By Donny Shankle
Carrying is a great exercise. It strengthens so many muscles at one time especially your upper back, legs, abs and grip. I’ve carried everything from tires, pallets, logs, hay bales, kegs, stones, huge sacks of rice, oxygen tanks, sandbags and pretty much anything I saw wondering if I could pick that up and walk with it. I still may hold the Camp Pendleton base record for the stone carry. While competing in an annual strongest warrior competition, I easily carried the 300 plus pound stone we were using three times as far as any other competitor. Many of the marines couldn’t even get the stone off the starting line. The muscles burn during carrying and the lungs have difficulty breathing because the heavy weight is sitting on your chest. You have to work so hard and there is no technique or cheating your way through it. To describe this exercise, I’ll use the sandbag. It’s safe to use and easy to adjust the weight. There are two ways to implement the carry in your training. The first is carrying for speed and the second is distance.
Carrying for speed is a great way to improve your conditioning and coordination. It is a very cardiovascularly demanding exercise. When you carry for speed, assign A and B points to bring your sandbags to and from. One sandbag can be used or turn the exercise into a loading race or relay by using multiple sandbags. Because you are moving fast with a heavy object, your concentration on coordination increases versus carrying for distance. Any improvement in the general physical prepared coordination of the weightlifter will improve his coordination on snatching and clean and jerking.
Carrying very heavy sandbags for distance is a great exercise to trigger a hormonal response. The body is under constant tension for longer periods compared to carrying for speed. The abdominals and diaphragm work harder. The very heavy sandbag must be carried out in front of the athlete because shouldering the sandbag is too difficult. If you can shoulder the sandbag during a distance carry then it it is not heavy enough. Add more weight. The muscles and connective tissues from the top of your spine down to your ankles work very hard to get through a heavy distance carry. The longer you hold on the more everything has to work. Not only will you trigger a hormonal response which will produce stronger muscles but your work capacity will tremendously improve. As a 105k class weightlifter, my conditioning and capacity to work in the gym was better than lighter weight classes. One of the reasons I attribute to this was probably due to all the carrying I did as an exercise in my youth which I continued later in life.
Advanced Way: Try carrying for distance uphill but be sure the incline is not so steep to be dangerous. To increase the difficulty during speed carries go to the beach and carry in the sand.
Duration: 15-25 minutes is enough time to practice either for speed or distance.
Placement In Training: After you have practiced your lifts for the day or alone on active rest days.
By Donny Shankle
Swinging the hammer is a great exercise to develop strength and dexterity primarily in your wrists. The entire arm however benefits from the exercise as well as your abdominals and in particular the intercostals and obliques. The shoulder rotation from swinging the hammer is very beneficial to the health and flexibility of the shoulders. Anyone who has ever worked with a sledge hammer can attest to the kind of hand and arm strength you develop.
The lift begins with your hands taking a grip on the bar, sending a signal through the rest of your body that it’s time to lift. You need to have strong hands and wrists. Wrist strength is often overlooked by many weightlifters. This is usually because weightlifters wrap their wrists and then pay no attention to them. If the wrists are weak however on any overhead exercise a chain reaction will take place leading to the elbow relaxing and then the shoulder. This chain reaction will cause you to miss the lift or give the judges a questionable lockout. Wrapping your wrists is good but so is having strong wrists.
There are three primary exercises I do with the hammer. There are also so many fun variations you can practice to not only improve your hand and arm strength but also your hand eye coordination. The three I practice are the pendulum swing, double and single handed behind the back swing, and bringing the hammer down on a tire like I’m chopping wood, or how I like to think of it, working on the railroad like big John Henry.
To perform the pendulum swing hold the hammer at its base and let it fall behind your back with your elbows up by your ears. Gradually begin swinging the hammer from side to side like an old grandfather clock and let your shoulders and back stretch. For the double handed behind the back swing start by holding the hammer at its base with your elbows tucked close to your sides. The hammer should be in front of you with your eyes looking at the top of the hammer. From here bring your elbows up while at the same time letting the hammer fall to either side and then let it swing behind you until its back to the starting position. The single handed swing behind the back is performed the exact same way but with one hand holding onto the hammer at its base. For bringing the hammer down find a tire and get angry. Bring the hammer down as hard as you can like you’re slamming down slam balls.
Advanced Way: N/A
Duration: 10-15 minutes
Placement In Training: As a warming exercise to stretch the back and shoulders before training. Bringing the hammer down should be done at the end of training as an abdominal exercise.