As we learned in Part I of Hammering Strength into the Wrists, wrist strength is very important in sports. With strong wrists, the athlete is more capable of controlling and exerting force with the sporting implement. Also, the athlete with strong, fortified wrists will be more resilient against developing an injury. Strength coaches that are spending time building up their athletes’ wrists are helping them to stay in the game longer and to be more successful.
Also in Part I, we learned a handful of basic hammer levering movements and ways to easily modify them for plenty of variation in the training program. The sledge hammer is an outstanding implement for building wrist and lower arm strength. However, we have only skimmed the surface so far! There are many more great ways to use the hammer to pump serious strength into the wrists and lower arms.
Tossing the sledge hammer is a great way to build wrist strength and hand-to-eye coordination. To begin, hold the handle in the upright position in one hand. From there, toss it over to the other hand. When you start out out, you may have to toss it with the hands very close together, but you should try to work toward tossing it up and over to the other hand once you get better at the task.
The goal of this exercise is to toss the hammer from one hand to the other without letting the hammer head drop to the floor. This may seem like a simple task, but the dynamic nature of this movement can make it very challenging to keep the hammer head elevated. With an 8-pound hammer, even a slight angle to the hammer makes it hard to control.
You will see right away that you will not be able to catch it perfectly every single time. Sometimes you will catch it in the center of your palm and others you will catch it with your fingers. The further away from the wrist you catch it, the more torque will be involved in the catch, and the more challenging the exercise becomes.
Heavy Hammer Swinging
As you may have seen on the Diesel site, I recently added an addition to my house which caused large cinder blocks and concrete blocks to be deposited in my lawn. I have taken it upon myself to try to break up these blocks by hitting them with a 20-pound sledge hammer, and have found that this is an extreme exercise! Striking tires with a lighter hammer is one thing, but it does not compare to beating on a concrete slab with a giant 20-pounder! Each swing of the hammer wears out your core, shoulders, and chest, but it really does a number on your lower arms, wrists, and especially the thumbs.
I like to swing the 20-pounder in groups of at least 20 repetitions. In order to do this you must find a balance between tension and relaxation of your body. If you tense up or rush too much, your body will fatigue, forcing you to stop early; but if you avoid excess tension, you will be able to perform dozens of repetitions before burning out.
Hammer Chain Twists
I am warning you right now, the exercise I am about to describe is freaking serious. If you are not committed to building the strongest wrists possible, then don’t try this. Any weakness of the mind, heart or spirit will cause you to fail.
This exercise involves connecting a chain to the head of a sledge hammer. I did so with some athletic tape, but you can use whatever you like. Next, pick the hammer up to the near parallel position. Once elevated, the idea is to begin twisting the hammer handle in an attempt to completely raise the chain.
I am telling you, this exercise is freaking tough. I use an 8-pound hammer with a thick chain, making it very challenging. I did this the other day and felt it from my finger tips all the way through my arms and into my shoulders. Two days later, and my supinator muscles are still fried! Be sure to twist in both directions in order to maintain balance in the antagonistic muscles. This exercise is a keeper!
The exercises discussed in this article are very high in intensity and force you to create a tremendous amount of tension in the lower arms. Over time, this high tension effort could promote painful inflammation in the elbow, wrist, and forearm. In order to prevent cumulative trauma injuries from this sort of extreme lower arm training, we at Diesel Crew have implemented Hammer Rotations for many years, and we have been able to keep ourselves healthy because of it.
To perform this exercise, in a seated position, support the lower arm on your leg, with your hand hanging just beyond your knee. In this position, your hand will be able to move freely throughout the range of motion of the exercise. Begin with the hammer in an upright position and then lower it down in one direction as far as possible. Once you reach the end of this range of motion, reverse the direction of the hammer to the upright position, and then lower the hammer head the opposite way to the end of the range of motion. Return the hammer to the upright position and you have completed one repetition.
To keep my lower arms healthy, I place sledge rotations into my routine once a week. I grasp the handle toward the center so that the repetitions are fairly easy. The whole point to this exercise is to flush the area with blood, strengthen it and keep it healthy.
Of course, occasionally, I like to challenge myself and work my way down the handle. Over the years, I have added a strip of tape around the handle each time I have completed a good rep further down the handle. Eventually, my goal is to perform a sledge rotation grasping the handle at the very end. In shooting the footage for this article, I executed a new personal best, gripping the handle about a quarter inch below my previous marker.
The sledge hammer is a simple and fairly cheap piece of equipment that is beneficial for athletes in building wrist strength. They can be used for levering, twisting, swinging, and more. They can be used unilaterally, or with both hands and the same time. They are a great addition to anyone’s equipment arsenal. Couple the sledge with an active imagination, and you will be able to perform a fantastic variety of exercises that will keep you invigorated for years to come!
I invite you to check out the Diesel Crew website. We have big plans for expanding the site over the next few months. Please visit DieselCrew.com, sign up for our free strength training newsletters, and feel free to let me know if you have any questions. You can comment here or email me directly.
All the best in your training,