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Shovelglove 102 - Dynamic Motions
Urban Primalist
Dynamics vs. Explosives

Shovelglove motions come in two types:

Dynamic motions are smooth and uninterrupted.  A dynamic motion can be looped to produce a continuous, low-impact routine.  An example of a dynamic motion is the gentle Boat Row from Shovelglove 101.  Dynamic moves are usually performed at a low-to-moderate, fat-burning pace by slow-twitch muscle fiber and compose the greater part of a typical workout.

Explosive motions generate rapid acceleration from a static position.  Performed at a rapid-fire pace, they are a type of sprinting for the upper body.  One hybrid explosive motion is the Hail Reinhard from Shovelglove 101.  The first part of this motion (the bicep curl) is dynamic, while the second part (the overhead jab) is explosive.  These are sugar-burning, cardio-intensive, muscle-building exercises that rely on fast-twitch muscle fiber for rapid acceleration.  Properly done, they also supply a hormonal rush similar to sprinting -- especially if you imagine a boar at the end of your hammer.  These comprise the lesser part of a typical workout and will be discussed next week.

Although each shovelglove motion has its own natural pace, most can be adjusted to be more explosive or more dynamic as desired.  Imagine an explosive set of Boat Rows, for example -- paddling as if you're about to go over a waterfall!  Or imagine a dynamic set of Hail Reinhards -- poking the hammer up and down ever so slowly, struggling to keep good balance and a steady hand.

Unassisted Stretching

Unassisted stretching is by no means a major or essential part of shovelglove.  When you use proper force, the hammer motions themselves stretch you just enough.  Still, sometimes it feels good to throw in a few stretchy calisthenics before or during your routine to help with the areas the hammer doesn't quite reach, or just to modulate your pulse.

Taiko Twists: Stick your arms out at either side, parallel to the ground.  Turn your torso rapidly back and forth.  Note that your arms follow naturally, with one fist hitting your chest as the other arm swings back, and then vice versa.  Helps loosen the pectorals and upper back.
Hammer Tugs: If you don't have a convenient tree branch to hang from instead, place your hammer head-down on the ground in front of you, stem sticking up.  Position your feet slightly wider than your shoulders.  Bend over at the waist, grab the hammer just above the head, and use it to pull yourself downwards ever so gently with your spine straight, increasing the stretch on your lower back.  Hold this position as you feel the muscles in your back relax.

Grok Squat: To perform this Primal Blueprint favorite, simply squat down on your haunches and stretch your arms out in front of you.  Although balancing may be tricky at first, you should need no further instruction, because this ancient motion is completely intuitive.  Wiggle as desired.
Sun Salutations: Face the sun (if available) and reach to the sky with feet together and palms pressed together, stretching your arms and torso vertically.  Then relax, and turning your palms to face forward, bend over backwards as far as you comfortably can.  Hold this position for a couple of deep breaths, then bend over sharply at the waist and press your palms towards the ground, feeling the stretch in your lower back, legs, and knees.  Hold this for several deep breaths. Then drop into a bended-knee stance as you press your palms together over your head once more.  Stand up slowly and repeat as desired.  This is a calming way to rest between intense sets, particularly when the clouds have just broken.

Know Your Sledgehammer

When you consider that the sledgehammer, or something quite like it, is one of humanity's oldest tools, consider that it is more than just a piece of workout equipment.  As you use it and get to know it, your hammer becomes a virtual part of your body.

Our ancestors were rarely far from their tools, especially their sturdy hammers with their heavy and felicitously balanced heads.  Those may have been their most prized possessions.  They would have carried them constantly on hunts, on the trail, and on their other perigrinations.  These weren't just rocks on sticks; they were an extension of our ancestor's bodies.  They knew them as well as they knew their own arms.  They gave their hammers names.  They invented gods, and gave the gods' hammers names.

