The benefits of sledgehammer training

Written by Jarrod Boyle

The best strength and conditioning equipment is always related to some kind of destructive activity. The sledgehammer is a resistance implement that comes with a strong sense of theatre. It reminds us of men who earned their toughness in tough professions, like demolition. It also makes us think in terms of demolition itself; breaking that opponent up, one sledgehammer blow at a time.

The vertical sledgehammer blow in action.

Chopping wood was a very popular traditional conditioning exercise for boxers. That said, the sledgehammer and tyre is far more practical in a modern setting than an axe - can you imagine driving out to the pine plantation and setting to work? The other good thing about the sledgehammer is the bounce. Having to control the hammer once you have focused every scintilla of effort to drive it home will further develop your balance and awareness at point-of-contact when you're striking.

The sledgehammers from Iron Edge are available at three weights (5, 10 and 15 kilos) and are engineered for exercise rather than labour; the hammer has a steel head, welded to a steel shaft for unbreakable reliability. The shaft is finished with a light knurling to provide a grip surface that's easy on the hands.

The activity itself is classic fight conditioning; strength and cardio combined. While it employs the muscles usually associated with triple extension of the posterior chain, the sledgehammer works them in reverse, which is more relevant to striking or taking down an opponent. The sledgehammer will also develop core and rotational strength, cardiovascular fitness and provide rigorous conditioning of the wrists, arms and shoulders. It is, as they say, a man-maker.

As you can see below, we were fortunate enough to acquire a heavy tyre from an earth-moving truck on which our model can stand. Its greater weight means that there is minimal rebound after striking. This exercise shouldn't be performed with any tyre smaller than a tractor tyre because you need plenty of rubber to absorb the force of the blow. You also want something easy to hit; you do not want one of these landing on your foot or rebounding into your shins.

The sledgehammer can be swung in different ways to unite different movement patterns. It can also be swung into the tread surface of the tyre while you stand in different positions. The more sophisticated the movement, however, the greater the risk, so be sure you are well practiced before becoming too adventurous.

Vertical Sledgehammer blow

To begin, address the tyre with the hammer held by your side, as shown. Grip with one hand close to the butt end, the other beneath the head. Postural cues are standard for all activities using the legs and back: ‘soft' knees (not locked out) and a neutral spine. Raise the hammer overhead, looking down to where you want to land the blow; remember, your body will naturally follow your line of sight.

Then, use both legs and your back to drive the hammer toward the mark (above), bringing your top hand down to your other hand at the butt to maximise momentum. As the head rebounds off the tyre, bring the top hand back up the shaft of the hammer toward the head to regain full control of the tool and prepare for the next swing.

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