Steel Driving Man

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John Henry is an American folk hero who according to legend had a contest laying railroad tracks with a steam drill that resulted in the death of Henry. Man versus machine in the 1840’s. Supposedly Henry swung a 20 pound sledgehammer and was considered one of the strongest men alive.

Sledgehammers have been used as a conditioning tool by athletes for decades. Boxers of days gone by have praised the value of “chopping wood” as a means to strengthen their torsos for punching power, develop their grip and of course get some serious cardio. The sledgehammer has even made it’s way into today’s modern gyms. Conditioning ala Fred Flinstone.

Some mighty men have swung sledges over the years. The modern day equivalent to John Henry is no folk hero, but a real life flesh and blood strongman by the name of Lawrence “Slim the Hammerman” Farman. Standing 6’6″ and usually packing around 215-225 pounds on that frame Slim is the last of a dying breed.  Employed as a stonecutter in a quarry, Farman would swing a 16 pound hammer 8-12 hours a day, 6-7 days a week.

All that sledging developed a pair of mitts that  have to be seen to be appreciated. Especially for what those mighty mitts of the Hammerman can do. Front levers with a pair of 28 pound hammers held parallel to the ground, ramrod straight to the front. Slim would slowly lower those gigantic hammers to his nose and then squeeze with all the power that swinging a hammer for a lifetiime provides. Its simply unbelievable to watch. If one were to take just an 8-pound single hammer and do that (if you could do it without busting your nose), you would have a great appreciation for Slim’s other-world strength.

If you are feeling a little froggy and looking to enjoy a new (though very old) way to grip and rip, then i would suggest that you get yourself an 8-pound hammer and a large tractor tire and have a go. It’s fun, inexpensive and extremely challenging. I have a 30-pound hammer that sucks the life outt’a me when i have a set-to with that monster. Being the spaz that I am, I’ve nearly capped myself in the knee when exhaustion began to set in. It goes without saying that you should practice a “Safety first” mantra if you decide to check it out.

Pro football players would benefit a great deal from swinging a hammer as part of their conditioning programs. I once suggested to Casey Hampton that he might want to swing a hammer as a way to up his cardio while not beating down his knees. “Big Snack” as Hamp is referred to wasn’t too interested. Too bad, swinging a hammer would up anybody’s cardio.

And there are much bigger boys than me with bigger toys out there like professional strongman John Brookfield who has swung a 53-pound hammer non-stop for an hour straight. That’s right, a 53-pound sledgehammer swung non-stop for an hour while averaging 27-30 hits a minute.

Now that’s a REAL steel driving man!


John Henry

Lawrence “Slim the Hammerman” Farman

John Brookfield