Someone probably should create a bumper sticker that reads, "Real Jocks Do Sandpit Workouts." A sandpit or a beach gives you an opportunity to exercise in a different way during the off-season, when you are laying a foundation for a new season of competition. The Dallas Cowboys use sand workouts as a component of their off-season conditioning program, but you don't have to play football to take advantage of the benefits of playing in the sand. Regardless of your sport, sand workouts can increase your speed, strength and explosiveness and help prepare you to excel when it counts.
Benefits of Sand
The University of Georgia volleyball squad does speed workouts in the sand as part of its off-season conditioning program. As coach Michael Schweigert explains at the STACK website, the unstable nature of sand is one of its major benefits for training purposes. It increases your proprioception -- the ability to sense the position of your body -- by increasing your ability to feel the ground, a big bonus for any athlete. Because the sand offers lots of resistance, compared to running on a normal surface, workouts are more demanding. The sand strengthens your feet and ankles as well. As a result of all these factors, running in sand makes you faster and fitter. And the soft surface is easier on your knees, back and joints, thereby reducing your risk of injury.
Sport- and Position-Specific Exercises
Running in a sandpit can be tailored to specific sports and positions. The Dallas Cowboys do position-specific sandpit runs once per week during the off-season. For example, a wide receiver will sprint seven yards, cut right at a 30-degree angle, sprint seven more yards and then cut left at a 30-degree angle. A linebacker drops backward four yards and then open his body to the right, as if dropping into pass coverage, and then backpedals another four yards and opening up his body to the left. But you don't need to play football to do sport-specific or position-specific exercises. A basketball or soccer player can do sprints with quick stops and cuts.
If you're looking for sandpit workouts to make you stronger, the Bodybuilding.com website suggests running in soft sand while pulling a weight sled with an amount of weight that is low enough to allow you to run with correct form. "This training is resistance training brought to a different level," according to Intensity Magazine quoted on Bodybuilding.com. One killer workout is to run four 10-yard sprints in the sand and then out of the sand, followed by three 20-yard sprints in the sand and on the field, then two 30-yards runs and one 40-yard run to finish the drill. If you can get through this workout, you're probably ready for the season to start.
You can use the sand to increase explosive power by doing sand plyometric exercises. Hops, jumps and tucks and standing long jumps in the sand are recommended at STACK. And you don't need to be an elite athlete training for a new season to benefit from playing in the sand. Sand exercise classes for the masses have become popular in recent years. Devotees say the sand classes help produce big changes in their physique, giving them a more chiseled look, and the safe but tough workouts help them lose weight as well.
Jim Thomas has been a freelance writer since 1978. He wrote a book about professional golfers and has written magazine articles about sports, politics, legal issues, travel and business for national and Northwest publications. He received a Juris Doctor from Duke Law School and a Bachelor of Science in political science from Whitman College.