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.
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.
View this post on Instagram
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.
View this post on Instagram
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.
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.
“Example is the school of mankind, and they will learn at no other.” – Edmund Burke
What tire size do you recommend for sledgehammer training? I will probably place it in my garage.
Gabriel Somarriba, Psy.D.
You won’t need anything too large. Even smaller truck tires will often suffice. There’s also options to mount smaller tires vertically. For example, here’s an image of an old set-up that I first demoed on the blog back around 2008 – https://www.rosstraining.com/images/sledgesetup.jpg
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
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
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?
@Tom – There’s blog entries on just about every homemade tool. Here are two examples that show different medicine ball options:
Sorry for the trouble and thanks for the quick response,
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?
@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.
Thanks for the great content and words of wisdom! Recently found your website and its been a goldmine (especially with baby 2 arriving soon).
The best Ross.
Ross, thanks again for the wisdom. I started swinging a sledge when I read your first article (when I was young). At that time I was using a 15 lb. After a couple years I dropped to 12, then read your second article. Since that time I have been using a 6 lb. Always thinking about your reference to Newton’s law. The 6 is perfect, every swing is super fast, super hard (intent). It has without question improved my SPEED and POWER. I have got more out of the 6 than heavier hammers. Sustaining max effort cadence (intent) over time (rounds) Is remarkable. With SPEED comes power. SPEED has had a remarkable effect on mitt and bag work ( no more sparring, I’m 60, I think I’m a senior citizen now ). 6 is king for my goals, staying fast.
Well said. I have seen videos of strength athletes swinging 50 and 75lbs shot loaded hammers, and while doing so does take considerable strength, it seems like they are effectively just heaving a weight to shoulder height, mostly dropping it on the tire than lifting it again. Often with a greatly reduced range of motion. In doing so, they lose the power, speed, accuracy, coordination, and other athletic benefits out of sledgehammer swings.
I imagine Ross provides this information primarily as a resource to boxers (mostly young men). But I am 54 and I believe that it’s one of the best exercises anyone can do as it strengthens grip, core, and posterior chain while building power and speed (which decreases dramatically past middle-age in most people).
You’re the best Ross!!!
I’m going to study all your channels like the religious peeps follow the Holy Bible
Sincerely, a 23 y/o guy from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada who transitioning from a spectator to an athlete.
I have been assembling most of your DIY equipment, and the only thing I haven’t attempted is the medicine ball. Knowing that your Equipment Archives is unavailable, could you show me how you go about making one?
You use to have a pretty good forum on your website as well. Why did you abandon it?
Every backyard warrior dreams of being able to swing a sledgehammer with ease. After all, there’s something undeniably satisfying about taking a heavy hammer and slamming it into a tire or piece of wood. However, few people realize that sledgehammer training can be an excellent workout, whether you’re trying to improve your strength, endurance, or coordination. When done with intent, sledgehammer training can help you build muscle, burn fat, and improve your cardiovascular health. So if you’re looking for a workout that’s both fun and challenging, grab a sledgehammer and give it a try.
how do I find the old forum ??
The forum is gone unfortunately, I’m sure there’s a blog post somewhere.
I usually use a 8 or 10 lbs. axe and am wonder what a time frame is for each round of chopping?
Hi Ross, I’ve been following your training advices for more than 10 years.
Recently I started boxing and I’m loving it. I watch a lot of fights but I can’t find boxers with a similar body type. I’m tall with a short reach, 6 feet tall with 70” reach. Do you know any good boxer like that? I only found Dmitry Pirog.