One of the least likely tools in our arsenal of fitness equipment is the mallet. Surprisingly, the manual work tool works as an excellent full-body muscular endurance exercise, a great power developer, a very effective weight management method, and a way to increase aerobic and anaerobic endurance. In terms of cost, effectiveness, and versatility, mallet training is a great addition to almost any training program.
Let’s look at the reasons mallet training is so good …
1) Swinging a mallet is a whole body activity. Swinging the sled uses almost all muscle groups … the muscles in the forearms are used for grip, the latisimus dorsi muscles in the back are used in the down phase of a stroke while the deltoid muscles around the shoulders are used on the return to the top position. The core, including the rectus abdominis and obliques, works very hard in the downward phase of hammer blows along the hip flexors. And even your legs get involved as they have to keep you anchored to the ground. It would be difficult to find a muscle group that is not involved in swinging the sled!
2) Multiple fitness components can be trained with one mallet. By using a variety of rep and set schemes (discussed later) it is possible to target power, muscular endurance, cardiovascular fitness, and anaerobic conditioning. Regardless of your goal, mallet training will likely be an excellent addition to your current training routine.
3) Mallet training is very profitable. Many of you will have a mallet in your basement or garage, but even if you have to buy one especially for exercise, they are very reasonably priced and easy to come by. My hammer came from a regular DIY store and cost $ 35 or around £ 16.00 and is highly unlikely to ever wear out. As an eye-catching surface that I like to use, an old SUV tire that I bought for free from a local tire dealer. Most tire dealers are happy for you to take an old tire as they have to pay to have it collected.
4) Training with a mallet is fun! You can hit something as hard as you can, as often as you want with no legal ramifications! It’s a great way to take the frustrations out of the day by leaving you calm and relaxed after your workout. It is very therapeutic!
5) The techniques are very easy to learn. Swinging the mallet is a natural movement that is quickly mastered. It is a very instant workout that, while simple, can be as demanding as you make it.
6) Mallet training is great for losing fat. Any hammer training will burn a lot of calories, but probably the best way to get the most out of your hammer training is to use intervals. Interval training is probably the most efficient and effective method available for fat loss and outperforms steady-state cardiovascular exercise almost always in calorie expenditure tests. Thanks to EPOC (what we used to call oxygen debt), your body will not only burn a lot of energy during a mallet workout, but it will also continue to burn energy at a high rate long after you have finished your workout. It’s like getting two workouts for the price of one! Combined with a calorie-controlled diet, hammer intervals are a great way to shed a few pounds while toning and strengthening your entire body.
Clearly, you will need a mallet. You can buy one from a regular DIY store for a very fair price. In terms of what weight to buy, I suggest anywhere from 6 pounds for lighter athletes and those looking to balance at a higher cadence to 15 pounds for larger athletes or those looking for a slower cadence. I am an experienced and fairly advanced exerciser and I mainly use a 10 pound hammer and recently started using a 14 pound hammer and I have never found my hammer lighter to provide an easy workout.
For striking surfaces, you have a couple of options. As mentioned above, an old tire is a great goal. A tire will absorb some of the impact from the impact, thus reducing noise, hand / wrist impact, and causing the hammer to bounce slightly to help establish a good rhythm. This is my preferred hitting surface and the one you will see in the video that accompanies this article. Alternatively, you can choose to use your hammer outside, where you can have access to a sand pit, a dirt area, an old log log, or something similar. There is nothing wrong with either of these surfaces as long as they have a “little stretch” that will reduce the impact you will feel when using the hammer. I have used my hammer on a deserted beach which worked fine, except I ended up with a light layer of sand on my sweaty head.
Whichever surface you choose for your mallet training, always make sure you have enough space around you and above your head and that the surface you are hitting has some “give in.” Hard surfaces such as concrete or cement are not recommended.
If you are using your hammer for high reps, I also suggest a sturdy pair of gloves. I wear basic work gloves that I bought for around $ 10 to avoid blisters; however, if I do sets of 20 strokes or less, I often don’t wear my gloves and have had no ill effects.
