10 Sledgehammer Slam Alternatives (w/ complete instructions)


Sledgehammer Slam Alternatives

Sledgehammer Slams are one of the most effective exercises for building a powerful core. They’re also pretty fun and will add some variety to your strength training, especially useful if you feel your workouts have gotten a bit stale.

However, sometimes you may find yourself needing an alternative for Sledgehammer Slams.

The most obvious, of course, is that you don’t have a sledgehammer or a giant tire to slam it into. For many of us working out in a garage gym, these pieces of equipment (more so the tire) are rare to have.

So, if you’re looking for an exercise to substitute for Sledgehammer Slams then you’re in the right place. I’m about to share with you 10 of my favorite Sledgehammer Slam alternatives to hammer your shoulders and core (bad pun intended).

Alternatives for Sledgehammer Slams

Note: What you won’t find on this list of exercises are alternate ideas of what to hit with your sledgehammer if you don’t have a tire. Sledgehammer Slams can be very dangerous to both you and your property. If you have something else you feel is safe, then that’s a judgment call for you to make.

I’m simply going to give you some exercises that mimic similar movement patterns and muscle groups.


Medicine Ball Slams


Med Ball Slams

Med Ball Slams are probably the closest exercise that can provide all the benefits of Sledgehammer Slams. They’re a dynamic exercise that works the core, the arms and can get your blood pumping.

If you have a medicine ball, Medicine Ball Slams would be one of my first suggestions as a substitution.

Equipment Needed

  • Medicine Ball (it’s literally in the name)

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Grab a medicine ball and stand tall with feet roughly shoulder-width apart.
  • Reach the medicine ball high overhead.
  • Using the core, pull the body down – hinging forward at the hips.
  • Follow through with the arms and release the ball.
  • Let the ball slam into the ground, catch it off the bounce and repeat for the designated number of reps.

Coaching Points

First and foremost, test how ‘bouncy’ your medicine ball is before starting. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen athletes almost have their face smashed by a medicine ball bouncing much harder and rebounding much faster off the ground than they were anticipating.

The biggest mistake I see with Medicine Ball Slams is athletes not utilizing the core and simply throwing the ball down with their arms. The bulk of the force should be generated by aggressively using the core to hinge forward. If done correctly, it should almost (and actually might) lift your feet up off the floor.

Medicine Ball Side Slams


Medicine Ball Side Slams are a variation of Med Ball Slams, but I feel they’re important to include on their own. This is because of the added rotation of the movement, Side Slams actually mimic a Sledgehammer Slam even more than the more popular straight-ahead slams.

Equipment Needed

  • Medicine Ball

Muscles Worked

  • Abdominals (with an emphasis on the Obliques)
  • Serratus Anterior
  • Latissimus Dorsi
  • Teres Major

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Grab a medicine ball and stand tall with feet roughly shoulder width apart.
  • Reach the medicine ball high overhead.
  • Using the core, pull the body down – hinging forward at the hips – while simultaneously rotating to one side.
  • Follow through with the arms and release the ball. The ball should hit the ground just to the outside of the feet.
  • Let the ball slam into the ground, catch it off the bounce and repeat (alternating back and forth to each side) for the designated number of reps.

Coaching Points

First and foremost, test how ‘bouncy’ your medicine ball is before starting. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen athletes almost have their face smashed by a medicine ball bouncing much harder and rebounding much faster off the ground than they were anticipating.

The biggest mistake I see with Med Ball Side Slams is athletes not utilizing the core and simply throwing the ball down with their arms. The bulk of the force should be generated by aggressively using the core to hinge forward. If done correctly, it should almost (and actually might) lift your feet up off the floor.


Medicine Ball Situp and Throw


Med Ball Situp and Throw (1)

One of my favorite medicine ball exercises is the Medicine Ball Situp and Throw. It mimics the Med Ball Slam (therefore also Sledgehammer Slams) almost exactly. The only differences are the starting position and the direction the ball is thrown.

Equipment Needed

  • Medicine Ball
  • Partner or a sturdy wall to throw the ball against

Muscles Worked

  • Abdominals
  • Serratus Anterior
  • Latissimus Dorsi
  • Teres Major

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Find a partner (or wall) and sit down an appropriate distance away*.
  • Lay on your back holding the medicine ball overhead on the ground.
  • Brace the core, engage the lats, aggressively begin to raise off the ground and throw the ball as hard as possible for distance.
  • The follow-through of the throw should bring you to a full situp position.
  • Allow your partner to throw the ball back (or retrieve the ball coming back from the wall) and repeat.

Coaching Points

*The distance away from your partner should be far enough that the ball will hit the ground before reaching your partner so they do not have to catch the ball out of the air. If using a wall, the distance away will be dependent upon the amount of bounce the ball gets off the wall. Find a distance so that you do not need to move between reps.

