REVIEW: The Master's Hammer and Chisel

I'm on the end of week 6 of Hammer and Chisel. Have you seen this program? Curious?

I always hesitate to start a new program without tons of information and a little sneak peek into the realities of what it's really like. Want a sneak peek too?

SNEAKY A PEEKY at Hammer & Chisel

What is it?

It's an 8 week program led by Sagi Kalev and Autumn Calabrese. The "hammer" and "chisel". It focuses on exercises to build your strength, stabilization, and power. You may recoginize Autumn from 21 Day Fix and the new Country Heat. Sagi likes to refer to himself as the "Beast" (rightly so; have you seen this guy?) as the creator of another Beachbody program, Body Beast. H & C also includes a nutrition plan that can be customized to trim, build, or maintain your figure.

Come on. What does all this mean exactly and what do the routines and the nutrition plan really look like?

  •  8 weeks
  •  6 work outs per week
  • 30 - 40 minutes per workout
  • optional addition of 2, 10 minute ab routines
  • optional addition of 2, 15 minute leg and glute routines
  •  nutritional guide and food containers
  • equipment

Woah, woah, woah. 6 workouts a week? Longer than 30 minutes? Nutrition? AND equipment needs?
Before you go all, "this is exhausting me already", just remember you're here to learn. Keep reading.

8 Weeks
Yes, that's 2 months.  This program will help build muscular endurance, power, strength, and agility.  It is not a "quick fix" program.  If you are looking for that and are a fan of Autumn (which is one thing that brought me to Hammer and Chisel), I highly recommend the 21 Day Fix.  Still here?  Then, 8 weeks is no problem.  And you don't have to worry about what you plan to do next for a while.

Here is the calendar:

6 Workouts per Week, each 30 -40 Minutes
Want to see change?  You must put in the work.  I've been used to getting in my workouts in 30 minutes flat.  My favorite programs are P90X3 and 21 Day Fix.  Both of those clock in at 30 minutes, give or take a few minutes for those warm ups and cool downs.  I thought it was going to be a solid point of frustration for me to extend it, but I came around quickly to the time frame.  They go by fast and the extra time gives you what you need to really get into the moves.

Optional Abs/Legs/Glutes
These 10-15 minute routines are tacked on to the end of some days.  Not all days.  I've added them in when it's on the calendar because I'm already sweaty and hey, what's another 10 minutes?  It's easy to get these in if you are crunched for time too.  I don't see any excuse not to include them.

Nutrition Plan and Containers
This plan is similar to the 21 Day Fix in that it comes with the containers and the correlating food guide.  It's different because it guides you on how to focus on your goals to trim, maintain, or build your physique.  I have really enjoyed using the containers to guide me to make better food choices.  I often find it difficult to make sure I eat enough food - which is crazy for me to say - I love food.  When you are better guided on what to eat, and realize how much more you should be eating of it, it can change your perspective!  I'd much rather eat a ton of healthy food than one bite of something that doesn't offer my body any benefits.  AND, there is now a dedicated container guide to vegan eating.  Yes.  Go plants.

What you NEED:
  • stable bench or stability ball, I found a bench at a yard sale for $10!
  • various dumbbells or an adjustable dumbbell, many re-sale sports stores have all the weights you need
  • mat
  • resistance band and/or a pull up bar, I use the band that came with P90X3 which I believe is 30 lbs resistance, but you can find one anywhere - Target, Walmart, Amazon.  Even if you have a bar, get a band.  Sagi likes to use one for the warm up and it's used often enough I think it's beneficial.
  • pencil,  you must track your weights!
  • Energize, just kidding, kind of.  You don't need this, but I do.
  • fun stickers, I'm not really kidding on this one.  You need to see your commitment stuck to that calendar!

