Hammer Training

Updated: Aug 14, 2020

The benefits, training ideas, techniques, video tutorials and products!

a woman hitting a tyre with an exercise hammer

I don’t care what anyone says, you can’t be a good hammer session. After 5, 10 or (if you’ve got the rocks for it) 20 minutes of smashing that lump of pig iron into a big old tractor tyre you’re left feeling as though every fibre in your body has been wrung dry of energy. For hours afterwards your forearms throb and your hands ache as though you’ve been clinging on to a cliff face for dear life. Ahh, you can’t beat it!

heavy weight boxer Max Baer chopping wood

Hammer training is a classic strength and conditioning exercise that combat athletes – mainly boxers – have been making use of for years. Before the advent of tyres boxers of old would hack at tree stumps with an axe or ‘chop wood’ (see inset image: former Heavy Weight World Champion Max Baer). However, besides the fact that it’s not good to cut down trees, they being in decline and all, striking wood is not as physically beneficial because you aren’t forced to control the recoil of the axe – as you are with the hammer. Instead you’ve got to spend five minutes after each chop dislodging the axe blade from the wood. Furthermore, thanks to the shock absorption properties of rubber repetitive impact injuries are significantly reduced.

So you can whack away at that tyre for hours without worrying about developing a nasty case of tendonitis.

Muscles target when hammer training

The primary muscles worked when hammer training are forearms, back (primarily latissimus dorsi), cardiac (heart) and that blob of fat and water between your ears (aka mental resolve). But due to the dynamic nature of the hammer you can also add a squat into the movement – as you deliver a Thor-like smash into the tyre – thus recruiting the muscles of the legs.

Also, after a five or ten minute fight with the hammer your core muscles will not have escape unscathed. All that twisting and tensing, contracting and controlling, bending and beating . . . a couple of weeks of hammer work and your core will take on the rigidity and firmness as a block of iron that’s been forged over an anvil.

Training with the hammer

Before playing with your hammer there are a couple of points that you really ought to consider. The first is safety. Of course every exercise presents an element of risk; but some exercises pose a much greater risk than others. If we were to draw up a 10 point scale of risk with tiddlywinks at 1 and walking across busy roads blindfolded at 10, the hammer would come in at a healthy 6. It’s for this reason why the beginner should approach with caution.

I shan’t labour