Balancing techniques …
Swinging the hammer is not technically demanding, but it does require some coordination. It is important to have a solid technique before going crazy with your hammer, otherwise there is the possibility of serious self-inflicted injury. There are a few “schools of thought” when it comes to hammer swinging, all of which work well and it’s really a matter of personal preference as to which one to choose. In the attached video, you will see the following rocking techniques … left hand guidance, right hand guidance, alternate hands, and “no choke” where both hands are held near the end of the hammer handle. In addition, you will also see me standing on the ground and also on the tire, which represents a unique challenge for more advanced athletes …
Here are some suggested methods to get the most out of your hammer training. Be prepared to scale the listed workouts to suit your individual needs and goals. Make sure you warm up well before your workout and also start slowly, increasing volume and intensity gradually to avoid unnecessary pain or potential injury.
Timed intervals Decide on a work-to-rest ratio (eg 2 minute work, 1 minute rest) and repeat for the desired number of sets. One of my favorite interval schemes is 3 minute hit (left hand up), 1 minute break, 3 minute hit (right hand up) break 1 minute, 3 minute alternate hand on top. This scheme provides a great ending to a regular workout or is a nice independent mini session when time is short. Regardless of the set / rep scheme you select, be sure to work very hard during the “on” periods and you will find interval training to be a very effective and time-efficient training method.
The length of your work / rest intervals is highly dependent on the goal …
- Shorter sets, for example, less than 20 seconds, are excellent for developing maximum strength and therefore increasing muscle power.
- Medium length sets are ideal, for example 45 to 90 seconds are ideal for improving muscular endurance and anaerobic conditioning.
- Longer sets, for example 2 minutes or more, are best suited for developing aerobic fitness and muscular endurance.
Tabata intervals The Tabata Method is named after Dr. Izumi Tabata, a sports scientist at the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Tokyo, Japan and is a High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) protocol that has been used successfully by the team of Japanese Olympic speed skating among others to improve aerobic and anaerobic conditioning through very short workouts.
During his 1997 study, Dr. Tabata compared the effects of longer, lower-intensity exercise with short bouts of very high-intensity exercise. Using a unique interval training method, the athletes who participated in the study increased their aerobic fitness by 14% and their anaerobic fitness by 28% in just 8 weeks. It’s worth noting that the subjects Dr. Tabata used for the tests were already accomplished athletes and not just beginners, which makes this study even more amazing. Even more incredible is the fact that the actual total training time per week was an incredible 30 minutes.
The Tabata method involves performing 8 to 10 20-second sets of very high intensity exercise separated by 10-second recovery periods, giving a total training time of 4 to 5 minutes. The caveat of the Tabata Method is that all intervals must be performed at 100% intensity, an absolute effort. You have to live to do as much work as possible in each 20 second interval and try to maintain that work rate for sets 8-10. The old adage that you can train long and easy, or short and hard, It has never been more true than when the Tabata Method is described! As with any type of exercise, the Tabata Method should be preceded by a proper warm-up for 5 to 10 minutes and followed by a cool-down of similar duration. In general, the session could last as little as 15 minutes … perfect for anyone who is short on time but wants to get great results from their training.
Repeat intervals With this system, instead of using time as a measure of work, you will use repetitions. For example, you can do 20 strokes and then rest 30 seconds and repeat as many sets as you like. Another one of my favorite sessions involves doing 20 strokes per minute for 10 to 15 minutes. Each set takes 35-45 seconds, allowing 15-25 seconds to rest before starting the next set. The beauty of games that start at the minute is that you only need to be able to see the sweep hand of a watch so that you don’t need to press buttons or set intervals on a stopwatch.
Timed density blocks Allot a block of time, say 5 or 10 minutes and try to hit as many shots as possible in the allotted time. Whenever this workout is repeated, you should strive to do more reps than last time
Timed repetitions Just set yourself a repetition goal and try to complete it in the shortest time possible, for example 300 swings, 500 swings, or even 1000 swings. Whenever you repeat this exercise, you must live to do it faster than before.
Hammer and Calisthenics Combinations Alternative hammer swings with independent bodyweight exercises, such as squats or lunges, as seen in the last part of the video. This ensures that your lower body gets a good workout alongside your upper body and is a great way to get a lot done in a short time.
As I’m sure you can see, mallet training is a very versatile training method that can be adapted to a host of training goals, so why not give it a try? I’m sure you will find it fun and effective.