As a performance coach, I am always looking for one more way to help my athletes climb to the next level. With so many tools and techniques that can be utilized daily within strength programs, it can be easy to fall into the routine of following trends and fitness fads without thinking through the reasoning behind these flashy training styles.
When we think about sledgehammer training, for example, our initial thoughts are of fighters, boxers, MMA athletes, and warrior montages from movies. But as a facility preparing a multitude of athletes for a variety of sports, sledgehammer training has found its way into our everyday athlete programs to add variety to explosive power training. For our baseball athletes sledgehammer training is a great way to work on developing and producing explosive rotational power.
Benefits of Sledgehammer Training:
- Building core strength
- Developing power transition from a foundational hinge position
- Developing coordination
- Improving grip Strength
- Challenging athletes’ work capacity
- Building muscular endurance
- Improving conditioning
Be Cautious When Using Sledgehammers
While this training tool confers amazing benefits, there are also safety considerations when adding this specific tool to mainstream facilities. The sledgehammer can pose and immense threat in the hands of even the most skillful athlete. It was not invented for general fitness uses but for light or heavy demolition work in construction settings. With that in mind, some preparation and care must be kept in mind when choosing the appropriate sledgehammer size, shape, and weight and when training the technique with your athletes.
It would be a grave error to decide to include hammer training and shoot straight to your nearest hardware store to stock up on 16-pound hammers. Your insurance carrier will probably not be so thrilled to hear the horror story of Ms. Murphy missing the tire in the Saturday morning class or your centerfielder losing time to rehab his fractured tibia. The hammer physically can present challenges based on types of grip, length, head size. Not to mention the heads of most are casted in pure iron which can be dangerous for participants and facility floors.
A good sweet spot for sledgehammer weight can sit somewhere between 8-10 pounds. With that in mind our facility go to for sledgehammer training is the Gopher BumperHammer. The Gopher hammer comes in at about 10 pounds, has a wood handle and a rubber head that is wide enough to offer enough surface area to avoid missing the target. A huge bonus is the Hammer is designed to be used in fitness settings so it can be used on multiple surfaces with or without a tire.
Keys to Teaching Form
Here are my top tips for teaching great sledgehammer forms:
- Teach and reinforce proper hinge mechanics and technique.
- Teach athletes to use a firm base on swings. (Happy feet can lead to leg injuries.)
- Teach movements such as the overhead slam and side saddle swings from both left and right sides.
- Teach body synchronization during the swing to unlock benefits of explosive power production and muscular endurance.
In conclusion sledgehammer training can be a game changer in your athletes’ programs and can also be a great source of variety and fun in HIIT programming.
Take the guesswork out of choosing the right hammer at your local hardware store and protect your athletes by grabbing a Gopher Bumper Hammer. It has since become one of our favorite alternative tools for developing power in our athletes.
Shop BumperHammer Sledgehammers
Michael Piercy, MS, CSCS is the owner of The LAB in Fairfield, New Jersey. He is the recipient of the 2017 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year award and has also been awarded the 2013 TRX FACEUP award for Overall Instructor of the Year. He represents brands such as Under Armour, TRX® and Matrix fitness as a Master Trainer. A former professional baseball player with the Pittsburgh Pirates, New York Mets and Montreal Expos, he brings his unique perspective to his work with athletes and active adults. He holds a master’s degree in exercise science with a concentration in performance enhancement and also holds multiple advanced level Certifications from organizations such as ACE, ACSM, NASM and NSCA.