During my 38 years on this planet, I never had any reason to pick up a sledgehammer. That all changed recently, and of all places, it happened at the gym.
If you’ve been following my blog, you know I kicked off a small group training class called “UFX” at New York Sports Club back in March. Each and every workout put together by our instructor Roberto Murichi has been unique and challenging. Each one starts with Tabatas. The idea is simple: you perform four minutes of work at high intensity. That breaks down to doing as many reps as you can for 20 seconds straight and resting for 10 seconds. You repeat the cycle eight times for a total of four minutes.
The day I first tried sledgehammer swings, the exercise was just one of five stations Roberto set up for us that day. Roberto captured about 40 seconds of my work with the 12-pound “Thor Hammer” on my iPhone. (You’ll also see a few seconds of my classmate Louis working hard at the squat station.)
Needless to say, after four minutes of sledgehammer swings, my heart was racing, the sweat was pouring and my shoulders and arms were screaming at me a little bit. From watching the short clip, you can also see how the swings force you to maintain core strength to control the motion and hit the tire as your target.(I then had to move on to Tabatas for squats, rings, ropes and sit-ups for a total of 20 minutes of work.)
While I’d be hesitant to use sledgehammer swings as part of workout routine for a fitness newbie, I do believe they’re a great exercise for the more conditioned gym-goer looking to take things up a notch. I’ve also learned the sledgehammer has been a conditioning tool for fighters since the birth of combat sports. Whether you plan to step into the ring or not, adding sledgehammer swings to a workout can help improve work capacity, develop core strength and also build grip and forearm strength. Oh, and the cardio kick doesn’t hurt either!
Of course, like any other new piece of equipment or new set of moves, be sure to get some instruction before you simply pick up a hammer and start swinging. If you do belong to a gym and see a hammer sitting in a corner, don’t be shy. Ask a personal trainer if he or she can help you use the sledgehammer correctly. Don’t forget, understanding how to execute new exercises with proper form is a crucial part of the plan to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
This week marks the start of round two of the “Ultimate Fitness Experience” small group training class. For the next four weeks, Roberto Murichi will continue to push us to perform kick-butt exercises including burpees, kettlebell swings and push-ups. While I’ve been writing about my experiences in the class, I’ve only scratched the surface when it comes to describing a key component: the Tabata Method.
The idea behind the Tabata is this: you perform four minutes of work at high intensity. That breaks down to doing as many reps as you can for 20 seconds straight and resting for 10 seconds. You repeat the cycle eight times.
Sounds simple, right? Well, after a couple of cycles of pushing out as many push-ups, squats or sledgehammer swings as you can, no doubt you’ll feel your heart racing and the sweat starting to pour.
Tabata training gives you lots of mix-and-match options. You can perform a single exercise for one 4-minute Tabata, followed by another exercise and another four-minute Tabata. Or you could try four cycles of squats followed by four cycles of push-ups. Last week, Roberto set up five stations of five different exercises and we had to get through one Tabata at each station. The scenario offered 20 minutes of hard work:
- Sledgehammer swings
There’s lots of debate surrounding whether Tabatas and other types of high-interval training are okay for the fitness beginner. Based on my personal experience, I can tell you my strength and endurance gains took a serious hit last year thanks to a foot injury that put me on the sidelines for several months. When I started working back up to my normal routine, I had a hard time getting through Tabatas. So, for all you fitness newbies, click here for an article I found featuring some suggestions about Tabatas for beginners.
Like any other activity, mixing things up in your workout is a great way to stay motivated to keep moving. Whether it’s Tabata Training, a new group exercise class or a new path for your next run, adding some variety to your exercise routine is a surefire way to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!