“While at Rochester in New York, as I was passing through the street, I met a crowd assembled about a lifting machine. On making trial of it, I found I
could lift four hundred and twenty pounds. I had then been for four years a gymnast and I supposed my practice would have qualified me to make the crowd
stare at my achievement. But the result was far from triumphant. I found what many other gymnasts will find, that main strength, by which I mean the strength of the truckman and the porter, cannot be acquired in the ordinary exercises of the gymnasium.” – George Barker Windship describing his introduction to strength training to the prestigious magazine the Atlantic Monthly. (Summer, 1854)
Sandbags, kettlebells, sledgehammers are perfect tools for increasing “main” strength in both men and women.
During my research in preparation for writing The Sledgehammer Workout, I came across an author who wrote that French coalminers had the best abs that he had ever seen. This, he claimed, was as a result of their regular sledgehammer work.
Sledgehammer training is the epitome of “old school” exercise. But a lot of us think of the sledgehammer as being one dimensional – using it only for striking a tractor tire. I know I did before having the light bulb come on in my head. In this article, I hope to open your eyes to numerous other incredible ways of using a simple sledgehammer in your bootcamp and fitness training.
First the benefits of sledgehammer training:
- Improved conditioning
- Increased strength
- Improved awareness
- Improved athleticism
- Improved hand/eye coordination
- Multi-dimensional (in the picture above, I’m doing a hard (core) exercise similar to a plank. Except it’s much harder. And if you want to pull one leg off of the ground, it just got even harder. And then if you want to “walk” your hands down about 5 lengths and back up again, have fun!
A sledgehammer workout routine is much more than just swinging it at a tire. In fact, in a bootcamp setting with people walking around, I’m not even sure I would recommend it – at least not at first. There are too many other workouts, exercises, games and challenges that can be done.
One thing that you may not have thought of is that there is actually lots of variety with sledgehammer training. They’re not all four feet long and 30 pounds. They start at four pounds and actually go up well above 30. But as I mention in The Sledgehammer Workout, don’t think of this awesome tool as one just for strength. Heavier is not better when it comes to sledgehammers. Knowing how to fully implement it in your group training is what makes it work so well. Just picking up a sledgehammer will give you a burst of adrenalin that can carry you through an entire workout. You feel like you can do (or break) anything. This is raw functional training filled with passion that’s hard to come by in a overly crowded gym.
Obviously, sledgehammer training is just one type of exercise that you can add to your bootcamp or group training. However, there are some specific benefits that you get from the movements, in addition to feeling lean and loose all over.
Whether you do tabatas, full body workouts, conditioning drills, partner workouts, games or challenges, you build strength and stability in your wrists. Your grip (your finger and hand muscles) and your forearms also gain strength. And no, you won’t get brute hands, ladies, as a result of this type of training.
To maximize your results from a sledgehammer workout, it’s important to start with the right hammer for your strength level. You don’t want a 20-pounder for your first series of workouts, unless you want to end up with an injury. Instead, start a little lighter than you think you can handle, and then go up. The 4 to 8-pound sledgehammers work well for most beginners. This gives you a light enough hammer to master the form and technique, so that when you add weight, you will have the motion right and will not lose balance or risk injury.
The key to getting the most out of your sledgehammer workout is mastering certain exercises by doing them over and over again. Whether it be shoveling, power sweeps, churning, or dozens of others, you’re going to find that “sweet spot” in terms of your grip, your hand spacing and your stance. And when you do, your core is going to be screaming for mercy. This builds up muscle endurance in areas like your shoulders, traps, back, arms and core — parts of your body that are crucial for performance in a variety of sports and activities (for me, it’s chasing little kids around the house).
There are definitely a lot of possibilities if you want to add sledgehammer training to your fitness bootcamp. If you’re intrigued and want to find out more, check out my new resource called “The Sledgehammer Workout”. You can find it here!