I recently posted a short video of me swinging a sledgehammer outside against a half-buried tire. Following that post, I received several questions about the set-up. Some wanted to know why I bothered burying a tire in the ground, while others wanted to know how I secured it and how durable it was. With that in mind, I'll explain my reasoning for burying the tire, how I buried it, and how durable it's proven to be. I'll also highlight one key difference between the buried tire and my larger tractor tire.
Outdoor Sledgehammer Demo
First, here's a look at the previously referenced video. Within it, you will see me working with a higher rep set where I strike the tire continuously for time.
Long time readers of the blog may recall seeing this tire before. I first wrote about burying it back in 2013. Five years later and the tire remains secure, despite taking regular beatings from a variety of sledgehammers and athletes.
Burying the Tire
As you can see in the picture above, I began by digging a hole that was slightly deeper than half of the tire. The hole was then filled with a mix of dirt, gravel, and moderately sized stones. Upon completion, I firmly stomped the ground to ensure that the dirt, gravel, and stones were packed solid.
Initially, I wasn't sure if the tire would come undone from regular use. Several readers even suggested that I should have used cement to secure the tire. Fortunately, their assumptions proved to be false. After five years of regular use, the tire remains firmly buried in the ground. Even New England's unpredictable weather hasn't caused any problems. Whether it was snowing in the winter, raining in the spring, hot and humid in the summer, or windy in the fall, the tire has never budged.
I first buried the tire outside at the top of a hill that I cleared several years ago for sprints (see here). As many of you know, hill sprints and sledgehammer hammer swings are two of my favorite conditioning drills. Adding a tire to the top of my hill allowed me to combine the two. I even mounted a pull-up bar next to the tire which led to one of my favorite conditioning circuits.
10 sledgehammer swings per side
Repeat 10 times
One Key Difference
When I initially buried the tire, I was only thinking about swinging the sledgehammer when I was out running hills. Over time though, I noticed a difference between my outdoor tire and the large tractor tire that's located inside my gym. The tractor tire is higher so allows for a faster pace (range of motion is reduced).
An example can be seen below. My pace is faster than what you'll see in the outdoor video posted above.
Based on the faster pace that I can achieve indoors, I prefer to use the tractor tire for all-out, full speed intervals (ex. as many swings as possible in 1-minute). I will use the outdoor tire however when swinging the sledgehammer for longer duration sets (or as part of a circuit). For example, I may swing a light sledge continuously for a few 3-minute rounds. I prefer the lower tire for this variation as the pace is naturally a bit slower. And while the difference may seem insignificant, it's something that is quite noticeable after hundreds and hundreds of swings on each tire.
In summary, if you are looking for an inexpensive conditioning drill, a partially buried tire and sledgehammer are all that you'll need. The partially buried tire is particularly useful for those who don't have room to store a large tractor tire.
As for effectiveness, few conditioning exercises can contend with briskly swinging a sledgehammer. It is one of those exercises that you will never outgrow. I first swung a sledgehammer over 25 years ago and it still puts me in my place. Whether you swing the sledge repeatedly, for rounds, or as part of a circuit, it is only a matter of time before the sledgehammer catches up to you.
“Between saying and doing many a pair of shoes is worn out.” – Italian Proverb
Read more about this at rosstraining.com.