Sledgehammers Can Add To Your Functional Strength

An old fire captain once said to me, “the hardest thing you will ever do as a firefighter , is chop a hole in a roof”. Of course, I never gave it much thought until I actually had to do it. Then all I heard was his voice in my head… over and over and over… For anyone who has done it, you know what I’m talking about. It’s a miserably difficult task. Fire axes are dulled for a reason, so they don’t stick into things when you hit them. The ax is mostly for destroying things. So, imagine trying to cut through a couple courses of asphalt shingles, a water and ice barrier, and finally 5/8” plywood… all while balancing on a pitched roof. This is truly a “functional” task. You use every muscle in your body to complete this task.

“the hardest thing you will ever do as a firefighter, is chop a hole in a roof”

Now you are probably asking yourself, “don’t they have power saws for that?” The answer is: yes we do; a couple actually; one is a quick vent saw, which is like a chain saw on steroids, and another saw called the K-12, which is another beast the cuts just about everything. But sometimes there aren’t enough saws to go around, and a lot of ventilation holes need to be opened. So we improvise, adapt and overcome. This is where your fitness training plays a big role.

For anyone who has done it, you know what I’m talking about. It’s a miserably difficult task…

Hammering Out A Workout.

Hammering Out A Workout.

So I came up with a fairly simple drill , that addresses this. You won’t need any fancy equipment, or shiny machines. All you need is a sledgehammer and a truck tire. A car tire will work as well, but a truck tire gives you a little more to work with, plus it wont move around when you hit it. The nice part about this is, it can apply to homeowner or firefighter. The home owner (standing aside of the tire) is simulating any swinging type activity, from chopping or splitting wood to digging a trench in his yard. The firefighter (standing atop the tire, balancing) it simulates chopping that vent hole in a roof.

You can use the tabata method, of say 20-30 seconds of effort then 15 –20 seconds rest for sets, or sets of a certain rep count, for example 20 hits x 5 sets. No matter how you do this, it’s a smoker.

For a closer look at this drill, check out Anthony Diluglio’s “The Minute of Strength” issue #20, and you will see us in action.


Kettlebell.com staff writer Anthony Grokaitis is a fire lieutenant with the 500 member Worchester, MA fire department.

A certified level 2 RKC kettlebell instructor, Anthony regularly trains first responders, so that they can be in better physical shape to serve their community.