Sledgehammer hacks

I do, of course, mean hack in the geek sense of the word, which means something like “a clever, thoughtful solution to a problem.” In this case, the problem is, how to get good exercise without having to deal with joining a gym. My readers will know that I’ve been babbling about Shovelglove for a while. Shovelglove is now officially the best workout — esp. in the upper body — that I’ve ever experienced. From the main shovelglove site:

Take a sledgehammer and wrap an old sweater around it. This is your “shovelglove.” Every week day morning, set a timer for 14 minutes. Use the shovelglove to perform shoveling, butter churning, and wood chopping motions until the timer goes off. Stop. Rest on weekends and holidays.

This insight is in itself a supreme hack. It is the very picture of what I would call “elegant simplicity.” It just works, and in the few months I’ve been doing it I have noticed some serious results.

The first hack has to do with the weight of the sledgehammer. My local hardware chaing carries 8, 10, and 16 pound sledgehammers. The 8 was too light, the 16 was too heavy, and the 10 was just slightly lighter than ideal. I think I would have preferred a 12- or 13-pounder, but alas, they simply weren’t available. So I went with a 10 pounder.

The first week was amazingly strenuous. This is hard work! My muscles ached — good ache — for several days after I started. And my strength increase has been palpable; I’ve been lifting weights off and on for about 4 or 5 years, and my strength has increased noticeably since I began “shugging.” I picked up my dumbells for the first time in months the other day to get a bench-pressing motion, and I was able to lift twice the number of sets, with about 30% more weight, than I was able to do in the past.

But the problem is, now the 10 pounder almost seems too light. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a good workout, but I find myself itching for more weight. So I thought of just picking up a 2nd sledgehammer, this one at 16-pounds. The problem is, the only 16 pounders they have at the shop come with fiberglass handles. Now fiberglass may actually be superior to wood (lighter, absorbs vibration, etc), but that just rubs me the wrong way. I want wood.

So I thought of another idea. Why not get adjustable ankle weights, and attach them to the sledge? So I went out yesterday and got 10 lb ankle weights, which are actually 2 – 5lb ankleweights. For now, I just rigged them directly onto the sledge with duct tape (no sweater on this shovelglove), but in the interest of removability and upgradeability I’m going to replace the duct tape with some heavy-duty straps to hold the ankleweights on, yet still provide accessibility to change the weights if I choose.

My first workout with the hacked sledgehammer (10 lb sledge + 5 pounds of ankle weight, ie, 15 pound sledge) was last night, and man. It was tough, in a good way. My arms feel today like they did when I first started shugging with the 10 pound sledgehammer. This rocks.

I decided to get 2 separate 5 lb ankleweights rather than one 10 lb one; this way I can have 3 different weights at the ready and can adjust the total weight fairly quickly and painlessly.

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