Performing Carries with Sandbags: Get the most out of your Carries.

Performing Carries with Sandbags: Get the most out of your Carries.

Performing Carries with Sandbags: Get the most out of your Carries.

“The loaded carry does more to expand athletic qualities than any other single thing I’ve attempted in my career as a coach and athlete. And I do not say that lightly.” (1)

Our purpose here is not to discuss the overall benefits of carries. We will discuss these in more detail in coming articles. Our purpose here is to illustrate how to make your carries more effective regardless of the space you have available to you. 

Much has been written on the benefits of carries; however, we have found a small gap in the literature that we will fill in this article.  A comment often heard is:  I do not have space to perform carries. Space should not be issue when considering including carries in your sandbag training and sandbag exercises.

There are five essential components that will make your sandbag carries more effective during sandbag workouts and your sandbag training regardless of the space that is available.

  1. Knowledge
  2. Load
  3. Time
  4. Distance
  5. Cadence (Pace/unit time

Misconceptions about the Sandbag Carry Workout and Sandbag Carry Exercise

Sandbag Carries are often ruled out because there is not enough space to perform them in.

An essential element to performing carries of any kind is core stiffness.(2)

On the performance side, “Core Stiffness” is mandatory. It is absolutely essential to carry heavy loads, run fast and change direction quickly. (2)

If we are able to achieve and maintain core stiffness while carrying a load, does it matter if we travel a distance or march on the spot? Travelling a distance will introduce our gait into the carry (3) while marching on the spot will not. The gait is essential to the carry; however, we should rule out carries if space is an issue.

The carry is an exercise where we secure a load in specific position for a period of time; a specific distance; or a while performing a specific cadence (100 step/100m in a specific period of time). 

"When space is limited, it is not the limiting the factor for your carries"

Knowledge is the first component to making sandbag carries more effective in your training because traveling a specific distance is not necessary. We need to understand and effectively implement the principles of the carry: ensure the load is being secured; you are maintaining a neutral spine; your balance; and stabilizing your hips.

Once these are applied, we can successfully perform a sandbag carry exercise while marching on the spot.

Spend time on one leg

We spend the majority of time on one leg when we walk and the carry increases our demands for core stability, balance, postural control and hip stability. (3)  If space is an issue, you can make it work in our favour: spend more time on one leg and stabilize yourself as much as possible moving in and out of that position. 

Marching on the spot is more than lifting one foot off ground. When we start to look at each step and place specific demands on it, we can increase the intensity of our marching  by increasing our intention and expectations of the movement.

"If space is an issue, you can make it work in our favour."

Sandbag carry exercises for sandbag training and fitness sandbag exercises

Step #1: Secure the sandbag in its position. Squeeze your glutes and brace your core.

Step #2: Drive the heel of your base leg into the ground ensuring that weight distribution is going evenly through your foot.

Step #3: Slowly raise the foot of your moving leg. Once your foot is slightly elevated, flex your ankle so you feel the muscles on the front of your lower leg contract. Maintain this position for your ankle until your foot returns to the ground.

Step #4: Slowly flex your hip to elevate your thigh. This can be done for time; for example a three second count on the way with three second pause at the top. Incorporating this into the exercise will increase the overall demands for endurance and focus for the exercise.

When space is limited, it is not the limiting the factor as we can actually program for an increase in the amount of work being done: we can move slower with more objectives in mind - maintaining specific joint angles for examples.

Conclusion: Make the most of your space

If space is an issue for your sandbag carry exercises, what we have described  should be considered for your sandbag training. Marching on the spot removes the gait from your carry;  however, the demands for core stiffness, balance and postural control are still present. In the best case, performing these marches will increase the quality of your carries when space is limitations are no longer present.


1 .Dan Jon, The Secret of Loaded Carries  01/31/2011 

2. Dr Stuart McGill, Why Everyone Needs Core Training  05/01/2015


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