THE MIGHTY HAMMERTHON
How do you build Thor like endurance to slam a sledgehammer 28,000 times in a day? I'm still figuring that one out as I am training to complete the equivalent amount of sledge hammer tyre slams as my half marathon step count in under 24 hours to set the world's first sledgehammer endurance record of it's kind in the name of The Centre for Humane Technology.
Building endurance is a highly debated topic from intervals to low intensity long distances, but all can agree on one thing that there might not be a best way to Improve endurance, rather it's down to personal preference of applying different methods and seeing how you adapt, however for the Hammerthon I won't just need cardiovascular endurance, I'll also need to adapt my hammering muscles to endure longer and longer periods of hammering without fatiguing.
The challenge was inspired by none other than Thor himself, the Norse god of thunder who famously wields his hammer 'Mjolnir'. Now a sledgehammer doesn't quite work the same or fly back to you but to hammer it 28k in a day I will have to be 'worthy' in endurance and robustness otherwise my body might simply break far before my mind gets the chance.
As with the push I am being trained by Jack Spillets of Force Strength & Conditioning. We will be using strength and conditioning principles to improve upon my baseline fitness and strength, which will also help further how robust my muscular-skeletal system is alongside with a good dose of breath work & cold exposure to keep my immune system strong. It's during this phase we'll also start working the core a bit before getting a little more specific in the next block so I have a nice strong core helping to control the lift and slams. It is then that we'll move onto rotational control (with the help of my new favourite tool - the mace bell) to build rotating stable shoulders and a twisting core that can take the torque of winding a hammer over and over without serious injury. The goal isn't to slam incredibly fast or hard but to be able to cleanly and efficiently preform the move over and over - sounds simple on paper right?
As explained above we'll start less specific to build a more robust body, better strength, and more endurance. I'd also like to note we added in mobility sessions on every rest day to help keep everything nice and loose and reduce injury even further.
This follows the rule of S.A.I.D which stands for selective adaptations to imposed demands which simply means the more you do something the better you get at it, so we start general and get more specific to hammering based training - simple.
The Hammerthon fundraiser and full details were launched in winter on January 1st 2021 and official training began immediately on Monday 4th, however I took to the tyre to trial a 2 hour 24 minute session on the 1st to see just what I'd gotten myself into. Just over 2 hours, a whole bunch of bananas, and super rotated shoulders later I knew this was going to be a lot more demanding than the Pen-Y-Fan push in terms of really specific movement endurance as my shoulders were so so demolished I struggled to even put on a t-shirt the following day.
Let's start with mobility as it's been integral to keeping me training.
The session by Jack Spillets is designed to improve the range of movement and control throughout the body. It's not strenuous or stressful on the body as this is a rest day activity so chuck on some chilled tunes and grab a cuppa for this one.
We also added band stretches into the warm up on this as we did with all sessions to improve the stabilising muscles in my back for hammering. I'll detail the stretches later as they're not listed in the program itself and require a little explaining.
Basic functional strength and endurance building is the goal for block 1. Nice and general to get the whole body ready but based around powerlifting as Jack had started teaching me to power clean and snatch before Christmas so we didn't want to waste the opportunity to keep improving it.
You can also see how the clean and snatch use the legs to drive the barbell up instead of pulling with the arms which is similar to good hammering form so it was unintentionally adding some specificity before we even wanted to.
Lots of basic core too as this is essential to hammering.
Simple running 5km once a week for low impact endurance to compliment the more interval like conditioning sessions. You can supplement the running with cycling, rowing swimming etc if desired.
Similar in goals to block one to build more endurance and strength. We started adding a little more core work and some more muscular endurance too.
For this block we introduced an atlas stone to mix things up a little and because they're bloody good fun!
Although you see a running complex for 'fitness 1' I was undergoing some physio on my knee caused by a quad dominance so I replaced the session with the equivalent in hammering so 8 min hammering straight to warm up, 3 min on, 3 min off etc
The last 3 sessions of this block I deloaded to help my body repair better as fatigue was setting in. This was only a short time after I recovered from having COVID-19 and I was still feeling some of it's effects so I chose to take things steady aiming for a deload or extended rest day periods every few weeks ( 6 weeks seeming best for my own body) to stay in the zone where I could keep improving.
Now my core was nice and strong we wanted to throw some rotational movement at it and the same for the shoulders. Enter the mace bell, my favourite new workout tool for a warrior like workout.
The mace is simply a long pole with a weight concentrated at one end inspired by ancient mace training from Hindu warriors. The exact same moves can more or less be achieved using a cheap sledgehammer, but if you can afford it and want something to mix things up I highly recommended picking up a mace, probably a 5kg one.
The mace allowed us to work the strength and endurance of my muscles in the upper back like the lats and traps whilst also lets the hips and shoulders get a good blast. It's the perfect tool for hammerthon training.
We also added a better hammering conditioning session for 'fitness 2' which builds more endurance and helps to finesse movement efficiency.
This block is likely the last before the event so we're very specific to hammering here. Lots of muscular endurance based moves and hammering in 4 out of 5 sessions a week.
We continue to use the mace even more because of its moves translating so well into hammering - I mean you can literally do hammer slams with the mace itself.
We also added some animal flow training to the mix since I'd been learning it at home during the previous block. This helps by adding some variety, dynamism and unexpected movement to training helping to create better injury resilience.
week 2 of this block I chose to deload dropping to 60-50% of either the weight or the volume (sets or reps) to help my body repair more and rest up ready for battle! However it turned more into a full few days rest after the first 2 deloaded sessions were more exhaustive than anything heavy the week before so I rested from Wednesday to Sunday still doing the mobility sessions and letting things loosen on caloric intake.
The following week I was back in the saddle feeling strong as an ox. The first week (before the deload and rest) I went heavy on most of the sessions by pushing for the maximum volume on each station and then some. There result = over reaching.
Over reaching could simply be described as training harder than normal be that heavier, more volume, more sessions and then taking extended rest to see a good gain in super compensation (gains to strength, endurance, speed etc).
The practice of overreaching can be implemented into most programmes but is more suitable to higher preforming athletes aiming to improve specific goals, for myself muscular endurance is that goal currently hence doing more volume. The practice runs the risk of fatiguing the athlete though as you are pushing yourself most likely just outside your optimal training zone. The goal is to hit the absolute peak of performance enhancing training without burning out. Over reaching can lead to fatigue like symptoms and a lot of aching on the following rest days but these should subside if the 'harder training phase' wasn't too intense.
This is why it's better suited to high preforming athletes and especially to individuals trained by professionals or with their own educated understanding who can workout just how much harder they can push without breaking.
As we can see on this graph hard training pushes our performance. We rest for an extended period which is the section below baseline labelled as days to weeks later and the result is super compensation where our baseline performance peaks.
Repetition of the process over time results in a climbing baseline. Good examples of this methods application can be seen in some powerlifting programmes where the coach progressively increases the 1RM (1 rep max) percentage the lifter is working with each week until it's nearer 100% before deloading back down to the 40-60% range for a week.
Week 1 - 5 sets - 3 reps at 75% 1RM
Week 2 - 5 sets - 3 reps at 85% 1RM
Week 3 - 5 sets - 3 reps at 90% 1 RM
Week 4 - 5 sets - 3 reps deload to 55% 1RM