The EMOM Sandbag Circuit For Rock-Hard Abs

Sandbag power clean
(Image credit: Future / Model: Callum Melly

It’s said that abs are built in the kitchen. In other words, your diet plays the leading role in making sure you’re not concealing the set of rectus and transversus abdominus and obliques you have. Nevertheless, how you get active plays a crucial supporting part in carving strong, defined muscles on your stomach’s surface and deep in your core. Endless sit-ups and crunches will leave you cramped in unnecessary agony and do nothing about the belly fat that’s in the way.

Instead, this innovative sandbag routine from Andrew Tracey, serial T-shirt avoider, will work your muscles through every conceivable plane of movement for full development. It’s an EMOM workout (EMOM stands for every minute on the minute) and this method will melt away the fat concealing them. Plus, build sandbag training into your week and you’ll improve your real-world strength in these areas:

  • Grip Unlike a perfectly weighted and knurled barbell, it’s awkward to grab, meaning your hands and forearms are working constantly.
  • Balance The contents shift as you move, forcing you to stabilise from the floor to your fingertips so your core is under pressure to keep you steady.
  • Cardio As a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee study found, using a sandbag rather than dumbbells for a move causes your heart to beat 8bpm faster, meaning greater energy expenditure and more calories burned.

Match your effort with a star turn in the kitchen and award-winning abs are all yours. Bravo.

How It Works

Use a stopwatch and do the prescribed reps at the start of each minute. The faster you do them, the more time you have to recover before the next exercise. “As you get further into your session fatigue forces you to slow down, but then rest periods plummet and you have to work harder, meaning you churn through calories,” says Tracey. “It might feel easy at first but it catches up with you after ten minutes.”


At the start of the minute, do 12 reps of the move, then rest for the remainder of the 60 seconds. (Do six reps each side for the halo and woodchops.) Repeat the circuit three times for a total of 18 minutes’ action. Alter the reps or weight to make it easier or harder but remember it should feel OK at first, punishing at the last.

1 Power snatch

Power snatch

(Image credit: Future / Model: Callum Melly

Squat and grab the bag. Raise it, leading with your elbows until it’s chest-high, then drop below it and punch it up. Generate power by thrusting your hips forwards as you stand.

Front squat

Front squat

(Image credit: Future / Model: Callum Melly

Hold the bag across the front of your shoulders, keeping your elbows high. Lower into a squat, keeping your knees wide and body upright, then stand. For the full effect, keep your body as still as possible by squeezing your core hard.

3 Halo


(Image credit: Future / Model: Callum Melly

Circle the bag around your head, alternating direction with each rep.

Jump squat

jump squat

(Image credit: Future / Model: Callum Melly

Hold the bag across the back of your shoulders. Lower into a quarter squat, then drive up to jump.

Woodchop with lunge

Woodchop with lunge

(Image credit: Future / Model: Callum Melly

Swing the bag across your body from high to low, lunging to the side with each rep. Do six reps to one side, then switch. If your core is functioning, balance shouldn’t be an issue.

6 Reverse woodchop

Reverse woodchop

(Image credit: Future / Model: Callum Melly

Swing the bag across yourself from low to high. Lift quickly, then slow down towards the top to work your abs harder.

Sam Rider

Sam Rider is an experienced freelance journalist, specialising in health, fitness and wellness. For over a decade he's reported on Olympic Games, CrossFit Games and World Cups, and quizzed luminaries of elite sport, nutrition and strength and conditioning. Sam is also a REPS level 3 qualified personal trainer, online coach and founder of Your Daily Fix. Sam is also Coach’s designated reviewer of massage guns and fitness mirrors.