Here’s a novel, yet highly effective training method that you probably haven’t tried before: working out with a sledgehammer!
All you’ll need to do this is a sledgehammer (duh) and a tire, old log, dead tree stump, loose earth or something else you can use for target practice. It’s also super satisfying, even if it does make you look a bit like a maniac!
Training with a hammer is great because it’s satisfying but also because it builds very functional strength. When you hit something with a heavy hammer, you’ll find that every single stroke is slightly different. You can attempt the same technique but the precise trajectory will always vary and this will at least partly be down to your starting position. At any rate, you’ll be using a combination of your obliques (which twist the torso to generate torque), your shoulders, your lats, your core and your triceps. Your legs will also play an important role in keeping you grounded, while you’ll need to grip with your hands to keep the hammer in position.
Another benefit of this type of training is that it’s a form of ‘resistance cardio’. That means that you’re combining resistance training (weights) with cardiovascular training (fat burning). When you put these two together, it makes you work much harder and is actually one of the best ways to burn the maximum number of calories without breaking down muscle.
Tips and Guidance
The specific type of hammer we’ll be using for this is a sledgehammer. This is one of the long hammers with the heavy head on the end. You can buy these relatively easily on eBay or other online stores and they’re not too expensive. They also come in a wide number of weights. Start light (about 10kg unless you’re used to lifting very heavy weights) and then find somewhere secluded where you can train. If you can use your own garden, then this will be ideal.
How you approach this is really going to be up to you. This is a ‘free form’ kind of training and that’s actually one of the things that make it so useful. When you train this way, you’re able to cut loose and just have fun – you don’t necessarily need a program!
But something to keep in mind is that you mustn’t overdo it to begin with and you mustn’t grip too tightly or do it too hard. This is just a one-way ticket to smashed shins or skulls!
Instead, start by holding onto the handle relatively lightly but firm enough to that you won’t let go. The idea is to avoid letting shockwaves travel through your wrists. Hit your target with force but not so much that it might bounce back and hit you and not so much that it’s going to send shockwaves up your arms and through your elbows etc. Hitting a tire side on is a great idea because it means the tire will move and the hammer will ricochet less.
Of course it goes without saying that you should always keep your eyes firmly on the target and not let them off of it!
Something you’ll notice at first is that this can be very hard work on the hands and over time they’re likely to start to blister. Don’t be a hero: if you let this happen, then you’ll only find that it prevents you from doing the same workout next time. So build up the calluses. This is actually one of the pleasing things about this type of training – you get workman’s hands (your partner may not thank you for it though).
Note as well that this type of training is not a full workout in itself. This won’t train your pecs for instance or your biceps and so if you want to build an even coverage of muscle (you do), then you need to use this as a supplement – perhaps at the end of a workout.
But if you want to make it into a brutal cardio routine all on its own, then you can always use HIIT or Tabata. Alternate between periods of intense activity and short periods of rest and this will really get the blood pumping. It’s just as effective as ‘battle ropes’ but you don’t have to spend a ton of money on heavy ropes.
Alternate your swings and otherwise, have fun!