Last article we discussed vertical swinging of the sledgehammer for another facet of this type of weighted GPP. This article will talk about yet another facet: horizontal, or as in anatomical speak, transverse swinging.
At first glance, this type of swinging will appear to resemble swinging a baseball bat. That is correct to a certain extent. The swing is similar in the motion but that is where the similarity ends. First of all, we are using a sledgehammer with a different type of handle. This will create different recruitment patterns involving the forearm and wrist muscles. Next, we are using a weight that is concentrated at the end of the handle, instead of throughout the last 2/3 of the bat, thereby increasing the distance the weight is from the hands, changing dramatically the leverage.
The weight of the sledgehammer is also about 360% greater than the average baseball bat when using an 8-pound sledgehammer, therefore the neuromuscloskeletal demands and workload on the muscles involved are greatly increased, thereby creating a superb training effect. Finally, we will use two different hand positions. One type is the same as the diagonal swinging: using a static and a slide hand, the static hand being the hand on the side the sledgehammer is being swung to. The other type is similar to the vertical swinging where both hands are static, with the bottom hand being the hand on the side the sledgehammer is being swung to.
Before I get started describing the mechanics of this swing, I want to make it clear that this new swing isn't just for baseball/softball athletes. This swing is a part of the larger picture of this new type of weighted GPP. So far we have talked about diagonal, vertical and now horizontal swinging. I introduced the diagonal version first since most people are familiar with it. Then the vertical was introduced and finally the horizontal. If you think about it, the diagonal swinging contains both vertical and horizontal swinging components or vectors (talking in those physics terms again!) in varying degrees.
The diagonal version recruits most of the trunk musculature, involving those muscles that are responsible for lateral flexion, flexion/extension and rotation. The vertical version mainly recruits the flexion/extension muscles with the horizontal version mainly recruiting the rotary muscles with some of the lateral flexors thrown in for flavor. These are the three basic swings that I have my athletes perform. There are other swings, more specialized, which I will cover in detail in later issues. I have some of my athletes do these specialized swings but it depends on their sport-specific needs.
When performing this swing, I suggest leaning the tire up against a wall or other similar object. One thing to be careful about when doing this is the tire can make some marks on the wall when you are hitting it. Stand perpendicular to the tire at its outside edge. Place your feet about shoulder width apart with the foot that is closest to the tire about 18 inches away from the tire. Without moving your feet swing and hit the tire. Depending on how tall you are and how large the tire is, you may be able to hit it at the top of the tire or you may have to step back with your feet slightly so you can hit the tire lower.
Try and hit the tire at a level somewhere between your waist and chest areas, preferably just above your umbilicus. As I had mentioned earlier, there are two different hand methods with which you can swing. I recommend using the static/slide hand combination at first until your grip gets stronger. Then you can have both hands become static throughout the swing. This will really work your forearms/wrists and even change the relative load on the trunk, as the weight at the end of the handle won't be supported at the beginning of the swing as with the static/slide hand combination. One last thing about this swing: when you hit the tire, depending on how hard you hit it, the tire may bounce off the wall slightly. One suggestion is to secure the tire to the wall (bungy cords, etc.).
When you are done with your predetermined number of tire contacts for that side, switch over to the other side of the tire and do the same thing. When I had previously discussed diagonal swinging, I had brought up the point that for most right-hand dominant people, swinging to the left will be easy, especially if you have swung a sledgehammer before. When you start to swing to the right with the left side of your body, it will feel even more weird and strange with the horizontal swing than it did with the diagonal swing.
After a few hundred reps over several workouts, swinging with the left side of your body will start to approach the ease and smoothness of the swing of the right side. What I suggest is to continue with it and go slow at first until you feel more comfortable swinging with your left side. When you feel more comfortable, increase the contact frequency and speed to bring it up to par with the right side. Southpaws need to just reverse the aforementioned information in this paragraph.
I would like to thank everyone for emailing me regarding this series of articles about this different form of weighted GPP: the sledgehammer. I enjoy hearing from you and answering your emails. The next issue we will discuss and show yet another variation of swinging the sledgehammer. If you have any questions, feel free to email me.