Hammer Time

By Hilary Achauer

In Exercises

April 15, 2015

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The CrossFit Games have twice exposed athletes who didn’t know how to swing a sledgehammer. Moe Kelsey and Dan Hollingsworth offer tips for mastering this basic functional movement.

It was a “blue-collar test.”

The fourth event at the 2009 CrossFit Games started with a 500-m row. Once the row was completed, athletes had to drive a 4-foot stake into the ground with a sledgehammer until no more than 6 inches remained above the ground. Then it was back to the rower for another 500 m.

Reactions were mixed when athletes heard the event details, but Moe Kelsey was thrilled. A relatively new CrossFit athlete at the time, Kelsey was a firefighter and had worked in concrete construction.

Many competitors in 2009 struggled to pound the stake into the ground. They were unsure how to hold the sledgehammer and weren’t able to accurately hit the stake with power. Kelsey knew exactly what to do. He finished the event in 4:46 and took third place.

Swinging a sledgehammer or other implement is useful in sport, at home or at work. In the box, hammer strikes can be used to develop strength, explosive power and accuracy.

“I think that if you can’t with just minimal proficiency wield a bat, strike something with a hammer, defend yourself with a club or work a machete to some advantage, it speaks to a deficiency in your fitness,” said CrossFit Founder and CEO Greg Glassman, who had suggested the stake-drive event for the Games after an tough experience pounding a grounding rod into the earth.

Here, Kelsey and trainer Dan Hollingsworth take apart the sledgehammer swing, offering tips for efficient and effective movement.

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