This week's version of the sledgehammer swing is a new one to this series but not to most people. It is something that hundreds of thousands of enthusiasts do every week in the United States, North America and the rest of the world. Several differences between this new type of swing and the one that is commonly used by these enthusiasts are the size of the implement, the equipment needed and the place where you can do it. What is this new type of swing? Well, since you asked nicely: the side underhand swing or more commonly called, the golf swing!
Yes, fellow hardcore training brothers and sisters, I said golf swing. No you don't need to go out and buy a pair of shiny golf shoes with those cleats on the bottom or a pair of those knickers. No green fees or stuffy clubhouses to have lunch in. All you need is the good old trusty sledgehammer and the battered tire you have been beating up for the last few weeks.
The Reason For This Swing
The reasons for this swing are many. As I have mentioned previously, it makes your upper extremities, namely the hand and wrist areas, work hard to hold onto the handle. There is the plyometric effect when you hit the tire (see Part 6 for more details on this) and you have to control the sledgehammer. There is the rotary motion of the trunk along with the slight lateral flexion to combine together for an awesome trunk training effect. I also like to call this swing a fun swing since many of us have either played golf before or still presently do and have enjoyed it. Of course I am not saying that the other swings are not fun, but this one is of a lesser intensity since the body motion isn't as great and the relative power output is not as great as diagonal swinging, for example. I like to throw this one into training every so often to provide a change of pace yet still be able to achieve a desired training effect.
There are two main ways we perform this swing. The first is using the tire. Stand about 12-18 inches away from the tire, standing sideways to the tire. Place your feet about shoulder width apart. Grip the handle the way you do a golf club. For those of you that don't golf, if the tire is on your left, have your right hand below your left on the handle. Now, keeping your hands where they are, raise the sledgehammer as far to the right as possible without letting your wrists break (let go or bend down). When you are doing this, utilize your trunk and hip muscles to help raise the sledgehammer. When you raise it to the height that if you go farther your wrists will break or you are as far as you can go, begin the descent of the sledgehammer toward the tire.
Make sure you are utilizing the various trunk muscles that are opposite the ones you used to raise the sledgehammer, leading with your hip and lower trunk region. Strike the tire and begin the swing again. Count your contacts as always. When you have achieved 10-15 contacts on that side, switch to the other side, change your hand positions, and start. It will feel strange on the non-dominant side, as we have discussed before, so go slow at first until the motor engram is set and the body is comfortable with it. At this point increase your contact frequency and speed to match your dominant side.
The other method we use is called a free swing. No hitting the tire! Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, grip the handle as above and swing the sledgehammer. However, this time instead of impacting the tire, the sledgehammer will swing through to equal the height when you are initially raising it. Make sure your trunk movements are equal on both sides and you are leading with your hip bilaterally. Watch developing too much momentum with this free swing. The version of this swing can be done for a number of swings or for time. I also use this one to help warm-up the trunk muscles before training. Remember to alternate hand positions with this swing every so often.
One more thought. This version will produce positive training effects for all sports. The athletes we work with that have seen the best improvements with this swing participate in hockey, golf, field events for track and field, and baseball. I would, however, be curious to see what would happen to the performances of amateur and professional golfers if they incorporated this version of the sledgehammer swings into their training arsenal. Let me know how you golfers or your athletes that are golfers do after adding this swing to their training. Maybe someday we will see a 6# or 8# sledgehammer in their golf bags next to the driver.