With the recent interest in using sledgehammers in training, I have started to post the original articles by Dr. Mike Hartle. Good Stuff.
Thor, the God of Thunder, brought his hammer down with such force that it shook the Earth for miles around. That is as far as I am going to go with my mythological storytelling! What I am really going to talk about is a different type of General Physical Preparedness (GPP) exercise-Sledge hammering!
The Different Forms Of GPP
In recent issues, much has been talked about GPP of different forms, both weighted and non-weighted. We have read about sled work, using the wheelbarrow with weight, flipping tires, jumping jacks, mountain climbers, etc. What I am advocating is using a sledgehammer as another form of weighted GPP. Think about it: grab a 10 lb sledgehammer and swing it continuously for 2-4 minutes, switching sides every 10-15 strikes.
You will feel it everywhere: abdominals, erectors, deeper lower back muscles like the multifidi and rotares (which help with rotation, extension and lateral flexion of the spine-important movements for any sport), glutes, hip adductors and abductors, upper back and chest regions, forearms and wrists.
Pretty much everywhere. No wonder the old-timers that used to throw the sledgehammer around for 8-10 HOURS per day on the job were in great shape and were very muscular! Athletes participating in sports such as football, baseball, wrestling, basketball, hockey, bowling, lacrosse, track & field, soccer, swimming, etc., would greatly benefit from doing sledgehammer GPP.
Imagine this: a football lineman explodes out of his stance after the ball is hiked. As he approaches his counterpart on the other side of the line, he has to quickly extend, laterally flex and rotate his trunk in order to prepare himself to hit the opposing player properly as the opposing player is trying to get away from him. This will also allow him to execute the play the way it was meant to. This type of scenario happens thousands of times in football, throughout all positions on the field.
All the aforementioned sports have this kind of movement scenario or combination thereof, and occur all the time.
The competitive athlete needs to have these motor recruitment patterns in place in addition to them being strong and functional. If they are not functioning properly, sports performance will suffer and injury will follow soon thereafter.
One of the areas that the sledgehammer greatly improves upon is rotary and angular/diagonal trunk strength. When using the sledgehammer, you can change the degree of angle or even the direction of the sledgehammer while you are swinging it. Most weight programs focus on the big lifts to enhance their athletes' sports performance and decrease incidence of injury: squat, bench press, deadlift, power clean, etc. While these lifts will enhance an athlete's performance on the field, they are all done essentially in a singular plane aspect.
So What Will It Do?
They will allow an athlete to jump higher, run faster, hit harder, etc., but ALL sports will require the athlete during practice/competition to utilize their body in one, two or all three planes of motion at the same time. This means the athlete needs to have the motor units of the rotary and angular/diagonal muscles ready to assist the prime movers as they function in a near-maximal or maximal state and are ready to function when called upon. An example of this is as follows: a hockey player can power clean 110 kg for 5 reps.
A very good weight for anyone. Now, when he gets on the ice he is able to use this added strength to check harder and skate faster. However, when it comes time to hit the puck as hard and with as much finesse as he can, he is not able to transfer all that added strength to hitting the puck.
Why? In this example, his prime mover muscles are strong, but his rotary and angular/diagonal muscles are not as functional. When it came time to utilize his new strength, there was a loss of power transfer to the puck since his trunk stabilizers and movers were not as strong, thereby not allowing the prime movers of his body to put forth all of their power.
If these trunk stabilizers and movers were stronger and more functional, there would be less power loss during transfer of the energy created by the prime movers to the rotary and angular/diagonal muscles, thereby creating a more powerful slapshot! Whew!! In the next couple of issues I will discuss several different methods of using the sledgehammer, including applying the periodization model to training with it and what type and where you can get the proper equipment to make this type of training effective and successful for you and your athletes!!