John Brookfield's Grip Tips
By John Brookfield
Author of Mastery of Hand Strength, Revised Edition, Training with
Cables for Strength, The Grip Master’s Manual, and Real-World Conditioning
Sandbag Swing and Catch
In this month’s Grip Tip, I will share with you a simple, yet fun and effective way to build your lower arms. In fact, it will not only build your grip strength, but also your explosive strength, your hand–eye coordination, and your hand toughness. All you need to get started is a sandbag, a shovel, and some ground. If you need a sandbag, you can purchase one at a hardware store. These bags are usually made of a strong mesh that can hold about 65 to 70 pounds of sand when filled. If you are going to use this piece of equipment a lot, I would suggest buying two bags and placing one inside the other to make it more durable.
Fill up the bag with sand or just plain dirt—it doesn’t matter. You will have to experiment with how much sand or dirt to fill the bag. Remember, if you want to use a heavy bag, you still must leave enough room to grasp the top or neck of the bag. Once you have filled the bag with the desired level of sand or dirt, you are ready to start.
Grasp the neck or top of the bag with one hand. Keep the bag between your legs as you lift it. I would also suggest keeping your knees slightly bent throughout the exercise to protect your back. From here, all you have to do is swing the sandbag upward as though you were going to throw a 56-lb. weight for height. Instead of throwing the bag, swing the bag to about upper chest or eye level. Try a few one-handed swings to get the feel of this movement. Once you are comfortable with the swinging motion of the bag, swing the bag up to eye level, and let go of it and catch it with the other hand while it is at eye level. From here, let the bag swing downward and back between your legs; continue the movement, each time swinging the bag upward, letting go, and catching it with the opposite hand.
The Sandbag Swing and Catch can be quite challenging when the bag is heavy and full of sand. Try to get a good flow going with the swings and catches, and remember to let the bag swing between your legs each time. Also remember to keep your knees slightly bent throughout the exercise. This sandbag exercise will produce high yields if you work at it.
Editor's note: John Brookfield’s books Mastery of Hand Strength, Revised Edition, The Grip Master’s Manual, Training with Cables for Strength, and Real-World Conditioning combine John’s limitless creativity with his friendly, downhome manner. John’s articles are also regularly featured in MILO: A Journal for Serious Strength Athletes.
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