Whether you are a personal trainer looking for something new for clients or a person who trains alone, sledgehammer training is a viable alternative to traditional strength training methods, and a great fitness tip to include into your training program.

Sledgehammer training is a fantastic alternative to the sometime humdrum routine of traditional strength training. All you need to take advantage of this unique style of training is an 8 or 10-pound sledgehammer and either a tree stump, log or old tire. Of course, all three together are also great. And safety glasses, you’ll want to get a pair as you don’t want any chips of wood shooting up into your eye. Personal trainers and people who workout on their own should take advantage of the strength benefits offered by sledgehammer training.

Training with a sledgehammer is strength training with a twist, allows you to take advantage of the great outdoors and will push your fitness level to a new and higher level. There is also very little cost associated with this kind of strength training. A good 8 or 10-pound sledgehammer will only set you back about 20-25 bucks and you should be able to score a log or tire for free if you ask around.

So what are Tabata Intervals? Tabata Intervals, or a Tabata Workout, consist of 20 seconds of high-intensity work followed by 10 seconds of rest, and this cycle is repeated 8 times for a total of 4 minutes. Without getting too deep into the science of this program, Dr. Izumi Tabata and his team of researchers provided proof that following this program for 6 weeks can dramatically increase a person’s anaerobic capacity and maximum oxygen consumption.

What was particularly startling about Dr. Tabata’s findings is that this training effect was observed in highly conditioned athletes rather than untrained members of the general population.  Untrained people usually exhibit a positive, sometimes drastic, response to training over a short period of time because they have absolutely no training history and conditioning level. Tabata Intervals will push even the fittest of the fit even further into the Fit Zone.  Wow, that’s bad; the Fit Zone…geez.

The great thing about Tabata Intervals is that you can use them with just about any exercise imaginable. Sprinting, the stationary bike, squat thrusts, jumping rope, squats, hang cleans, kettlebell swings, you name it and you can Tabata it. Which brings us back to the sledge and Tabata Intervals.

The key thing to keep in mind is that you have to work all out during the 20-second intervals. And by “all-out” I mean as hard as you can, dare I say “balls-to-the-wall, pedal-to-the-metal. Sorry girls… To perform a Tabata workout you cannot just putter along at a relaxed pace for 20 ticks of the clock, you must work as hard as you can. To give you an idea as to the level of intensity that we’re talking about here, if you’ve been pounding away with the sledgehammer and are used to using it, you should be getting 15-18 swings in with the 8 or 10-pounder in a 20-second period.

To paraphrase Billy Shakespeare, let discretion be the better part of valor and caution be preferable to rash bravery. Just do one Tabata circuit the first time that you try this kind of work out and see how you feel during and after. Don’t get all gung-ho and overdo it the first time out. Slow and steady will win the race, especially if you’re working all out. You can also mix and match in a Tabata-based workout. For instance you can do one, 4-minute Tabata Interval circuit with your trusty sledgehammer and then follow that up with a squat thrust circuit and finish it off with a kettlebell swing circuit. To do all of this you just need 20-minutes. And in this 20-minutes you will kick your own butt. But for now, try the Tabata Interval program and go through just one circuit while making sure that you are working as hard as possible.  Be patient and I guarantee that you will see results.


  1. Sal, you mention 6 weeks of Tabata Intervals. How often do you do these 4 minute blasts in those 6 weeks? Also you mention 20 minute groupings (obviously of 5 circuits) — is that prescribed, or what? (I’m a triathlete always looking to up my VO2 max, so this has me curious.) Thx.

  2. landrubek:
    there are many ways to implement tabatas. since they are so high intensity – the landmark study had subjects working at 170% of VO2 max – imho you’d be lucky to be able to work this hard for more than 2 tabata rounds (8 minutes). and i would even think to really be able to work at top-intensity during the second tabata you’d be better off taking at least 2 minutes off in between.
    also, if you are doing other forms of exercise you’ll need give yourself the proper amount of recovery between your workouts. as usual, i recommend starting with the minimum and seeing a) how you feel during and b) how you feel after.
    i’m working on a item that discusses the implementation of tabatas that should post tonight or tomorrow.


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