• Get Tough: A Beginners Guide to Impact Training

    Get Tough: A Beginners Guide to Impact Training


    Why Is Tempering Important?

    An anvil can take a pounding. It doesn’t give in, it doesn’t quit, and it doesn’t cry for help or run to momma. A hammer is designed to dish out a pounding. Its sole purpose in life is sort of like the saying, “Hulk Smash!” Yet, even as it delivers a hard blow, it has to be tough enough to take that impact. So, if you are going to deliver a hit in any sport, you have to be tough enough to endure the self-inflicted collision.  

    Armor building is toughening up the body and mind to deal with collisions. Even if you don’t engage in contact sports, you might feasibly trip while walking, hiking or running, take a fall, have a spill off your bike – and there you go: contact!


    Notice these stats published by the World Health Organization in 2012:


    Falls are the second leading cause of accidental or unintentional injury deaths worldwide.

    Each year an estimated 424,000 individuals die from falls globally of which over 80% are in low- and middle-income countries.

    Adults older than 65 suffer the greatest number of fatal falls.

    37.3 million falls that are severe enough to require medical attention, occur each year.


    37 million! Which then also begs the question, how many people fall, get injured, and never report it?  Having some solid muscle on your body can help when the pain-train comes to visit, and it just might save your life.

    Certain exercises can have a callusing effect on the body, toughening up the skin and underlying tissues. Other exercises help create greater bone density and muscular density.

    Armor building also helps you develop the mental capacity to tough it out, grit your teeth, and keep going when you take a hit.

    Let’s Build Some Armor

    First, let’s look at training implements and how we might use them:P1020653

    • Double kettlebell clean-and-presses or push presses and double kettlebell front squats. Also, odd as it seems, windmills and bent presses with a kettlebell or barbell are also good for armor building.
    • Bear hug and/or shoulder carry with a heavy ball, or sandbag.
    • Kettlebell carries in the overhead and rack positions.
    • Any kind of sandbag cleans, squats, and push presses.
    • Sledgehammer hits on tires
    • Pounding a heavy bag.
    • Get ups with kettlebells or sandbags.
    • Explosive push ups.
    • Hanging leg raises
    • Digging with shovel and pick-axe.

    Loaded carries with a sandbag are awesome for developing the trunk of the body. Try carrying a heavy sandbag in the bear-hug position for a while. It’s tough to breathe with that sack of sand crushed up against your chest and abdominals. Your arms take a beating and it builds strong trunk muscles.

    Splitting wood was a favorite of old-time boxers. But not everyone has wood to split, so grab a tire and sledge. It’s safer and you can get in more volume in less time.  Every hit sends an impact wave up the handle. That impact wave challenges your bones, muscle, and connective tissue. Your body responds by toughening up those areas.

    It’s the same with punching a heavy bag, although the shockwave comes from a different angle/direction. Explosive push ups belong in this category, too, as does digging a hole and refilling it. The impact is collision conditioning for the hands, wrists, arms, and shoulders – all without throwing a punch.

    tfx3Safety Measures

    In all cases, take it easy with this training at first. Give your body time to adapt to the impact. Skin, bone, muscle, and connective tissue take a while to respond and toughen up.

    • Wear wraps and boxing gloves while working the bag.
    • Use gloves if you need to while using a sledge. It still toughens up the skin.

    You don’t want to get injured. Injuries are not badges of honor. Injuries in training are signs of: too much, too fast, too hard, too soon. Such injuries take away from valuable training time and can potentially slow you down for the rest of your life. Don’t train through pain if any part of your body is hurting from collision training. Let yourself heal, and then build up more gradually. Figure out what you did wrong and fix it.

    Just the weight of an object on the body can cause a callusing effect. Witness the odd little muscular bump that gradually appears on a kettlebell enthusiast’s wrist where the bell rests. Time under load toughens the body.


    Practice cleans with a sandbag and it will slam up against you. Power cleans with a sandbag to one shoulder helps develop the anti-rotator muscles.  Learn how to absorb, redirect, or deflect the collision of the sandbag. Don’t purposely try to pummel yourself with it, but don’t be afraid of it either.

    Start Small

    Don’t try to implement all of these methods at once. Pick a few and try them for a month or two. Cycle through them and see which give you the most bang-for-your-buck. Take one or two days a week and play with these various movements and implements, or plug in one or two as a finisher to your routine. Experiment and explore. Have fun.

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