You are here

Tips from the Spartan Pros: Sandbag Carry  

Published by Spartan Race on Thu, 2015/02/26 - 23:03

Written By: Spartan Stadium Series Pro McCauley Kraker

In this week’s "Tips From the Pros", Spartan Pro Team members Orla Walsh, Ryan Kent, Amelia Boone, Christopher Rutz, and Brakken Kraker talk about the keys to the sandbag carry. You’ll notice that some of them use different techniques for obstacles. Its important to be comfortable tackling each obstacle in different ways in case you run into something that can’t be done via your usual technique, or if fatigue forces you to change things up. For example, at this past season’s Vermont Championship competitors were thrown a curveball on the sandbag carry that consisted of two extremely heavy bags that had to be carried over a half mile of steep ascents and descents. Those used to carrying them on their shoulders found that due to the weight and awkwardness of multiple bags, they weren’t able to. They also struggled to carry or drag them because they were missing grip and forearm strength. Races were made and lost on this obstacle.

Training Tips

Orla Walsh – You have to train with a sandbag on those shoulders! Make sure that you’re working BOTH shoulders by carrying a heavy awkward weight and switching shoulders with it while climbing hills.

Christopher Rutz - You should have your own sand bag to train with so you can practice this technique and get used to carry that extra weight for 1/2 to 1 mile distances.

Ryan Kent -  You’re going to need sturdy legs in order to handle the workload of the extra weight, and strong traps for dealing with the stress of the sandbag. Here are some exercises you can do to help you get through this dreaded obstacle: Front Squats, Lunges, Shrugs, Upright Barbell Rows, and Reverse Dumbbell Flyes. AROO!


Amelia Boone – Find a place where it’s comfortable and keep it there. Only switch positions if you need to – takes up time and forces your body to readjust. I find it easiest to keep on my right shoulder the entire time and lodge it in with my bicep – saves your grip. Hike up hills at a steady pace, make up time by running down.

Alexander Nicholas - If you need to rest during this obstacle, try your best to keep the sandbag on your shoulders. Every time you put the sandbag down, it takes a lot of energy to pick it back up and get it comfortable on your shoulders again. Truthfully, there aren’t any secret tricks to this obstacle.

My no frills advice is: “Put the motherf**ker on your shoulders and haul ass!!!”

Ryan Kent - When you approach this obstacle, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the task at hand. Take a few deep breaths to gather yourself, grab a sandbag, throw it up over your head, and just do your best to keep moving and not set it down. If you set it down, then you have to use more energy to pick it back up. I like to place the sand bag directly on my trap muscles, and bring both hands up behind me with a light grip on the bag. It’s the most stable and comfortable way to carry it, but in doing so, be sure not to grip the sandbag too hard. If you do, you’ll find your forearms and fingertips getting fatigued, and you’re most likely going to need that grip strength later in the race.

Christopher Rutz - I like to hoist the bag up onto one shoulder or the other and hold it up there with one arm. Run with it on that side for a bit, then shift it to the other shoulder. This enables you to maintain your running style and shift your muscular exertion from one side to the other during the sandbag carry.

Brakken Kraker - Keep your shoulders back and your chest out while moving with the sandbag. You need to be able to breathe while you’re doing this obstacle, and when bent over you’re cutting your air supply off.

Know which obstacles are coming up? Change your technique accordingly. For example, if I know a grip-oriented obstacle like the spear throw or traverse wall is coming up next I’ll set the bag between my shoulders so that I can save my grip strength for the next obstacle.

Make Your Own

Can’t afford to purchase a sand bag? You can always make your own. Orla Walsh tells us how:

Orla Walsh - You can go to any store like Lowes or Home Depot, buy a 60# tube sand bag, wrap it with duct tape and BOOM, cheap sand bag! Just be sure not to drop or throw these home made ones as they will break open easily.

If you would prefer to train with the same one Spartan uses, check ‘em out in the shop!