Hammer Training

Updated: Aug 14

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

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!



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 the point any further, though I will finish with a long list of precautions. When using the hammer always ensure:



  • That you have plenty of space around you

  • That there are no entrances or exits within swinging distance

  • That you are visible from every angle - you don't want someone copping a face full of forged iron as they walk round a blind corner

  • That the hammer is good quality and the end is not likely to fly off (best to buy a one piece hammer)

  • That you keep your eyes fixed on the meaty end when striking the tyre

  • That you step to the side as the lump passes your legs

  • That you are wearing non-slip training gloves (some examples of which I have included within the product review)

  • That it is daylight or the lights are on – don’t swing your hammer in the dark!

Training Method

You can keep things nice and simple and set a countdown timer for 5/10/20 minutes, and then at whatever pace you want work away merrily. There is the option of aiming for a specific number of repetitions – best to stick to multiples of ten (each side). You can advance on the classic 360° rotation movement by bringing the hammer down explosively whilst sinking into a squat. And then there’s the option of incorporating the hammer into a circuit.



Milestones to aim for

  • 5 minutes continuous (rep rate)

  • 10 minutes continuous (rep rate)

  • 20 minute continuous (rep rate)

  • 30 minutes continuous (rep rate)

  • 250 slams (best effort)

  • 500 slams (best effort)

  • 750 slams (best effort)

  • 1000 slams (best effort)


Three techniques

Click on video for a tutorial of three techniques that you can incorporate into your hammer training:


Limitations

This article would be unbalanced if I neglected to identify the inherent limitations of the hammer.



The first and most obvious limitation is the fact that a hammer without a large tractor tyre is as useless as a bike without peddles; in fact it’d be more useless because least you could free-wheel a peddleless bike. And I’m sure by now you’ve noticed that you can’t pop down your local convenience store to purchase a tractor tyre.



Another limitation is space. If you happen to live in a one bedroom fourth floor flat you might want to stop reading this article and instead read my article on resistance bands, for they require little more space than is afforded in the average phone box and are so silent you wouldn’t wake a baby.



However, if you can find a patch of open concrete and a farmer kind enough to bung you a tyre you’ll have yourself a brilliant piece of exercise equipment that’ll last you a lifetime. And don’t forget, with that tyre you can also perform many strength and conditioning exercises – such as the farmers’ walk, dead-lifts, squats, flips.




Products

I think you’ll agree that I’ve waffled on long enough about hammer training and the associative benefits. You’ll have to forgive me, it’s hard not to get over-excited when discussing excellent training principles. But now it’s time to look at some hammers! Give me a whoop!



Normally I’d provide you with a bit of spiel regarding the merit and worth of each product; but that’s hardly necessary for a piece of exercise equipment that only has to satisfy two simple requirements.


Requirement 1: the weight is accurate

Requirement 2: that it’s made from one-piece cast iron


Hammers!

1: Powrx Sledgehammer- Gym Hammer 6kg-30kg



Very well rated: 76 reviews with 4.5 stars

£Prices vary depending on weight

Product Information

· SOLID CONSTRUCTION: Durable Cast Iron.The gym hammer is designed for gym use as well as home use









Click on image for availability



2: Gorilla Sports Pro Gym Hammer - 6kg to 30kg


5 stars with 5 reviews

Prices range from £70 to 220

Product Information

· Recommended for intensive practice

· Equipment type: Gym Hammer 8kg

· Colour: Black

· Material: Steel






Click on image for availability





3: Mirafit Gym Workout Sledge Hammer



5 stars 1 review

Prices range from £34

· Mirafit Gym Hammer

Product Information

· Available in a choice of eight sizes: 4kg - 6kg - 8kg - 10kg - 12kg - 15kg - 20kg - 25kg

· Solid steel hammer head - Heavy duty pipe handle with knurled grip - Matt black powder coated finish






Click on image for availability





4: Capital Sports Big Knock Training Hammer



Near 5 stars with 8 reviews

Prices start at £40

Product Information

· Steel training hammer to increase coordination and strenght | Completely made of cast steel

· Roughened handle for safe and firm grip

· Weight: 6 kg | Stem lenght: 75 cm | Stem thickness: 3 cm | Colour: black

· Suitable for a variety of exercises such as hammer blows, bicep curls or for use as a ballistic weight


Click on the image for availability



Training Gloves

Of course you don't need training gloves when hammer training. I only ever use them when I plan on a long session.



1: Gym Gloves, OMERIL 5mm Pdded


£10

Nearly 5 stars with over 800 reviews

Product Information

  • Full Palm Protection: Equipped with non-slip silicone hot stamping and thickened gasket, our gym gloves not only enhance your grip on rods and bars, but also effectively protect your hands from being worn out with good buffer. Besides, with padded 5MM cushion throughout the palm and main pressure points, say goodbye to calluses, blisters and torn.

  • All-round Wrist Support and Protection: This straps are elastic, the maximum extension is over 60cm, which is easy to adjust and fit everyone's wrists. With this lengthy strap, you can easily strengthen your daily workout with full round wrist support and will never getting hurt.

Click on the image for availability



2: Grebarley Gym Gloves

£13.99

Nearly 5 stars after over 1600 reviews

Product Information

  • All-Purpose Gloves: Suitable for Weight Lifting, Pull Up, Exercise, Fitness, Gym.

  • Durable & Top-Quality Material Gloves are manufactured with microfiber that has a history to deliver better for tractability,tear and crack resistance.

  • Non-slip Design with Multiple Protection Equipped with thickened gasket.



Click on the image for availability



3: Atercel Weight Lifting Gloves

£10.99

Nearly five stars with 1850 reviews

Product Information

  • INNOVATIVE PALM DESIGN MAXIMIZES YOUR GRIP - We researched how hundreds of people use gloves to enhance our ergonomic design, leverage the muscle direction and placement and optimize grip functionality all to bring you a better glove.

  • UNRIVALED COMFORT - Atercel gloves is made of lightweight, breathable and stretchy material, to increases flexibility, comfort and fit. Ideal for general workout, exercise, gym training and cycling.


Click on the image for availability





To Finish

I can't deny that there are a number of potential barriers that could prevent you from exploiting the tremendous strength and conditioning benefits that hammer training has to offer. However, if you are serious about getting the hammer into you life you'll no doubt find a way to overcome those barriers.



(As we are very interested in user feedback at Hungry4Fitness, I would be very grateful if you could take a few seconds out of your day to leave a comment. Thanks in advance!)

Blog Author

Adam Priest is a former Royal Marines Commando, professional personal trainer, lecturer, boxing and Thai boxing enthusiast