Hello again, and welcome to Shovelglove
201! I certainly appreciate your patience, in that some of you have been on the waiting list for two years
now. Budget problems, you understand. Hope you weren’t waiting on these credits
You’ve got some good hammer experience under your belt now that you’ve taken the
first four courses. You have a hammer of your own, or several, and they all have names.
Right? And decorations, yes? Rhinestones, stickers, decals, engravings, airbrushed
valkyries -- all good choices.
For 201, we’ll review the essential shovelglove
lore, examine how shovelglove might fit into a larger fitness program, and serve up some video of the classic moves in the
context of a typical workout.
But first, allow me to introduce our teaching assistant, Kaiser Frederick IV Barbarossa.
You may refer to him as Dr. B.
Dr. B is a 21.6-pound shot-loadable sledgehammer
crafted by grandmaster metallurgist Ryan Pitts. Surely you’ve heard of him? If
by some egregious oversight you have not, the syllabus requires you to pay a visit to his web site, strongergrip.com. That’s some good stuff, right there. Of course your final grade in the course
is not for sale, but SCC’s many deserving scholarship students are grateful for equipment donations from our generous
So let’s review some important shovelglove principles:
cannot be overemphasized which is why I put it up front. You cannot exercise your way out of a
bad diet. If somebody put sugar in the gas tank of your car, would drag-racing make it better?
The metaphor is approximate, but you know what I’m talking about.
Getting your diet right is actually easy, despite
what the weight-loss industry would have you believe. Just eat Real Human Food (“RHF”).
You know, the stuff we evolved on for 99.9% of our history as bipedal hominids: healthy plants and animals.
It doesn’t have to be more complicated than that. If you want further explanation, Mark Sisson’s
got the details for you right here.
|Real Human Food
|Please don't eat this.
Depending on how deranged your palate is from the Standard American Diet, RHF may taste unsatisfying or objectionable
at first. But I absolutely guarantee that if you stick to it, your palate will normalize and you will enjoy
it more than the “edible food-like substances” that are all the rage these days.
had more of a deranged palate than me. I used to eat fast food virtually every day. When
I first discovered the Primal Blueprint I thought that surely life without bread would be a living hell. Yet today bread does nothing for me.
Nothing! Bread is lead!
|For the love of all that is holy, don't eat this.
Imagine that you had
100-decibel music blaring in your ears all day. You probably wouldn’t appreciate, say, fine classical
music or the tinkling of wind chimes. But if you took the headphones off, after some adjustment, you’d
discover a world of auditory nuance that you might never have suspected.
So it is with food. Eating
junk is like having a jumbo jet taking off in your mouth and soon enough that’s all you can appreciate.
But your palate will heal itself just like your body will become lean and strong. And you will discover
that RHF is, in fact, the tastiest food of all.
Always Warm Up
is obvious, right? That’s why the very first course consisted of warm-up maneuvers. Get
that blood pumping, those joints lubricating, that pulse elevating. You’ll know when you’re
warmed up because you will start to feel, well, warm.
No Sudden Stops
I had to learn this the hard way.
If you let the hammer yank your joints, you’re going to have problems sooner or later. So
by all means, start with a massive explosion of force, but always leave enough range of motion to stop the momentum of the
hammer with comfortable deceleration.
|Don't be this crustacean.
all of us have a dominant side. You do most things with one hand and not the other, right?
So your grip is stronger and your fine motor control better on that side. Some of us are also recovering
from terrible lifelong habits like always crossing one leg over the other or leaning to one side while standing.
That includes me. But shovelglove will iron you out, provided you do the exact same reps on each
side. Always. When I say do 15 Torso Twists, that means 15 on the left and 15 on the
right. If symmetry is tricky for you, always start with your weak side, then match the reps on the other
side, so you never have to fight to stay even.
Full Body Motions
Shovelglove is not for isolation exercises. We always want to engage as many muscles as possible, because
that’s how your body was designed to operate and that’s how you build functional strength. Isolation
exercises are generally a waste of time better spent on other things. Ask Martin Berkhan if you don’t believe me. Don’t fall victim to “the itis”.
In particular, no bicep curls with your hammer. That is an expellable
This is where shovelglove departs radically from traditional weight training. With
barbells and dumbbells, you generally want a full stop between reps. But with shovelglove, the real magic
is in the eccentric contraction as your muscles decelerate the hammer, and also in that crucial little stretch you get as
you reverse the momentum. So let your ligaments store some momentum and give it back. We’re
going light enough that this is a feature, not a bug.
You got all that? ‘Course you do.
Now let’s examine the role shovelglove
might play in your overall fitness regimen.
You could use shovelglove as your entire weightlifting program, and in fact I did
for a year with decent results. But it’s not ideal. The main reason is that, broadly
speaking, strength is best built when you perform exercises that result in failure after 4 to 6 repetitions. As
you get stronger, you need to increase the weight to stay in that range, and unless you have an awful lot of Master Smith
Pitts’ equipment that is just not feasible. Also importantly, the momentum from a hammer that heavy
would pose a grave threat to your joints and ligaments, and we certainly don’t want any accidents or repetitive-use
For pure strength training, use barbells. We will study that topic in detail in another course.
Sledgehammers excel in three areas:
Right after an intense workout, and also in the day(s) after, you’re better served by doing low-intensity motions than just sitting around (or, ancestors help you, trying to go all-out two days in a row). This appears
to be mostly because of improved circulation, both of the blood and lymphatic systems. Shovelglove is perfect
for flushing out your whole body with a casual, even effortless, level of intensity.
|Shred your brain, then your body.
There’s more to weight work than sheer muscle mass. To use your strength efficiently, your brain
has to be able to tap that mass. (You overlooked the “m” on that first reading, didn’t
you?) This means developing thorough neural penetration of the muscle fiber as well as dedicated, redundant
circuits in your brain.
It is well established, for example, that chin-ups in particular are best built with lots
and lots of practice, not just a few sets per week. Clarence Bass, an indecently ripped septuagenarian,
can tell you why. Chins are so far removed from our daily civilized motions that the brain hardly knows what the heck is
going on when you attempt them. So you may well have the strength to do 20 chins, but to pull it off requires
firing everything off in the right sequence. And that takes practice.
Synaptic facilitation is allegedly best built
with “negatives” – there’s that eccentric deceleration of the hammer we were talking about.
Every shovelglove motion has oodles of negative goodness. So even if you never use a heavy hammer,
shovelglove will help you recruit strength when you need it for low-rep heavy lifting.
|Or you could use a hammer.
The science here seems to be much less clear. But it is well known that for the spine in particular,
traction is essential for vertebral health. Those discs don’t have blood vessels and it takes mechanical
compression and decompression to keep them healthy and to alleviate nerve compression. You could get an
inversion table, and those are a lot of fun. But you could also use your hammer. And
it is not too much of a stretch (ahem) to generalize this to your other joints as well.
Traction also helps stretch your muscles actively,
which is much more natural than static stretching, not to mention less excruciatingly awful.
To conclude the big picture, here’s
a good rule of thumb for best results: Use a hammer light enough that you can complete at least
10 repetitions of all the exercises without ever going to failure.
You’re sold on the benefits, I can tell, because you’re still reading this and
not casually checking your smartphone. Let’s put our knowledge into practice and feel it on our own
hides. Dr. B and I will now demonstrate a typical shovelglove active-recovery workout using the basic moves
from 101, 102 and 103. Click the links to view the video, and click an ad or two if you want to make
a donation to your otherwise unfunded alma mater.