Trying to get back on the horse

I got a brace, some pre-wrap, some compression wrap, and a ton of tape. I went to judo like it was a normal thing, got to roll with Tanner one last time.

There are things which are way harder than I expected them to be. Remembering to move my hands and feet at the same time among them. As far as the ankle holding up – it didn’t really. I can do some throws, but only as nage komi or yakosuko geiko. The speed of uchi komi means putting too much stress on the ankle. Randori means putting way to much stress on the ankle and introducing very awkward positions.

I’ll be continuing judo for awhile, but only warm-ups, nage komi, and yakosuko geiko. Randori and ground work are simply too much right now.

The Best Laid Schemes O’ Mice An’ Men

I was really hoping to be back in the swing of things by now. Definitely at least back in the gym. Alas, that’s not really happening yet. My ankle is starting to heal up much faster than it has been over the first six weeks or so (which were effectively stagnant healing and constant pain). The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley.

So it’s time to set new goals. By the beginning of next week I’m hoping to have manageable enough pain that I can start back at judo with a brace as long as I avoid foot sweeps. It feels like a lofty goal given that it’s just a few days away, but it would make me feel better about a lot of stuff. When you’re stressed and anxious and can’t even go wrestle there’s just a lot of Weltschmerz. Exercising is great for helping to cope with stress.

So that’s the hope, and with a little luck we’ll see where I am on Tuesday to see if it’s a possibility. The kind of shitty thing will be the fact that the judo rules severely disadvantage a player who can only do hip and hand throws. Most of the good backwards hand throws are illegal now and if there’s only one direction you can attack you become insanely easy to shut down. I’m sure I can figure something out for that.

Sledgehammer – The Workout

To preface this, a lot of the exercises were borrowed or modified from a Grapplearts post (which in turn was apparently a Diesel Crew post first). Credit to them.

If possible I’ll addend this post with pictures, but let’s be honest, it’s probably not going to happen so I’m going to try to link out to YouTube videos (which are not my own) when possible.

As a disclaimer – consult a doctor before starting any exercise program, yaddah, yaddah, yaddah… Seriously though, you’re going to be throwing a hammer around so be careful and be reasonable. Just like weightlifting where the weight can get too far from you and you throw out your back, sloppy hammering can wreak some havoc so take the time to go through motions slowly and take the time to find a video if what I’m describing sounds like nonsense (or skip it all together).


First off, you don’t need that heavy a hammer. I got a 12-lb hammer and I’m seriously choking up on it. An 8-lb (or even smaller) hammer should be sufficient for just about all of these. Having said that, you can always choke up on the heavier hammer and for me, 12-lb was only $5 more than the 8-lb.

You’re going to need a tire. The advice from most sites that have hammer workout routines is that you can get one from somewhere that does tire replacement. I just happened to have a couple of old tires at home that I got talked into taking home when I got new tires because they’re viable spares. I think bigger tires are better because tractor tires are recommended, but I’m using car tires and it seems to work okay.


There are a few key positions and terms that I’m going to use.

Choking up – this is an idiom for taking a higher grip relative to the hammer’s head. That is, a grip closer to the head of the hammer.

Split grip – I’m not sure if there’s an actual term for how one holds a hammer with one hand by the head and one hand at the bottom of the shaft, but with respect to martial arts movements it’s a fundamental split, so I’m calling it a split grip. Both thumbs should point toward the hammer’s head with this grip (which means the top hand is always under the hammer).

Baseball bat grip – I’m sure there’s a better term than this, but it reminds me of holding a baseball bat. From the split grip, let the top hand slide until it touches the bottom hand. This is how one holds a baseball bat in my experience.


The Overhead Swing

Again, I feel like there are probably proper names for these exercises, but I can’t find them so you’re getting whatever I feel like calling them. This is swinging a sledgehammer, thus “the overhead swing”. Chris Melton has a great video explaining the motions if you’ve not used a sledgehammer (or an axe for that matter – pretty much the same motion).

Get into a squatting position. I actually have one foot slightly forward because it feels more comfortable. Start with the split grip, raise the hammer over the shoulder of the top hand, and swing it. As you’re swinging, let your top hand drop into the baseball bat grip.

Making this harder requires getting a bigger hammer or just going faster.

