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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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June 06, 2011

WOW: Sledgehammer

By Mark Sisson
15 Comments

Complete four cycles:

15 Around the Heads (both directions)
15 Stakhanov Shovels (both sides)
15 Spear Lunges (both sides)

How-to:

Warmup: 30 second Grok Squat, 1 minute Grok Hang.

Before I describe the workout, I have to give credit to its inspiration. Long time reader and commenter Timothy has been perfecting the art of sledgehammer swinging for a couple years now. You may already visited his website, Urban Primalist, but if you haven’t, check it out. He provides extensive detailed instruction on all the various ways to swing a sledgehammer and repurpose the common workman’s tool for the purposes of physical fitness.

At PrimalCon, Timothy showed up with a bevy of hammers and he put on several impromptu clinics for fellow guests. His enthusiasm for the hammers really shined through. I think the clinic participants felt the same way. So Timothy, this one’s for you.

What I like about Timothy’s approach is that it’s more than just bashing the heck out of things as hard and as fast as you can. Now, I love that too, and while tire whacking certainly has its place, the sledgehammer is a far more nuanced piece of exercise equipment. Using it doesn’t have to be jarring; it can be fluid and graceful. Besides, if you want to get in a quick workout in your living room and all you have is a sledgehammer, you don’t want to go bashing in your couch cushions. You want a kinder, gentler (but no less effective) option. This is that option.

I’ve talked about Around the Heads before in the mace post from a couple years back. Here’s a video that shows exactly what to do. Of course, since you’re using a sledgehammer, you’ll want to be extra careful swinging that thing in vicinity of your brain.

Read Timothy’s treatments of the Stakhanov Shovel and Spear Lunge for a good primer on each.

A few things to remember:

  • Keep a strong, engaged core. Power is transmitted through your core, and a weak, floppy one will mean weak, ineffectual movements.
  • Watch your surroundings when you’re swinging. Hammers are designed to do damage, after all.

Variations:

To make things harder, vary your grip on the hammer. Choke up toward the head to make things easier; choke down toward the end of the handle to make things harder. This makes progression with a single hammer easy by increasing the length of the lever. It’s also affordable. Rather than buy heavier hammers each time the last gets too easy to handle, simply vary where you grip the handle.

Winner of Last Week’s WOW Contest:

The randomly chosen winner of last week’s WOW contest is skink531. Congrats to skink and thanks to everyone that submitted their favorite Primal workouts.

What Are WOWs?

  • Workouts of the Week (WOWs) are an optional component of Primal Blueprint Fitness that add a fractal and often fun and playful quality to the basic PBF protocol.
  • In most cases WOWs should only be completed by those that have mastered Level 4 of each Lift Heavy Things Essential Movement. Also, it’s recommended that WOWs replace one or both Lift Heavy Things workouts or the Sprint workout (depending on the WOW) each week instead of being done in addition to the Lift Heavy Things and Sprint workouts.
  • Learn more about WOWs and Primal Blueprint Fitness by getting the free eBook. And access all Workouts of the Week in the WOW Archive.

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15 Comments on "WOW: Sledgehammer"

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Dean Dwyer
5 years 3 months ago

Timothy I now dub thee THOR.

AtkinsFan
AtkinsFan
5 years 3 months ago

May Thor be happy in the Walhalla with many Walkirias!

skink531
skink531
5 years 3 months ago

Woohoo, I won something!!! This is awesome, I never win things. Thanks Mark, I’ve wanted a T-shirt for a while now. So how do I go about getting it?

Patrick
5 years 3 months ago

Congrats, skink!! Well deserved, sir.

Of course, now you’ll have to do a new set of progress pics with the new shirt. 😉

Timothy
5 years 3 months ago
Hooray sledgehammer! Thanks for the link, Mark! “Shovelglove” (zero-impact hammer swinging) is such an enjoyable and effective workout, I’m surprised it hasn’t entered the mainstream yet. It will galvanize your core muscles all the way around. It can be great cardio, if that’s what you’re after. And it’s a superb way to condition your body for weightlifting: you’ll build up all the connective tissue and joint mobility you need to attack the heavy weights. But where shovelglove really shines is synaptic facilitation. That is, by precisely controlling a flying chunk of iron, you will dramatically increase muscle control and coordination… Read more »
Patrick
5 years 3 months ago

Timothy, what weight of sledgehammer do you use and is pictured over on your site? I’d have sent you an email to ask but others here might be wondering the same thing.

Thanks, and congrats on your successes!

Timothy
5 years 3 months ago

Thanks for the congrats! Hopefully my sledgehammer successes are just beginning… and hopefully yours are, too!

I use a 12-pound sledgehammer that I picked up at my local hardware store. I’ve never really needed to upgrade it, because as Mark said above, you can always adjust your grip to make it feel heavier or lighter. There’s a picture of it in the first installment of the beginner’s guide on my website.

Casey
Casey
5 years 3 months ago

I heat my home in winter with 100% wood. That means swinging a 15-pound monster maul (among other things). The impact is really hard on the shoulders, but I hate any exercise that’s not doing something, so I’ll keep at it. The process of getting up several cords of wood is a varied whole-body workout that I recommend.

Timothy
5 years 3 months ago

Actually hitting things with the sledgehammer is a whole other workout… and one that I envy very much when I pass a construction crew using hammers!

I’ve only done it a few times, by beating on an old log, but you’re right, the impact can be severe. Whereas shovelglove is a conditioning exercise that can be done every day, actually hitting things with the hammer (or splitting wood) is more like weightlifting, and merits a day of rest between serious attempts, I think.

Jaybird
5 years 3 months ago

There is debatabley nothing more masculine than throwing a hammer around. Except perhaps using an actual spear for the spear lunges.

Timothy
5 years 3 months ago

I couldn’t agree more, Jaybird. If you’re looking for a sure way to boost testosterone, hammering (or spearing!) gets the job done.

ioelus
ioelus
5 years 3 months ago
Hopefully it’s not too late to post a comment and get a reply from someone; I’m looking for some feedback here. I love the Shovelglove site, and checked it out last year. I like the exercises, too. However, two of the three here don’t seem to go together very well. Maybe I’m just doing them wrong, or are further out of shape than I thought. The wow seems really arm-heavy to me. I’ve been nursing a bicep injury for a few months now, so maybe that’s why it stands out to me the way it does, but my arms were… Read more »
Timothy
5 years 3 months ago
Ioelus, it’s never too late for sledgehammer advice. Hammering is definitely an arm-heavy activity. Everybody walks; most people jog; and so leg work like lunges and sprints come naturally. But hammer work can be challenging because most of us don’t get a lot of regular arm conditioning. Stakhanov Shovels can be made into more of a whole-body exercise by lunging forward onto your lead leg as you thrust the shovel forward, and then straightening your back as you lift the shovel back up. But you will certainly feel them the most in your biceps. Spear lunges, being an explosive, plyometric… Read more »
ioelus
ioelus
5 years 3 months ago

Thanks for your response. I guess I was just surprised that Orville Redenbachers or another movement that focused somewhere else wasn’t one of the exercises instead of one of the two that placed so much emphasis on the biceps. Maybe (he says, chuckling) these should be part of Mark’s Bro workout from a few months ago. Oh, well. Thanks again.

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