Gear Advice from Coach Jeff Grant: DIY Sandbags
While Rogue Fitness definitely makes some great high quality sandbags (Rogue Tactical Sandbag Series), I wanted at least a dozen for my gym in lots of different sizes and didn’t quite have the budget for a big stack of Rogue bags. During a start-up phase, it’s helpful to find some cheap CrossFit equipment! Plus, I wanted something a little bulkier. My solution was to make my own with military duffel bags and what I think is one of the top fillers out there, wood stove heating pellets. The price was right, even in expensive Switzerland, and the resulting bag has an excellent feel. They don’t fold and thump you on cleans like bags filled with fine sand or rock fillers do. They hold their form and don’t temp the athlete to shortcut the awkwardness factor by having lots of handles.
Here’s how to make one.
1. Visit your local military surplus shop or order online from the guys at The Sportsman’s Guide. They ship internationally and have a bunch of other cool stuff, too.
U.S. Military Surplus Duffel Bag, Used
Find them locally or online at The Sportsman’s Guide
Durable, water-resistant, great for outdoors training
Heavy-gauge, water-resistant, treated nylon fabric, Wrap-around handles for toughness
I’ve yet to test these, but the design looks great and it would make a good option for variation.
A bag anywhere in the 22-24″ x 36-38″ range will work very well.
Warning: Don’t buy low quality duffel bags! I regret my first buying experience when I bought a super cheap set of “Army” duffel bags and the bags arrived in packaging marked “Made in China”. They looked cheap even inside the packaging and felt super cheap once I started using the bags. Two of the bags have already burst open and the others are on there way toward utter destruction. Buy real military bags and if you find any with a quality higher than those made for the U.S. Army, then let me know.
2. Purchase bags of wood stove pellets. If you live in a part of the world that doesn’t sell these, well you can take the expensive option of flying to Switzerland to visit me, buying some bags and flying home with them or you can try substitutes of recycled tire pieces or various landscaping materials. I don’t recommend sand, especially fine-grained playground sand. I’ve been down this path. It WILL make its way out of the bags every time they’re dropped and if a bag bursts open, the clean-up is a pain.
3. Purchase some liner bags – good old-fashioned, stop-rising-waters sand bags. I like to use these as an inner bag because it makes it easier to remove the weight and wash the bag. If it’s your own bag for your garage gym, this may not be so important. In a multi-person gym though, these bags get regularly covered in sweat and dropped outside in the dirt and grass. Your clients will appreciate you washing them and the liner bags make this much easier.
4. Pour in the pellets until you arrive at the desired weight. Zip tie the inner bag if you are using it and then the outer bag. Cut off the excess.
5. You may want to cut the straps off as well, unless you plan to ruck with the sandbag. I use other rucks, so I prefer to streamline these bags so that no one takes an eye out with a flying strap. Stressed about cutting straps off a perfectly good bag? Don’t be … you’ll get plenty of great use out of it as a training tool.
If you wish, mark the weight with a fabric pen (marked in kilos below).
Photos of the finished product — a DIY Homemade Sandbag for Training
- Stuffed Gym Bag — using the same filler and a liner bag, I converted one old Reebok gym bag into a covert, lightweight sandbag. It’s great for scaling, single-arm work and passes/throwing.
- other military bags — I picked up some vintage Swiss military bags at a surplus shop and love them. I filled one with rocks and the other with wood stove pellets.
- If you’ve got the budget and like the size of the Rogue bags, then these are virtually indestructible and they’ve improved in recent years. Also, check out their new Strongman bags. Epic!
If you’ve got the budget and simply want just one bomb-proof bag, the Rogue Tactical bags are very good.
In my Rogue bag, I use 2-3 sand-filled liner bags. To avoid the bag folding as the sand consolidates, I improved the setup by stuffing old clothes in the bag. It holds shape much better with this easy mod.
Recommended Weights: I’ve got bags that range from 8KG to 45KG (18-100 lbs). 25-30KG (55-66lbs) is the sweet spot for most in my gym and across a broad range of exercises.
Materials: duffel, zip ties, optional inner bag, optional old clothes to stuff
Now, maintain great form and enjoy the deadlifts, cleans, Turkish getups, runs and other awesome things you can do with a sandbag! Here’s a list of sandbag workout ideas. If you are looking for more garage gym ideas, check out this article with my lessons learned and top picks in 2020.
Jeff Grant is the author of Flow State Runner: Activate a Powerful Inner Coach’s Voice, Hill Running: Survive & Thrive, Run Faster: Unlock Your Speed in 8 Weeks, Running Heavy, and UltraRunning: Coach’s Handbook. Based in Switzerland, Jeff is a coach and writer who specializes in mental coaching, peak performance, and transformation. Jeff’s popular newsletter is a digest containing inspirational and instructional resources, including his latest content. See recent issues and subscribe for free here. Refer to Jeff’s bio for more information, and please check out Jeff’s Coach & Author page on Facebook.