Customize your sledgehammer.  Give it a name.  Perhaps even decorate it in some way.  After all, this is no everyday acquaintance!  Every time you and your hammer are together, you're guaranteed to have exciting adventures.  And even in today's age of mass-production, no two sledgehammers are quite the same.  Strive to learn all you can about your happy inanimate friend: the balance, the curve of the stem; all the mechanical characteristics.  In time, he or she will become like an extension of your own body, while remaining just a hunk of metal and plastic or wood to any normal person.  Should the inspiration strike you, don't be afraid to pimp your sledgehammer.  If you do, please send pictures.

Dynamic Motions

Video is now available by clicking on the motion names.

This week we're going to get down to the meat of our shovelglove routine.  Dynamic motions will comprise the bulk of our sessions, just as they comprised the bulk of our ancestors' labors: repetitive, full-body motions, done in sets and with variety.

This week's motions are named after legendary laborers or heroes throughout history who swung something like a sledgehammer.  These venerable figures have been remembered across generations for embodying not just physical strength, but an elevated moral character, expressed most honestly in their valiant shugging.

Let's begin with John Henry.  It's only fitting, as John was a 6'0", 200-pound behemoth who wielded a 20-pound sledgehammer which he considered light.  Born a slave, he went to work for the C&O railroad as a free man, hammering drill bits into rock faces to clear a path for the tracks.  When he came up against the most daunting mountain of his career, a mountain that claimed the lives of countless fellow workers, the company brought out a newly invented steam drill.  Incensed, John Henry was not to be outdone and raised a 20-pound hammer in each hand to race the machine.  Swinging like a man possessed, he drove almost double the distance of the steam drill.  Unfortunately, he had pushed a little too far in proving his point and died shortly thereafter of a massive brain hemhorrage.

For the John Henry, we'll be hammering imaginary spikes into the ground.  Place one hand on High Grip and one on Low Grip.  With your hammer at a 45 degree angle behind your back and arms overhead, bring the head up and over in a neat circle so that it swings below your legs just past the centerline.  Obviously, you should bend a bit at the waist in order not to hit yourself in a tender area.  Hoist the sledgehammer up along your side to return to the overhead position.




John Henry was a master of the spike-driving motion and doubtless had a formidable six-pack.  But he certainly didn't have the lats of our next motion namesake, Paul Bunyan.  Especially because Paul Bunyan was a giant, with some reports putting him at eight feet tall, or possibly eight hundred.

The "real" Paul Bunyan lived in the 19th century, a truly primal and hirsute French-Canadian logger who gained notoriety terrorizing British invaders.  American folklore knows him better as a lumberjack who swept the continent with his tame ox in tow, leaving geological upheavals in his wake.  Despite his dubious connection to reality, Paul Bunyan as legend is a pure embodiment of one of Homo Sapiens' most frightening aspects -- a voracious consumer of wilderness and scorcher of the earth.

Paul Bunyans are similar to Torso Twists, but they start with the hammer raised horizontally overhead, one hand on High Grip and one hand on Low Grip.  Swing the hammer around your back, side, and front, slicing through an imaginary tree in one blow.  Follow through deeply to complete the twist, then bring the hammer back the way it came to the overhead position.  Your forearms will work hard to aim the head properly and maintain a gradual and even descent.




The following exercise, as near as I can tell, has no figure of legend.  While the scythe is a tool dating to the very beginning of agriculture, there is no legendary scythesman in all of human history.  There's the Grim Reaper, of course, but he's not human.  Then there's Cronus, grandfather of the gods, but that guy is a real downer.  Scything is somewhat similar to a golf swing, but if there's a particular Scotsman who invented the bizarre sport of whacking pebbles across meadows -- doubtless with something much closer to a sledgehammer than today's dainty mallets -- his name escapes my research.

So we will just have to perform Scythe Swings in memory of all the forgotten laborers of the post-agricultural era who scratched out a living eating semi-poisonous grains.  They just barely made it to reproduction so that we, their distant descendants, could eat grass-fed beef and swing our hammers in ceremonial tribute to their sacrifice.

Start your Scythe Swing as if to perform a John Henry, only this time, you're turned a bit more to the side.  Let the hammer swing over your head, past the front of your body, and up the other side until it is parallel again with the ground.  Then let it swing back the same way to the reset position.




