If you’ve never done any work with a sledgehammer before, this article may push you over the edge! Sledgehammers are a great tool regardless of whether you want to improve your conditioning or just look like a bad ass while you’re training!
Anyway, enough from me – here’s Steve!
To be honest, when I first heard that people were using sledgehammers to beat tires for exercise I was skeptical.
I figured the risk versus reward fell towards the risk side of the scale, and if you know me you know that I’m all about injury prevention. Then I tried it, and I’m here to tell you this exercise is for real.
Why I Like Hammer Slams
They’re a Total Body, Functional Exercise
You use your legs and core to stabilize, and you increase upper body mobility and strength. It’s very similar to chopping wood, which kept generations before us strong.
It’s hard to argue that this isn’t a great motion for your body.
I’ve been using it myself and with clients for about year now, and have seen amazing increases in coordination.
Additionally I’ve seen an amazing carry over effect to other exercises from people who have been doing the hammer slams. The development of power, strength, and timing has quickly turned average Joe’s into athletes. I’ve have also seen FMS scores skyrocket with individuals who do the hammer slams frequently.
Developing Power Endurance
This exercise is amazing for increasing power endurance. Obviously the weight is pretty light so it’s not pure power, but slamming the hammer as hard as you can definitely increases power.
Although the weight is fairly light, it’s the perfect weight to be able to slam multiple times without risk of injury, yet still increasing power. I’ve seen hammers range from 8-20 lbs, and the 20 lb hammer is no joke.
Conditioning and Energy System Development
As I mentioned above you can swing a light hammer multiple times without injury, but it doesn’t take very long for the heart to start pumping and lungs to start working hard. This is a great way to do some unconventional interval training to increase conditioning. Most people find this a much better alternative to typical running or cardio machines.
People just straight up LOVE this exercise.
Well, it’s sort of a love/hate thing.
It’s hard, but it’s a great way to get out some aggression with something new. It gives you a feeling of accomplishment without the feeling of doing the same ‘ol thing.
You just know you are doing something good for yourself when you are doing it.
You can feel it, but it doesn’t really seem like working out.
All of my clients that do hammer slams love the exercise and I rarely hear any groans when I pick up the hammer to go outside and play.
So the question becomes, “when during the workout should I use hammer slams?”
I typically use hammer slams in two different areas of the workout. Like I mentioned above slams are great for power endurance and conditioning, and I program them accordingly.
The first situation that I use slams is during the “Power/Dynamic” section of the workout. This comes after a thorough warm-up, and before the strength section of the workout.
For people that are just learning how to generate power this is a great exercise to learn before moving on to more complex power exercises like cleans, snatches, etc. So this is a great exercise to teach youth athletes, and once again, they really have fun with it.
In this portion of the workout I would keep the reps under 8 each side, and focus on extremely hard slams with a good amount of rest between sets to recover.
The second situation that I use slams for is conditioning. This is when it gets grueling. This is always the last section of a workout or done on a non-strength training day. I typically use the hammer for conditioning for either high rep straight sets or as part of a metabolic circuit.
High rep straight sets would be 100 slams in a row alternating arms every 20 reps. Most people are good with 2-4 sets, and afterwards they are totally smoked. This makes for an amazing workout finisher.
I also use them as a component of bigger metabolic circuits. A good example is a 20 second work period followed by a 40 second rest period. I might put together a circuit that looks like this:
Hammer Slams – 20 Seconds
Rest – 40 Seconds
Rope Waves – 20 Seconds
Rest – 40 Seconds
Med Ball Slams – 20 Seconds
Rest – 40 Seconds
Prowler Push – 20 Seconds
*Perform this entire circuit 2-6 times, depending on current levels of fitness and conditioning.
Of course the exercises and work/rest ratio would need to be adjusted according to the fitness level of the client/athlete. This type of circuit is hard to get through more than 4 times without tapping out.
Even though it may seem a bit Neanderthal to beat a tire with a hammer, or you simply view it as another fitness fad, I’m here to tell you the hammer slams are here to stay in my programming.
I hope this article will inspire you pick up a sledgehammer and experience the benefits yourself!
Steve Long NSCA, FMS, USAW, IYCA, TPI