How to Improve Athleticism With Sand Workouts

Studies show sand training can increase explosiveness but may hamper your sprint times.

Sand plyomtetrics and jump training has been shown to increase performance measurements linked to strength and lower post-training muscle soreness than other surfaces. But incorrect use of sand training has also been linked to performance decreases in measurements for 20- and 40-meter sprints.

Here's a guide to using sand training correctly to benefit performance outcomes.

What the research says on training on sand vs other surfaces

  1. A 4-week study was done on 40 NHL players to compare the sport-specific performance variables of plyometric training on grass vs. sand. Players that trained on sand surfaces experienced less soreness than players who trained on grass during the study.
  2. A separate study was conducted on 14 healthy men comparing the effects of plyometric training on sand vs. land surfaces and muscular performance. Both groups showed significant improvements in the vertical jump test, standing long jump test, and 1 RM leg press. However, both groups also showed significant decreases in 20 and 40-meter sprint times, as well as slower T-Test times.
  3. A study was done on well-trained female sports athletes measuring the effects pre- and post- training of sand vs. grass on performance measurements like VO2Max, HR, Rate of Percieved Exertion and Repeated Sprint Ability. Results showed that training load, HR and VO2Max improved significantly in the sand training group compared to the grass training groups.
  4. A study that monitored the biomechanical effects of flying sprints for 30 meters on sand surfaces noted that the running mechanics of the athletes differed significantly on the sand surface compared to the track. Researches suggested that this likely wouldn't be beneficial for maximal sprint velocity training as training on sand could potentially alter running biomechanics
  5. A study comparing the physiological effects of sand vs. grass training by measuring factors like blood lactate levels, heart rate and subsequent running time trial performance. The results showed that sand training significantly increased measures like blood lactate and heart rate levels post training, but subsequent performance on running time trials was better for the sand group.

What Does This All Mean?

For attributes like maximal speed and agility, sand training isn't very effective and can potentially be detrimental. Firm surfaces maximize the effects of the stretch shortening cycle which is crucial for utilizing elastic energy to produce greater concentric forces. Because the sand dissipates the force exerted by our muscles, there's a loss of energy which is likely why sprint and agility test times were slower. In addition to this, the soft surface of the sand alters the sprinting mechanics that would normally be used on a traditional playing surface. Surfaces like tracks and grass would be more ideal for training maximal speed and agility drills. The firmness of these surfaces allows for greater usage of the stretch shortening cycle.

For conditioning, lower-body strength and reduced muscle soreness, sand training can be highly effective. Because sand dissipates so much energy, there's a higher metabolic cost to training on this type of surface, which means it's easier to burn more calories and elevate one's heart rate. This translates to improved conditioning and fat loss. The soft surface of the sand also requires that our muscles produce greater amounts of force to move around while absorbing most of the ground forces that are exerted, reducing the total amount of stress on our muscles, joints and ligaments. This makes sand training an effective lower-body workout during high volume training seasons because you can train lower-body strength without experiencing too much soreness.

Sand Workouts

Sand Jump Drills for Lower Body Strength

  • Standing Long Jumps x 5
  • Tuck Jumps x 5
  • Skater Hops x 4 (each leg)
  • Single-Leg Bounds x 20 yards

Sand Conditioning Drill

  • Repeat Sprints x 25 yds (with 20 second active recovery walks between sprints)