Training With Sledgehammers and Tires


Tires and sledgehammers as exercise equipment

Another form of unconventional training equipment that has increased in popularity is the use of tires and sledgehammers. In this post you will find out all the benefits of training with sledgehammers and tires.

Chopping wood was a very popular traditional conditioning exercise for boxers. That said, the sledgehammer and tire is far more practical in a modern setting than an axe. Can you imagine driving out to the pine plantation and setting to work? If your gym has a sledgehammer lying around (and good luck finding one that doesn’t these days), you can blast your core with sledgehammer tire hits. Or maybe you’re the more nimble type. In that case, try some tire in-and-out jumps to build explosive lower body power.

Furthermore, for you outdoor enthusiasts there’re always tire step-ups to provide an unstable surface for you to get up and down on. This is great for those of you who are into hiking and other activities that require a mixture of leg strength and balance.

Training with hammers and tires provides a variety of advantages. The point being, even though we use them more often for flipping, there are other exercises you can do with them that can add some nice diversity to your workouts. Some of the advantages are practical and some are physiological, but without a doubt, tires and sledgehammers will be a good addition to your usual training program.

Training With Sledgehammers and Tires

Training With Sledgehammers and Tires

Sledgehammer training

Sledgehammers are not normally regarded as a piece of equipment used for physical fitness conditioning. We normaly see them as a piece of equipment used for manual labour, as a means of demolition.

However, sledgehammer training, as a muscular conditioning regime, has been around for a long time. It is normally associated with hard core training regimes.

Sledgehammer training may not look pretty but is an inexpensive method for providing an extremely effective whole body workout as part of a fitness training regime.

Muscles that benefit from swinging (vertical, horizontal, and diagonal) the sledgehammer are the abdominals, superficial and deep upper and lower back muscles, spine and trunk rotators, lateral flexors, backside, thigh and calves (whole body). Some of the benefits from swinging a sledgehammer include:

  • Rotational strength and power
  • Core strength
  • Wrist and forearm strength
  • Grip strength
  • Increased dynamic range of movement
  • Coordination
  • Mental toughness

While there are lots of ways to use a sledgehammer, we prefer to use it primarily for swings. The two swings described here are the ones that are often used by combat athletes.

Sledgehammer training

  • Cross-body sledgehammer swing. For this exercise you’ll need a rubber tire or a sandbag in addition to your sledgehammer. Start by placing the rubber tire or sandbag in front of your left foot. Then grab the sledgehammer in your right hand, bring it up over your right shoulder, and swing down at the tire or sandbag. Complete all repetitions on one side before switching to the other side.
  • Overhead sledgehammer swing. Place the rubber tire or sandbag in front of you. Using both hands, bring the sledgehammer directly over your head and swing straight down to the tire or sandbag. Make sure to brace your abs tightly as you perform this exercise.

Training with tires

Tires, such as those used on tractors, lorries or buses can weigh anything between 25kg to 175kg. You can  acquire old tires from specialist tire fitting companies at no cost. That is because most companies are happy to give them away, rather than paying to have them disposed of elsewhere!

Conditioning exercises using tires usually involve flipping or dragging the tires to provide a training effect. These activities are often associated as ‘strongman’ activities, but they also have other training uses. Adventurers have been seen dragging a rubber tire around behind them in preparation for walking assaults on the North and South Poles.

Conditioning coaches have also seen the value of tire training, by including tire dragging and flipping into some athletes’ conditioning programmes, as a method of building strength and speed of leg drive. Tire flipping is another activity you can perform using a tire and is becoming more in vogue with coaches and personal trainers.

Both flipping and dragging activities offer a way of developing the posterior rear muscle chain, including the calves, hamstrings, gluts and lower back muscles, grip and core strength. As a cautionary note – both these activities are extremely hard work.

Before beginning a tire flipping drill, make sure that you have:

  • Spot-on deadlift technique
  • Spot-on barbell squatting technique
  • Excellent pushup form
  • Experience with walking lunges

Most popular exercises using the tire:

  • tire flipping
  • in-and-out jumps
  • tire dragging
  • step-ups
  • punching the tire
Tire workout: tire flipping

Tire workout: tire flipping

Tire workout: tire dragging

Tire workout: tire dragging

Closing Thoughts About Training With Sledgehammers and Tires

Recently there has been a renewed interest in strongman style training with a departure from the use of the conventional gym-based equipment to the lifting and dragging of a wide variety of heavy objects, such as weighted sleds, tire flipping, logs, rope, and weight lifting chains. Along with kettlebells and Indian club training, people are now even using sledgehammers & tires to improve their conditioning.

Training with sledgehammers and tires offers an excellent, effective and inexpensive method for advanced strength and conditioning circuits. Tire flipping, punching, dragging and pushing has become the norm with many strength and conditioning coaches as a progression or variation from Olympic lifting, sled dragging and bench press respectively.

These unconventional tools are excellent for the development of truly functional applied strength. Tires and sledgehammers are best used once strength has been developed with the more stable, and less proprioceptively-challenging gym-based barbell exercise versions of these movement patterns. They are cheap, versatile and are excellent to develop resilience to injury, which translates to the real world or sports field.

Many of these adapted and improvised activities also greatly increase the risk of injury to novice trainees. That is because they may have poor movement or muscle function. In general, methods such as strongman type training are highly specialised. It means that training with sledgehammers and tires should only be undertaken after a period of general physical preparation to build the essential strength and technique required for safe execution.


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