Long time readers of the site know that I’m a fan of the sledgehammer. Swinging a sledge is undoubtedly one of my favorite power and conditioning exercises. It’s not something I keep to myself though. Every athlete I’ve ever trained has spent time swinging a sledgehammer. That’s how much I believe in the tool.
And although I’ve written about different facets of sledgehammer training before, there seems to be a new crop of readers here who aren’t familiar with my past work. With that in mind, it might be useful to revisit some topics that haven’t been discussed recently. To kick things off, I will start with a brief discussion about interval training with a sledgehammer.
It’s worth noting that the sledgehammer can be used to develop power just as it can be used to build endurance. If the focus is power, your rep range will naturally be lower. Fatigue isn’t part of the equation. Instead, you should strive to get the most out of each individual swing. In other words, you aren’t rushing to finish the set. You are putting as much power into each swing with no concern over time.
As your focus shifts towards conditioning, you will naturally swing the sledge for higher reps or longer intervals. I personally don’t get too carried away with lengthy rounds though. I prefer to keep the sledgehammer moving at a rapid pace. As for ideal work-to-rest ratios, one minute rounds seem to offer a happy medium. The minute round is short enough where you can go all out, yet long enough to ensure a positive conditioning response. Rest between rounds is typically 60 seconds.
A brief demonstration can be seen below.
During each minute round, the goal is to swing the sledgehammer at least 40 times. If you can’t get 40 reps, you are likely using a hammer that is too heavy for the drill.
Questions and Answers
After posting the video above to Instagram, I received a plethora of questions about the drill so I’ll use this space to answer them all.
Do 1-minute rounds with the sledgehammer build power too, or just endurance?
When you’re working for one minute continuously, you are certainly focused on conditioning, but there’s also a hint of power training as well. In the least, you are improving your ability to display power in the presence of fatigue.
Are your feet squared up in the video? I can’t tell with the tire.
The feet will be slightly staggered, but only by a few inches. This is particularly true when performing full speed intervals. You don’t want the feet to slow you down when transitioning from left hand dominant to right hand dominant swings. A slightly wider stance with minimal stagger allows one to transition from side to side without delay.
Do you always change hand position (left dominant vs. right dominant) every 10 swings?
Typically speaking, yes. Switching hand position after less than 10 swings will reduce your overall output. The goal should be to minimize the time spent changing hand position.
What size sledgehammer do you recommend?
There’s no universal answer that holds true for all. With that said, an 8 to 12 pound hammer will suffice for most. Ideally, you should be able to swing the hammer at least 40 times per minute.
If your focus shifts away from conditioning towards strength, you could certainly use a heavier sledgehammer. Less can be more when the focus is high speed conditioning however.
How many rounds should I perform?
We commonly perform anywhere from 5 to 10 intervals with the sledge. Such work is typically performed towards the end of a workout (i.e. a finisher). For example, a boxer may finish his boxing workout by closing out with a few rounds on the sledgehammer. The sledge is just one part of the workout. It is not something that we use on its own.
What brand interval timer do you use?
Where does the sledgehammer work?
To conclude this brief entry, swinging a sledgehammer at a rapid pace is a tremendous conditioning exercise that has stood the test of time. Countless (past and present) world champions have chopped wood and swung sledgehammers with tremendous success.
And while one minute intervals are just one of many options, I have found this drill to be one of the better ways to use the hammer. This drill allows you to accomplish plenty of work without eating up too much time.
“Trust only movement. Life happens at the level of events, not of words. Trust movement.” – Alfred Adler