The biggest mistake I see with athletes trying to learn Situp and Throws involves the timing of the movement. The throw should initiate the situp, not the other way around. If you try to situp first, the movement will turn into more of a situp followed by a chest pass – not the intention of the movement.

I cue my athletes to just concentrate on the throw. If they throw the ball hard enough the situp will happen naturally.


Battle Rope Slams


Battle Rope Slam

Like Medicine Ball Slams, Battle Rope Slams also mimic the same movement pattern and muscles worked as Sledgehammer Slams. If you have access to a Battle Rope they can make an excellent alternative.

Battle Ropes also can substitute for Sledgehammer Slams perfectly as part of a circuit or as a weight room finisher that has some cardiovascular aspects to it.

Equipment Needed

  • Battle Rope

Muscles Worked

Battle Rope Slams is a true total body movement. Almost every muscle group in the body will be at work to some degree.

  • Shoulders, Back and Chest
  • Abdominal Core Muscles ((Rectus abdominis, Serratus anteior, Obliques)
  • Forearms

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Wrap your battle rope around a solid, stable object. (A squat rack is often a good option)
  • Extend the rope, removing the majority (but not all) of the slack out of the rope.
  • Grab the two ends of the rope, one in each hand.
  • Assume a good athletic position – knees bent, hips bent, flat back, core braced.
  • Raise the ends of the rope above the head and then aggressively ‘slam’ them back towards the ground.
  • This should create a ripple effect in the rope.
  • Continue raising and slamming the rope in rhythm until all reps are completed.

Coaching Points

One of the keys to Battle Rope Slams is experimenting to find the optimal amount of slack to leave in the rope. You want enough slack that it doesn’t hinder the full range of motion, but not too much slack that it’s hard to develop a rhythm with the rope.

Make sure whatever you’re using as an anchor for the battle rope is secure. Battle rope movements generate a lot of power and momentum and can come loose easily if not secured in place.


Cable Crunches


Cable Crunches
Photo Credit: Skydive Erick / shutterstock.com

Cable Crunches aren’t nearly as dynamic as some of the other exercises listed, but they are a similar movement that is an effective core exercise.

Equipment Needed

  • Cable Machine

Muscles Worked

  • Abdominal Core Muscles (Rectus Abdominus, Obliques Externus Abdominus, Pyramidalis)

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Set up a cable machine at a height where the attachment can reach close to the floor.
  • Grab the attachment*, pull it to the back of the shoulders (similar to a back squat) and sit down on your knees.
  • Start with the torso completely upright.
  • Then, crunch down, taking your shoulders down towards your thighs.
  • Slowly return back to the starting position and repeat.

Coaching Points

*The two most popular attachment to use for Cable Crunches is the rope and the long straight bar. I would suggest trying both and seeing which you like better.

You don’t need to go super heavy with Cable Crunches. Instead, keep tension on the core throughout the movement and focus on the contraction of each rep. The time under tension over the course of the set will accumulate and you’ll really notice the burn towards the tail end of the set.

Pro Tip: If you don’t have a cable machine, you can do the exact same exercise with a resistance band. Simply loop a resistance band around the top of the squat rack and do the exact same movement with the band.


Weighted Situps


Weighted Situps

Sometimes the simplest solution is often the best. When in doubt, you can always substitute Weighted Situps for Sledgehammer Slams. Keep the weight light and focus on the speed of the movement.

You can also add an overhead press to the top of the sit-up to get the shoulders more involved in the exercise.

Equipment Needed

  • Weight Plate, Dumbbell or Kettlebell

Muscles Worked

  • Abdominal Core Muscles (Rectus Abdominus, Obliques Externus Abdominus)
  • Quadriceps Rectus Femoris
  • Tensor Fascia Latae (TFL)

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Grab a plate or dumbbell, lay on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor.
  • Hold the weight tight against the chest if possible.
  • Sit up by contracting and flexing the abdominals
  • Lower back down to the floor and repeat

Coaching Points

The biggest mistake I see with Weighted Sit-Ups is holding the weight too low, down towards the stomach. Holding the weight too low takes away much (if not all) of the added resistance that the weight is supposed to be providing.


Ab Wheel


Ab Wheel

The Ab Wheel uses a similar movement pattern and can be done with dynamic effort to develop power in addition to strength. If you don’t have an Ab Wheel you can also use a barbell with bumper plates on each side.

Equipment Needed

  • Ab Wheel

Muscles Worked

  • Abdominal Core Muscles (Rectus Abdominus, Obliques Externus Abdominus)
  • Quadriceps Rectus Femoris
  • Tensor Fascia Latae (TFL)

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Start on your knees with hands on the ab wheel handles.
  • Brace the core and begin pushing the wheel forward along the ground.
  • Keep rolling out, extending the body until it feels like you’re going to lose tension and fall.
  • Stop just short of losing your tension and pull the wheel back towards you.
  • Continue until all reps are completed.

