on the lower body, for those who finish strong, you can walk away with max workout results and a strong sense of accomplishment. Well done.

Remember, this workout is not for the faint of heart, but for those willing to push their limits, the GORUCK Sweat Sesh is a powerful tool for building strength, endurance, and resilience.

The combination of high-intensity rounds, varied exercises, functional strength training, and the unique challenge of the shifting sandbag weight all contribute to improved physical performance.

Whether you're a backcountry hunter, a mountain athlete, or just someone looking to push their fitness to the next level, this workout is designed to help you perform at your best, no matter what challenges you face.

The Power of a Full-Body Sandbag Workout

MTNTOUGH's fitness philosophy is a holistic approach that combines physical strength and mental toughness. Developed by former Navy SEALs, Army Rangers, and renowned physical trainers, our programs are designed to prepare you for any challenge you might face in the backcountry.

And while we didn't create this workout, that honor goes to the GORUCK team, it certainly fits our criteria for being an effective and useful way to train for the mountains.

Perhaps the most appealing part of this workout to us is how it captures our ethos.

Becoming MTNTOUGH is about embracing challenges, persevering through adversity, and developing a mindset of resilience. It's going through hell to become the best version of yourself.

Ready to find out what you're made of? Try our 14-day free trial and gain access to every MTNTOUGH program. Start your free trial today and join the MTNTOUGH community.


Are Sandbag Workouts Effective?

Sandbag workouts are highly effective for functional fitness. They engage multiple muscle groups, mimicking real-world movements across multiple planes. This dynamic resistance improves stability, strength, and mobility, making them ideal for backcountry hunters and military personnel.

There are downsides to sandbag workouts that make them less effective for certain types of training. For instance, they aren’t the best for building peak strength. It has a lot to do with the limitations of your grip and the weight you can carry as a result. 

Are Sandbags Better Than Weights?

Sandbags can be better than weights for functional fitness. Their shifting weight demands more stability and engages more muscles, replicating real-world physical tasks. This makes them ideal for backcountry hunters and military personnel.

Sandbags and traditional weights like barbells, dumbbells, and kettlebells each have their own benefits and drawbacks. So, one is not necessarily always better than the other. 

For instance, while sandbags employ dynamic resistance to help you build different muscle groups, like your core, this also makes them more unpredictable than conventional forms of lifting. This requires more training, and failure to get it right increases the likelihood of injury.

Are Sandbags Better Than Kettlebells?

Sandbags can be better than kettlebells for functional fitness. Their shifting weight demands stability and engages more muscles, replicating real-world physical tasks. Kettlebells, however, provide more control and are better for targeted muscle training and grip strength.

Both are incredibly versatile and have their unique place in training. Where sandbags are perhaps better suited for functional, HIIT, and circuit training, kettlebells are better suited for improving power, strength, and endurance - namely grip strength and cardio.

What Are The Pros And Cons Of Sandbag Training?

Sandbag training has pros and cons. Pros include versatility, functional fitness, and cost-effectiveness. However, cons include potential for injury if not used correctly, and they may not provide the precision of more traditional weights.

If you’re on a mission to take your strength to its absolute limit, sandbags won’t be the best choice. Ultimately, the decision to incorporate sandbag training comes down to your goals and needs.

For the mountain athlete, they’re a perfect form of training to mix into your routine. For a bodybuilder, not so much.

Are Sandbags Good For Squats?

Yes, sandbags are good for squats. They add an element of instability that challenges your core, glutes, hip flexors, quads, etc, which enhances your balance and the effectiveness of the squat. They’re also versatile for squats, lending themselves to back squats, front rack squats, overhead squats and more. 

The natural thought progression is the benefits of sandbag squats compared to barbell squats. Aside from the functional and practical benefits, they’re also far more ergonomic than barbells - this comes in handy on certain squat variations like the Zercher squat, where they’re far easier to position.

Building on how sandbag squats can improve the core, this is the result of its asymmetrical load (an incredibly purposeful movement in the wild and elsewhere) that works the lateral flexion, and results in greater balance and core stability.