The Twist

The Grapplearts post notes this as “[levering] side to side”. I call it a twist because you’re keeping your elbow in place and twisting at your wrist. Grab the hammer in one hand and twist your hand both directions through the full range of motion at a controlled pace. That’s it. I recommend starting with a very high grip on the hammer and moving your grip down (head further from your hand) if it’s too easy. This one gets hard after a few reps so be prepared to choke up if you’ve started too far out. You’ll feel it in your forearm and elbow. A good video of both this and levering from GTSPerformance is on YouTube.

Once this is done, I turn the hammer upside down and repeat with the head of the hammer below your hand. Don’t cheat yourself out of a full range of motion here, it’s easy to.

The way to make the exercise harder is to have more shaft between your hand and the hammer. If you get to the base of the shaft and can do this, you are a better man than I and should probably seek a bigger hammer.


Of all the forms of levering, the form I’ve found most effective is the one where you hold the hammer to the side (choke up, seriously) and just move at the wrist up and down through the full range of motion. I’ve been doing this with the hammer both in front of and behind my hand on each side and it feels awesome. This is heavily covered by the Grapplearts post so you should look there for pictures. A good video of both this and forearm twists from GTSPerformance is on YouTube.

This gets harder with more shaft between your hand and the head of the hammer.


I’m going to try to do my best to explain this exercise. It’s very easy once you get it, but feels a bit awkward at first. You’re just going to switch between right-handed and left-handed split grips. Start with one split grip and toss it in front of you such that you catch it in the other split grip. I can’t seem to find a video of this, but I promise if you’re tossing from a right-handed split grip and catching in a left-handed split grip (and vice-versa) you’ve probably got it right.

One rep is the hammer getting back to the position you started from (so tossing right to left to right is one).

I have no idea how to make this harder.

More ballistic exercises which I don’t do, but look kind of cool: Sledgehammer Workouts

Other Exercises

If you look around YouTube you can find other stuff, especially videos targeted towards MMA. I’m not doing those exercises myself so I can’t speak to them. Try them out if you care to, you already have a maul and a tire.

The Workout

  • 10x twists (head above hand), each hand
  • 10x twists (head below hand), each hand
  • 10x lever (head in front of hand), each side
  • 10x lever (head behind hand), each side
  • 10x juggling
  • Overhead swing until the cows come home (switch sides every 10 reps)

Starting Sledgehammer Training

Yes, I absolutely recommend it.

The first time I was introduced to the concept of using a sledgehammer to work out was actually a Grapplearts post from 2012 (which is actually borrowed from Diesel Crew). Mark had told me about levering in the Budo Club, though he actually told me to use a sword and practice cuts and levering to a light switch and stopping just above the switch. Since I’ve cared a lot about grip strength for awhile now I actually ran across Indian club exercises a long time ago and sort of discounted them. I was seeing good gains with grippers and gi work and didn’t really see the benefit to adding another exercise into my already limited workout time.

About a month ago though I was talking to a good friend of mine who said he actually had started doing Indian club style exercises with a sledgehammer. Yeah. A sledgehammer. One of those long handled 8 pound (~3.63 kg) hammers. My interest was piqued, but I didn’t really do anything about it. He hadn’t seen the Diesel Crew/Grapplearts post so I told him about levering in addition to his Indian club exercises.

The really long and short of it is that when I’m not training I’m insanely lazy at everything else. I eat like shit. I stop really working out in any other sense except maybe hand grippers and whatever yard work I’m still capable of doing with the injury. Then about two weeks out I kind of spaz out and realize I’m too out of shape to go back as is. There’s an expectation with your skill that you’ll be a certain amount of good even after an injury and the problem is that grappling is a very physically demanding art. So over the weekend I got a 12 pound (5.44 kg) hammer.

As noted, I definitely recommend it. After a five minute session with just wrist exercises on the hammer on Saturday I’m closer to closing the GNC 200 hand gripper than I have been in a really long time (again, serious schmuck when I’m out on an injury). Just simple levering choked up on the 12-lb hammer caused my forearms to burn like the first time I had done gi pull-ups did. That’s a good feeling. It means progress.

Since this has been a lot of rambling about how I found training with the hammer, I’m going to make a separate post of the exercises in case you’re interested in trying them yourself.