Coaching Points

Make sure to keep the core braced so the strain doesn’t end up in the low back. As your core becomes stronger you’ll be able to extend out further with the wheel.


Dumbbell Pullovers


Dumbbell Pullovers

Dumbbell Pullovers won’t get the same core involvement as some of the other alternatives I’ve listed so far. But, if you want another exercise that will target the Serratus Anterior and the Lats like Sledgehammer Slams do, Dumbbell Pullovers are a great option.

And, from an equipment standpoint, all you need is a dumbbell and a bench – two things most of us have access to.

Equipment Needed

  • Dumbbell
  • Bench

Muscles Worked

  • Serratus Anterior
  • Chest (Pectoralis Major)
  • Triceps Brachii (focus on the long head)
  • Latissimus Dorsi

How To

  • Lay on a bench with the top of your head all the way to the edge of the bench.
  • Make a diamond shape with your hands and place them on the inside of one of the heads of the dumbbell.
  • Press the dumbbell to arm’s length straight up over the chest.
  • Now, reach the dumbbell overhead (allow some bend in the elbow) until your hands are about even with the height of the bench.
  • Finally, pull the dumbbell back to the starting position.

Coaching Points

This exercise will give a deep stretch to the chest and triceps on the eccentric (lowering) phase of the lift. Stay slow and controlled and focus on the stretch followed by the strong contraction as you raise the dumbbell back to the start.


Knees to Elbows


Knees to Elbows are a dynamic hanging ab movement. Not only will they help build a powerful core, but they’ll also work the back, biceps and forearms as well.

Equipment Needed

  • Pull-Up Bar – Ideally a stand-alone pull-up bar or one connected to a squat rack although any sturdy object you can hang from will technically work.

Muscles Worked

  • Core Abdominals (Rectus Abdominus, Obliques Externus Abdominis)
  • Quadriceps Rectus Femoris
  • Tensor Fascia Latae (TFL)
  • Back, Biceps and Forearms

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Find yourself a pull-up bar and grip the bar with an overhand grip
  • Engage your lats so your body doesn’t go limp once you begin to hang
  • Now hang from the bar and flex your arms to about a 90-degree angle at the elbow
  • Lift the knees up and slightly roll the hips forward until the knees touch the elbows
  • Actively drive your legs down and straight and then repeat.
  • Don’t allow your legs to ‘just fall’ after touching your knees or you’ll swing uncontrollably.
  • Repeat for the designated number of reps

Coaching Points

The biggest issue that most of my athletes run into when doing Knees To Elbows is how to keep from swinging.

To keep from swinging, you have to actively lower your legs back down. If you ‘let your legs go’ and just allow gravity to take over you’ll completely lose control of the movement. Timing and rhythm are both important for Knees To Elbows and you can’t achieve either if you’re not in control of your legs throughout the movement.


Toes to Bar


Toes to Bar are an even more advanced version of Knees to Elbows. If you’re looking for an exercise that can help you develop an extremely powerful core, look on further than Toes to Bar.

Equipment Needed

  • Pull-Up Bar – Ideally a stand-alone pull-up bar or one connected to a squat rack although any sturdy object you can hang from will technically work.

Muscles Worked

  • Core Abdominals (Rectus Abdominus, Obliques Externus Abdominis)
  • Quadriceps Rectus Femoris
  • Tensor Fascia Latae (TFL)
  • Back, Biceps and Forearms

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Find yourself a pull-up bar and grip the bar with an overhand grip
  • Engage your lats so your body doesn’t go limp once you begin to hang
  • Now hang from the bar with a slight flex at the elbow
  • Keeping the legs straight, flex the core and lift the legs up until your toes touch the pull-up bar.
  • Lower the legs under control to help keep them from swinging uncontrollably.
  • Repeat for the designated number of reps

Coaching Points

The biggest issue that most of my athletes run into when doing Toes to Bar is how to keep from swinging, or better yet, how to properly utilize that swing as a positive and not a negative.

To keep from swinging, you have to actively lower your legs back down. If you ‘let your legs go’ and just allow gravity to take over you’ll completely lose control of the movement.

Timing and rhythm are both important for Toes to Bar and you can’t achieve either if you’re not in control of your legs throughout the movement.

Final Thoughts

Sledgehammer Slams are an excellent exercise for developing a strong, powerful core but sometimes Sledgehammer Slams just isn’t an option. You may not have the proper equipment available to you or at other times you might just be looking to add some variety to your training program.

In these situations, you’ll need a Sledgehammer Slam alternative and I hope that at least one of the exercises I’ve listed here fits what you were looking for.

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Ryan Horton

Horton Barbell was created by Ryan Horton who has served as a Sports Performance Coach for almost 20 years. My mission is to create a training resource to help as many coaches and athletes as possible maximize athletic potential.

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