Can unconventional training methods like kettlebells, maces, clubs, and strongman training translate into real-world applications? When it comes to destroying a house, YES! Here are 5 lessons I learned destroying mine.
There’s something attractive about destroying stuff. Maybe it’s the fact that creating things is so much harder than tearing them apart. Maybe it’s how breaking things feels so wrong that makes it feel so right. Whatever it is, hitting cabinets with sledgehammers, smashing holes in walls, and throwing out the old to make ready for the new is a blast.
I’ll tell you another thing that may seem obvious: it’s a freaking awesome workout. As an unconventional trainer, it feels great putting thousands of sledgehammer slams to use on an actual task aside from increasing my strength and endurance. Breaking up a fireplace feels way more useful than having the hammer bounce back off of a tire. While unconventional training resembles manual labor, it is extremely different (I’ll go into the reasons why in another article).
After a short time living in Texas, I moved back to California and bought a foreclosure property in Orange County. It’s located on the street I grew up on a few doors down from where my parents still live. I still remember my old neighbor living in the home when I was 5 years old! The only issue is that it’s quite the beater… and needs a complete remodel.
As a father, functional fitness professional, and wanna-be handy-man, I figured that we could take on the project no problem. Couple days ripping it apart, couple days putting it back together; easy-peasy. So far the only easy part has been tearing it apart; we’ll see how the rest goes.
In the process of destroying my new home I learned the following lessons. Next time you need to rip a house apart, remember these few tips!
#1: Wallpaper is the Devil
Wallpaper isn’t exactly popular now-a-days, but in the 1950’s, it was. Lots of glue, crazy patterns, and materials that are probably banned from use in the modern age are all key benefits of wallpaper. This stuff is the freaking devil. Of all the projects we did, taking layers of wallpaper off the wall inch-by-inch was by far the most difficult, time-consuming task of all. While we tried to employ the latest and greatest “get that crap of the wall” cleaner, it did little to make the task easier.
Even so, we eventually came up with a system that seemed to work relatively well. It probably decreased the task from a 80+ hour project to a manageable 20-hour, mind-numbing, finger-destroying burden. It’s pretty simple; here are the key steps:
- DO NOT WET THE FIRST LAYER. This is key. Get a metal wallpaper scraper or trowel of some type, try to pick off the edge of one corner, and pull off the top layer. When you get a nice, big strip you will literally cry tears of joy. Take off the entire top layer of all of the walls.
- Wet the next layer. We tried some expensive, fancy-pants spray, but when we ran out and started using water instead, we didn’t notice a difference in effectiveness. Get a spray bottle, and wet the layer.
- Scrape away! If your walls are like ours, the next layer will be relatively easy to scrape off. It is still very time consuming, but you’ll make progress.
#2: Destroying Stuff with Sledgehammers is Fun
If you’ve ever taken down a wall of any type, you know how fun swinging the sledgehammer can be! Get some power into it with a full body rotation and watch that material fly into pieces. Just remember that the more you smash, the more you’re going to pick up (which leads to point number 3).
I found that the key to maximizing fun while using the sledgehammer was with a sprint rather than a plodding pace that would probably be much more effective. I would basically go nuts on a section of the fireplace for about 30 seconds, trying to flow from swing into the next at a quick pace. Luckily, if you’ve ever done a sledgehammer slam on the side of a tire then immediately transitioned to a slam on the top, you’re ready for this!
A million years ago a trainer named Mike Castrogiovanni showed me some extremely creative sledgehammer slamming variations. I don’t know if he ever created the program he talked about using them, but look him up and you’ll find some neat stuff.
#3: Demoing Any Part of a Fireplace Creates a TON of Trash
While smashing stuff is fun, remember that creating 50 pieces of trash takes longer to pick up than 1 piece of trash. For that reason, rather than completely pulverizing objects, you may want to just break them up into manageable pieces so you can haul them out of the house more quickly.
We demolished two sections of a massive fireplace, and while it was fun, it literally created a TON (over 2,000 pounds) of trash. We were picking it up and carrying it out for hours after the insanely quick destruction process. Another little tip is to avoid using a large trash bin to cart the material outside. It will weigh too much to do anything useful with (like put on a truck to haul off to the dump). Simply use a wheelbarrow and create a trash pile outside for later disposal.
#4: Pulling Up Stone Tile BY HAND is Hard
The entryway of the house had about 100sqft of original stone tile laid with thick grout that was floated about an inch of the ground. To level the floor with the rest of the room, the entire mess had to be removed. That’s where a 1-inch wide stone chisel and steel mallet came into play. Are these the BEST tools for the job? No. Should I have started the job with the compressor driven air hammer that my dad had down the street from me? Yes. Did I get the job done using the most crude method I can think of? You know it.
As anyone who uses unconventional can attest to, grip strength is a must. With that said, it’s hard to replicate the grip strength and muscular endurance necessary for hours of floor-chisel’n without a dedicated grip strength training plan. That work is tough on your hands! Unless you’re looking to test whether your grip strength workout plan is REALLY working, I recommend just using the air hammer to get the tile out.
#5: It Could ALWAYS be Worse
Tearing everything out of a house is tough, but there are always worse situations out there. While finding our new home we shopped around a bit to see if we were getting a deal, and let me tell you, there are some beat up houses out there. No matter how bad you think your house is, chances are that there are much worse cases nearby.
If you’re looking to save a few bucks and test your functional strength and endurance, I recommend taking on some basic house demolition tasks yourself. I had a blast, and while I didn’t have much time to do my standard unconventional training workouts, the process provided me with all the exercise I needed.