Sledgehammer Training – Choosing a Hammer

Sledgehammer Training

If you know anything about me, you probably know that I’m a big fan of swinging a sledgehammer. The sledge has long been one of my favorite conditioning tools. I grew up hearing stories about legendary boxers chopping wood and swinging a hammer so I naturally followed suit. I have fond memories of beating a tire and splitting wood as a youngster in my mother’s backyard. Now, well over 20 years later, the sledge remains one of my favorite conditioners. Not only do I continue to swing the sledge regularly, but so does everyone I train. I don’t recall ever working with anyone who didn’t eventually get accustomed to swinging a sledgehammer. Yet, despite our regular use, I’ve never felt the need to purchase a high-end hammer.

Sledgehammer Durability

Last year, I wrote an article about the durability of an outdoor sledgehammer station. The focus of the article was on the tire that I partially buried to serve as a rebounder for the hammer. I even created a video that highlighted the durability of the tire (see below).

In the time since, I am shocked at how many questions I’ve received about the durability of the actual hammer. I never thought my 20 pound sledgehammer would attract so much attention.

Most recently, one reader stated the following:

“I’m surprised to see you using a hickory handle. Aren’t those prone to breaking?”

He continued by asking about a sledgehammer brand that he has been researching. Their 20 pound hammer was marketed as indestructible with a price tag of just over $200. The natural question therefore is whether or not such an expensive hammer is a worthwhile investment.

Sledgehammer Options

For starters, I’m not here to criticize any particular manufacturers. I’m also not here to tell you how you should spend your hard earned cash. All that I can do is share my experience.

Personally, I’ve never had any problems with a sledgehammer breaking. As for my 20 pounder, I went through my records last night and found the receipt. It was purchased in April, 2007. I bought the hammer on online for $56.04. In the eight years since, it has been swung thousands of times. It’s rare that a week goes by without someone getting their hands on that hammer.

As for the hammer’s durability, I am not at all surprised. Sledgehammers are typically created for demolition purposes. They aren’t created so that we can swing them against a forgiving rubber tire. Striking a tire is much different from continually beating concrete or stone. The latter is more likely to eventually damage your hammer

As for the handles, I’ve had success with both hickory and fiberglass. My 10, 12, and 16 pound sledgehammers are all fiberglass. These hammers are also used regularly. I’ve actually owned them longer than the 20 pounder. I’d guess that they are all between 10 and 15 years old. I purchased each locally at a hardware store.

I shopped online for the 20 pounder simply because this weight isn’t as easy to find locally. Even large stores such as Home Depot rarely have 20 pounders in stock. Fortunately, you can find them with relative ease on sites such as Amazon. You’ll even find free shipping on many of the hammers.

20 Pound Sledgehammers

High-End Models

I don’t doubt that the higher end models are well made and built to last. I’m sure that there are several quality brands available and I’m not opposed to spending more money if it is justified. I run a training business so I obviously don’t want a hammer to break in someone’s hands.

When it comes to striking a tire however, I don’t feel that it is necessary to go beyond a regular sledgehammer. Legendary boxers like Archie Moore and George Foreman didn’t have a problem swinging an ordinary sledgehammer so I don’t see why I should be any different.

As for working with heavier hammers, most people won’t need more than a 20 pounder. This is particularly true if you swing the hammer at a fast pace. We typically swing the sledge for reps (ex. 100 swings for time), timed rounds (ex. multiple 2 or 3 minute rounds), or as part of a circuit. With such an approach, it doesn’t take long for the sledgehammer to catch up with you. And if you need more weight, the tornado ball is one effective, yet inexpensive option. Not long ago, I had a pro fighter send me a video of him swinging a homemade tornado ball that weighed 50 pounds.

Final Thoughts

In summary, you are certainly welcome to purchase a more expensive hammer, but don’t be fooled to believe that it is necessary. You can do quite well with a regular industrial hammer. I’ve swung sledgehammers for longer than most and have never had any problems. Swinging a sledgehammer repeatedly at a brisk pace is one of the best conditioning exercises that you’ll ever find. And as demoed within my Untapped Strength book, a sledge is also a tremendous tool for a variety of lower arm exercises. You really can’t go wrong by adding a sledgehammer or two to your training arsenal.

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“You cannot dream yourself into a character; you must hammer and forge yourself one.” – James Anthony Froude

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7 comments:

  1. On the topic of sledgehammer swinging, I am moving soon and will have space for a large tire in my garage. I am concerned about sound reverberating throughout the home that could wake up my wife and kid when i workout early in the morning.

    Do the larger tires have significant sound reverberation? As well, are there methods to reduce the impact of the sound? Any input would be greatly appreciated.

    1. @Mark – Tough call when it comes to sound. I’d guess that the larger tires are actually a bit louder.

      You can hear mine here:
      https://instagram.com/p/2lv8VwmsbY/?taken-by=rosstraining

      I’d actually say that my outdoor tire generates less noise:
      https://instagram.com/p/6WDjxLGse1/?taken-by=rosstraining

      As far as garage to home is concerned, I suppose it depends on how far away the bedrooms are to your workout area. I don’t know that there is a meaningful way to reduce the sound from a large tire (when struck hard with a sledge).

    2. Hi Mark, I was inspired by seeing Ross’s sledgehammer videos and got a large truck tire and put it in my garage laying down. It was quite loud. We had bubble wrap at work that was just recycled and I stuffed the inside of the tire with the bubble wrap and it really cut the noise down significantly. You could use old blankets or something similar. Hope this helps.

  2. Striking a tire kept waking up my kids, but I built a small sand pit in my backyard and it works well. It might be a little harder than the tire, too, as it there is no give.

    1. @Vadim – The most important aspect of recovery isn’t what you do after a workout, but rather what you do within the workout. Intensity must be balanced throughout the week. If you over do it, it won’t matter what you do for recovery. Too much will still be too much. Therefore, programming/planning is what really matters. There’s no supplement or amount of rest that will offset a body that performs more work than it can handle.

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