We’re going to be kicking off a series of articles here on the Extreme Fitness Results Blog examining the world of extreme exercises. While many people throw themselves into P90X or the Insanity Workout, there’s a whole slew of others who like to get Rocky Balboa on their workouts and try a variety of intense exercises. Over the next few weeks we’re going to examine a number of these off-the-beaten track workouts, and evaluate whether they’re worth considering. Today we’re going to kick off by looking at a very cool exercise: the sledgehammer Tabata. It’s cool because you get to swing a sledgehammer around, and if you’re a boy, that’s like returning to be a nine year old. If you’re a girl? I don’t know. Do girls like swinging sledgehammers around? Probably! That’s just how awesome sledgehammers are.

First, let’s talk about the benefits. Sledgehammer training usually involves swinging a sledgehammer against something, and that something is usually a big ol’ tractor tire. You take the sledgehammer and swing and swing and swing, and in doing so you develop your grip and forearm strength, your core gets a killer workout (really), and you improve dramatically on your explosive power. People often think they need to get the heaviest sledge out there, going for 20 pounders or buying heavier, custom made ones, but there’s no need. Remember, the workout involves velocity, how quickly you can make your sledge move, so the amount of force you generate is dependent on acceleration and is inversely related to the mass you are trying to move. Often a 10 lb sledge will give you a better workout that a monster you can barely lift.

Where do you get a sledgehammer? Home Depot has a bunch for reasonable prices. No need for anything fancy; these things are designed to break down walls, and you’re going to be hitting a tire. Where do you get a tire? Go to any place that sells tires to trucks or any mechanics and see if they have something lying around you can take. They often have to pay to have these old tires removed, so will be happy to let you take them for free. You don’t need a tire the size of your house, either; just something sturdy and larger than a regular car tire should be fine.

Say you’ve got your sledgehammer, you’ve got an old tire in the backyard, or garage, what now?How do you swing your sledge most effectively? I recommend the following: swing it down from either a vertical over head or down at a diagonal. Don’t try to get any fancier than that, there’s no need. To do the diagonal swing, stand a couple of feet back from the tire, and swing from one side of your body, over that shoulder and down diagonally until you hit the tire. The key is to keep one hand locked on the bottom of the handle, and allow the other hand to start high when swinging the sledge up, and then slide it down the haft while bringing it back down. Stand with one foot before the other in a staggered position, and and use that to get your hips into the action, swinging not just with the arms but using your core and pelvis as well. If you want to swing vertically, just lock both hands at the bottom of the haft, and go for it. Simpler, but much harder. (Thanks Jes for the prompt here!)

Do you just swing it a bunch of times until you get bored? No! This is where you bring in the trusty Tabata protocol. Remember my previous article on HIIT? If not, go take a quick look. And what is a Tabata? Read this blog post to get in depth information. But for those of you too lazy to click over, basically you do 20 seconds all out, 10 seconds recovery intervals for 4 minutes. That’s it, but the benefits are huge, and it’s incredibly challenging to finish. Do that with your sledgehammer and you will get a devastating workout.

Our final opinion on sledgehammer Tabata workouts? Punishing, extreme, and massively rewarding. Go for it!