Sledgehammer Training with Intent

Intent - Power Training

Long time readers of the site know that I’m a fan of the sledgehammer, both for power development and conditioning. World champion fighters were swinging sledgehammers before any of us were born (ex. Jack Dempsey), and they continue to do so today. As a result, it’s no surprise that I’ve demonstrated sledgehammer swings many times. As a professional boxing coach, it’s an exercise that I strongly believe in. Yet, whenever I demo the sledge, my inbox fills with questions about the ideal weight of the hammer. And while I welcome all questions, size shouldn’t be the primary concern. The intent behind each swing is more important.

Sledgehammer Size

What’s the best size sledgehammer?

Well, we have 6, 8, 10, 12, 16, and 20 pound hammers, along with heavier tornado balls, all for swinging. Each size and weight are useful. Sometimes we go lighter for higher reps and longer rounds. Sometimes we go heavier to build strength. Each size can be challenging if you swing the sledge hard enough, long enough, and/or fast enough.

Below you’ll see a short clip of me swinging the 20 pound sledge. Each swing is a max effort where I’m attempting to crush the hammer through the target.

Next, you’ll see an older video of me performing 1-minute intervals with an 8 pound hammer. Notice that the pace is faster, but my intent remains the same. Each swing is a max effort. Therefore, the lighter hammer isn’t easier than the heavier hammer. It’s different.

And if you question that logic, consider the following. Most boxers hit the bag with gloves that range from 10 to 16 ounces. Do boxers outgrow their gloves to the point that they need 5 pounders? Of course not. Weight isn’t everything. The best conditioned athlete in the world can be humbled with a pair of 10 ounce boxing gloves, just as he or she can be humbled by any size sledgehammer.

It all boils down to intent.

Historical Precedent

Earnie Shavers Sledgehammer Training

Whenever discussing the sledgehammer, I like to share the words above from the legendary power puncher Earnie Shavers. Shavers is undoubtedly one of the hardest punchers in the history of boxing and was a huge advocate of chopping wood and swinging a sledge.

It’s always useful to listen and learn from those who walked the walk.

Implementing the Sledgehammer

For starters, I’m not suggesting that you need to purchase multiple sledgehammers. On the contrary, I’m highlighting the fact that any size can work. Thus, while I enjoy having multiple hammers, you certainly don’t need to rush out to purchase every hammer you can find. Instead, make the most of whatever you have access to.

As far as workout options, the sledgehammer typically makes up a small part of the session, 2 or 3 times per week. For example, a fighter might perform a few 1-minute intervals at the conclusion of a boxing workout (using a lighter hammer). At other times, we might focus more on power where a few sets of 10 to 15 swings per side are performed (using a heavier hammer). The sledgehammer can also be used as part of a conditioning circuit (see this recent example).

Ultimately, there are many options on how and when to include the sledgehammer. The specifics don’t need to be complicated. Just be sure to swing the sledgehammer hard whenever it is used.

Final Thoughts

In summary, the sledgehammer is a relatively inexpensive tool that has rightfully stood the test of time. Sledgehammers can be found locally at most hardware stores or online at sites such as Amazon (see here). Swinging the sledge with maximal intent will build a unique type of power and endurance. Unlike many conventional exercises, the sledge allows you to power all the way through the movement without deceleration. That alone makes the sledgehammer a tremendous tool, particularly for those involved in combat sports.

And as a bonus, I’ve never met anyone who’s regularly swung a sledgehammer that didn’t have stronger than average hands and forearms. In many ways, the sledgehammer is a full body tool, but the hands and forearms will certainly swell up with repeated use.

Happy swinging!

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“Example is the school of mankind, and they will learn at no other.” – Edmund Burke

11 comments:

  1. Dear Ross,

    What tire size do you recommend for sledgehammer training? I will probably place it in my garage.

    Sincerely,
    Gabriel Somarriba, Psy.D.

      1. Hi everyone. I used to post on rosstraining. HI Ross. I’m still swinging my 20pound hammer. Ordered a double bit axe and 6 pound axe to add to my collection. Can do 3000 swings with 20 pound vest. Dont forget to try levering like Slim The Hammer Man

  2. Dear Ross,

    Thank you so much for your Sledgehammer inspiration. To be honest I had to share your post with my partner. I always say that there is fitness inspirations in everything.
    For example lifting different sizes of heavy rocks ( obviously little heavier rocks) and/or wood logs.

    Again thank you !
    Will keep following you both on Instagram and Facebook.

    – Andreas from bodybuildbalance.com

  3. Dear Ross,

    I have been constructing most of your DIY equipment, and the only thing i haven’t done is a medicine ball, i know your Equipment Archives is down at the moment, could you share how a homemade medicine ball is contructed?

    Stay Safe,
    Cheers
    Tom

  4. Hey Ross! great content. Can you please guide me with the size and weight of Sledgehammer i should use with the height of 5’9?

    1. @Chris – There isn’t a universal size as almost any weight can be useful. If you are purchasing a single hammer though, I’d choose a mid-range hammer (ex. 10 or 12 pounds). There’s plenty that can be done with that weight.

  5. Ross,

    Thanks for the great content and words of wisdom! Recently found your website and its been a goldmine (especially with baby 2 arriving soon).

    Thanks again

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