In the last issue I discussed diagonal swinging of the sledgehammer for one facet of this type of weighted GPP. This article will talk about another facet: vertical or as in anatomical speak, midsagittal swinging. Before we get started, I would like to pass on a tip from my father about using the tires for hitting. Most of us will leave the tires outside and therefore they may accumulate some water in them. He suggested drilling some holes in the tire to allow the water to drain out, thereby decreasing the potential for mosquitoes, etc. to use this area to breed.
Last week we talked about swinging from one side to the other: diagonal swinging. We also talked about having static and a slide hand on the handle. This week's swinging variation will have both hands become static. You may also find that you may need to use a lighter sledgehammer at first for this movement since you are not sliding one of your hands, which changes the leverage of the movement. For those of you who only have one sledgehammer, you should be okay but you may need to either decrease your reps at first or choke up a little on the handle (as in baseball) or both.
This type of swinging is similar to doing a medicine ball toss where you squat down and jump up and throw the ball as far in front or rear of you as you can and similar to the movement in a power clean. The main difference between vertical swinging and these aforementioned movements are the eccentric and concentric phases are opposite. During vertical swinging, the eccentric loading part happens during the upward swing bringing the sledgehammer up and behind your head. The concentric phase occurs upon reversal of this upward movement, thereby bringing the sledgehammer down toward the tire.
In performing vertical swinging, your stance will be similar to last week's, only that you will need to back up from the tire a little more, possibly a total of 30 inches or so, depending on how tall you are. Feet should be the same as last week's. To start this movement, place the sledgehammer on the tire in front of you, grip it with both hands at the end of the handle, and slowly raise it above and behind your head. Squeeze the handle hard so you have full control of the sledgehammer throughout the movement. Make sure you alternate your hand positions every 10-15 repetitions to make sure the mechanics of the swing are evenly distributed throughout your body. You are now ready to start smashing the tire with this new swing!!
The muscles recruited for this swing are virtually the same as in the diagonal swing but in different intensities and recruitment percentages. The trunk rotary muscles are not being recruited as much as rotary muscles in a unilateral fashion but as bilateral stabilizers of the spine, assisting in the flexion/extension of the spine that is occurring during the swing. The posterior chain gets more involved in this swing with the flexion/extension of the movement.
The workload of the forearm/wrist flexors and extensors and the elbow flexors during this swing is greatly increased since the hands are static and the weight is approximately 30-36 inches away from the hands for the whole movement. This distance from the weight loads these muscles even more, making the intensity higher for these muscles. The same is true for the anterior deltoid and pectoralis major muscles going upward with the sledgehammer and the abdominals, serratus anterior and latissimus dorsi going downward.
One variation of this swing that I like to do every so often to change things up a bit is to really emphasize the gluteals and hamstrings by sticking the buttocks back and out as you bring the sledgehammer down. Look at the last two pictures in this article. This variation will help recruit these muscles which are a vital part of the posterior chain group. The backward movement of the buttocks and hips is similar to the movement of the Romanian deadlift.
Another variation of this swing is to combine a minor diagonal swing with the vertical swing. For example, instead of bringing the sledgehammer straight down, have the sledgehammer strike the tire just to the right or left of center. Keep both hands static for this and bring it back up to the same starting point as the pure vertical swing start point.
The next issue we will discuss and show another variation of swinging the sledgehammer. If you have any questions, feel free to email me.