Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Hammer Yourself Into Shape

Survival fitness is something I've talked about here a few times before, and I think it's important to bring it up again now and then to reiterate the importance of staying in shape to increase your odds of making it through a dangerous or stressful situation.

There are many ways to accomplish the goal of staying physically ready for events that may test your endurance or strength, the most common of course, being gym workouts with weights or machines, as well as cardio-intensive training such as running, cycling or walking.  Excuses for not using these methods are as plentiful as huge array of workout equipment you can find for sale at any sporting goods store, and range from time restraints to cost considerations.

There used to be a time when most people did enough physical work that none of this was necessary anyway, but unless you're in the really small percentage of those today who earn their living doing something like brick-laying or chopping wood with an axe, chances are you need to work out to stay in shape.  What if you could take a simple tool like a sledgehammer and use it to work practically your entire body without the need to buy dumbbells, barbells or a Bowflex or some other kind of machine?

This isn't the kind of iron-pumping workout designed to build muscles like Arnold Schwarzenegger, but if you want to increase your functional strength and stamina, as well as speed and power that could make the difference in a fight or flight survival scenario, pick up a 16lb. sledge or even an 8 or 10-pounder and try these 23 exercises:"

I've done this routine a few times since discovering this video on YouTube and I can tell you that it is a great workout that will leave you feeling like you've done something when you're finished.  You can determine the intensity by the speed with which you execute each movement as well as by choking up or down on the handle of the hammer.  You don't need much weight to get the effectiveness, and in that regard it's much like working out with kettlebells; more about the technique than the weight.  If you want to try it, I would recommend first following along with the video using an unweighted stick or axe handle to learn the proper form.  Then start with a real sledgehammer.  He's using a 16-pounder in the video, but unless you're in great shape already, you'll probably find that's too heavy to swing with good form, speed and power.  The difference in this and merely lifting weight is that you have to overcome the inertia of all that weight swinging at speed to stop each stroke in the air with control, as he is demonstrating in the video.

You don't need a lot of time to do this entire routine, maybe one minute for each exercise, but if that's not enough you can use it for circuit training and go through the whole thing again when you're done:  two, three or even four times if you're able.

Almost everyone has a sledgehammer somewhere in the toolshed, and if you don't you can go out and pick one up for $20 to $30 at any building supply or hardware store.  It's a cheap piece of equipment compared to stuff designed specifically for exercise, and you'll probably find plenty of other uses for it as well.


  1. Shadow boxing. Can be done anywhere and at anytime. Give it about 2 minutes and see if you aren't breathing a bit harder near the end. ;^)

    I've never seen those exercises before, don't own a sledgehammer but do own a stone hammer, about half that size. Might try some and see if I gain any benefits - Thanks for the link!

  2. Cool video. I like how all the exercises have names of homesteading manual labor skills, like chopping wood, stoking the fire and churning butter :-)

    It's wild how little exercise we get as a people. Even in Europe, people get a lot of exercise that Americans don't simply by walking to and from public transportation.

    Just doing some planks once or twice a day is a great workout for the core. I rotate around, so I start off facing the floor, then the the side, then facing the ceiling, and finishing on the final side. Held for 30-60 seconds each pose with good form can be a great little workout.

  3. Great Exercise never thought of that I have swung a Sledge hammer and splitting maul a lot.
    I used to split fire wood for exercise so that is similar

  4. It's amazing that I'll still drive to the nearby Target when I can literally see it from where I live. I'm ashamed. :(

  5. Sledgehammer work is one of the most functional exercise that you can do. Throw in some sprints, chin-ups/push-ups, and long distance walking with a heavy backpack and you will be way more prepared than the average person for the shtf.


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