I'm indebted to my wife for identifying our next hero.  The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong.  He might not have been able to pile-drive his way through a mountain, nor gouge out the Grand Canyon with a plow, but nobody could turn out popcorn like Orville Redenbacher.
Orville may seem like a strange choice for this next move, but making popcorn was his obsession.  He started as a teenager before developing his super-corn hybrid and hitting the big time.  We don't dig on corn at Urban Primalist, but we do dig capitalism and fulfilling people's dreams.  So here's a move that takes us back to Orville's early days, when he stirred the pot in anticipation of riches to come.  Alternately, you may wish to imagine a different setting, more appropriate to the business that earned Orville his first fortune: making fertilizer.
To perform an Orville Redenbacher, get into a very low squat.  This is a different motion from the others because your torso and legs will remain as rigid as possible, rather than moving to support the hammer.  Grasp the hammer with one hand on Low Grip and one on Middle Grip.  Rotate the hammer clockwise in circles as large as you can fit between your legs.  After the first set, switch hands and rotate counterclockwise.  You'll feel the difference in your back, shoulders and legs, or his name isn't Orville Redenbacher.




Our next figure is a contradiction of virtue and vice.  The 20th century found mankind in perhaps his least primal and most tragic condition ever -- effaced by the millions into a statistic.  Countless forced laborers toiled under the regimes of those black years, nowhere more poignantly than under Stalin's Soviet Union.
Alexey Stakhanov was a Russian mine worker whose diligence earned him a cynical portrayal by the state as a Soviet John Henry.  He reportedly set a world record of over 102 tons of coal moved in a single shift.  This somewhat suspicious achievement made Stakhanov a celebrity.  Held up before the nations as an udnarik, or "shock worker", Stakhanov was meant to inspire Soviet workers to value pride above wages.  Although millions perished following his example, Stakhanov's fame protected him.  Stakhanov survived Stalin's regime and retired in 1974.
So I style this classic motion a Stakhanov Shovel.  Grasp your hammer at High Grip and Low Grip, holding the head in front of you, parallel to the ground.  Lunge forward as you dig deep under the pile of coal -- put your back into it!  Hoist the coal back up to the starting position.  Then lightly fling it off to the side with a lean of the torso, right into the mining cart.  Don't drop a pebble if you want full rations tonight!





That's it for the regular exercises.  For today's bonus motion, I offer the Grutte Pier.  Pier Gerlofs Donia, or "Big Pier", was a Frisian freedom fighter in the early 16th century.  After losing family members to bandits as a young man, Pier trained himself to become a fearsome swordsman.  Literally strong as an ox -- he dragged his own plow -- and sporting a great, dark beard, Pier wielded a two-handed sword that is thought to survive in a contemporary museum.  It is seven feet long and 14.6 pounds, and according to legend, Pier used it to hew down multiple foes in a single swing.  This was an important feature for Pier, who had a bit of a bad reputation around town and frequently found himself harassed by Hollandic mercenaries and bounty-hunters.
The Grutte Pier is just like the Bullroarer, but instead of using just one hand on Middle Grip, the other hand is at the bottom of Lower Grip, partly cupping the stem.  Instead of passing Middle Grip overhead from front to back, pass it from back to front, with Middle Grip providing the force and Lower Grip stabilizing the stem.  Whirl the blade horizontally if you have the strength for it!  This is difficult to describe in pictures, so I recommend viewing th linked video.





Next Steps

That’s all for this week.  As you perform these motions, let your mind wander back in time, beyond our near-contemporaries for whom these motions are named, well back beyond their forebears to our common ancestors knapping flint for their spears by the fireside.  We were all born to shug.  It's good for our health, our happiness, and even our moral character.
Don't miss next week, when we introduce explosive movements.  Then you'll have a full range of motions under your belt for a truly balanced workout to compete with the best of the mainstream methods.  After that, in week four, we'll consider shovelglove techniques for more practical and dire situations.


Timothy Williams
May 17, 2012 (rev 2.0)

All text copyright © 2010-2013 Timothy Williams