What you DON'T NEED:
  • kettle bell, a dumbbell works just as well
  • bench, if you have a stability ball
  • pull up bar, if you have a band
  • tons of weights,  get what you can and just keep going and get more when you need/can
  • medicine ball, a dumbbell works or the modification is shown for one-legging it without a ball

The Workouts (all the "chisels" are Autumn and the "hammers" are Sagi):

Hammer Power (40 minutes):  Based on power lifting, which I think totally cool.  I'd feel cooler if I could do this with bars and plates, but I don't think I'm quite ready for that.  You'll learn all about cleans and jerks here.  Form is crucial here.  I have low back issues, so I must be careful.  I still am doing what I can so that my back gets stronger.

Hammer Plyometrics (30 minutes):  "POWER, SPEED, GIVE IT, UNLEASH IT!"  Welcome to Sagi.  You'll come to endear his motivational style.  Lots of crazy jumping over and on the bench - reason number one you need a stable bench!  I'm not a fan of a ton of jumping, but this workout seems a little different.  I feel stronger here than when I've done T25 or some of the 21 Day Fix cardio routines.  

Iso Speed Hammer (25 minutes):  Down, two, three and PUSH back up.  Slow moves down with a quick push up.  After that, you have another set as fast as you can.  This one is tough to get those fast reps in with good form. 

Total Body Hammer (45 minutes):  Drop-set lifting.  This one has incline fly.  I have to modify this because my bench is not adjustable and my kid's bouncy ball is not as good as a stability ball.  Lots of variation to work your whole body.

Max Hammer Strength (40 minutes):  The first sets are low or no weights - which gives you a perfect opportunity to work on improving your form.  The second set calls for max weight.  I need more weights for this one.  It's hard to know what max weight is when you are beginning a weight routine for the first time.  I feel like I can crank out more reps on some exercises, which tells me I'm not really using my max weight.

Hammer Conditioning (30 minutes):  Oh, so I like this one.  It's tough.  But it makes you feel strong!  12 reps of a variety of resistance exercises.  Burpees still suck though.

I'm working on keeping form here, not going for a speed round.

10 Min Ab Hammer (15 minutes):  These are moves you've probably done before.  No weights, just down on the mat.  It's really only about 12 minutes, but you'll be ok with that.  A lot of the moves really require you to think about those core contractions and keeping your low back down to really work those abs.

Chisel Balance (40 minutes):  This one, as the name implies, focuses on balance.  Those weights might like to tell you who's in charge, so it's important to focus on your core in this one and control that weight.  I also learned about Bulgarian jump squats.  And how I can barely do them.  My inner Tony Horton feeds my soul here - "Do your best and forget the rest." as he would say.

Iso Strength Chisel (35 minutes):  Holy holding.  This will test your legs.  Lots of isometric holding, and repeat.  Get your mind right for this one and breathe!

Chisel Endurance (35 minutes):  Mostly total body with a focus on the legs.  Be careful jumping on that bench!  I don't go as fast as the video, but I am focused on my feet and really pushing.  Focus on your breathing here to keep going and keep form.  It's endurance training to teach you how to focus on the correct muscles and how to keep them engaged and working for you.

Chisel Cardio (40 minutes):  Cardio style with weights, but this one is fun so I don't even notice the cardio part.  Focus on your glutes with that weight swing!  There are a few that I modify.  Listen to Autumn describe how your body should be feeling to get the contraction you want!

Chisel Agility (40 minutes):  Straight up cardio, probably my least fav.  No weights just moving and jumping.  And jumping.  And thinking.  Autumn does call outs for directions.  Good news is that it only appears 4 times in the whole 8 weeks.  Yay.

Total Body Chisel (36 minutes):  I've described a lot of leg focus so far.  This one gets those guns.  Holy incline dumbbell curl.  Now, there is still plenty of leg and core work, but you'll want to take your arms off for a bit after this.

10 Min Ab Chisel (10 minutes):  This one is actually 10 minutes.  All on the bench.  Which I like.  My butt hurts on the mat.  I totally cannot do all the moves and "cheat" as Autumn likes to point out.    I also like that their is a move called "unicorn".  Coincidentally, it's one that I can barely do.

Hammer Build Up (30 minutes)*
Power Chisel (30 minutes)*
*These workouts are recommended to substitute others listed on the calendar when you are crunched for time.  I have not done these yet, so I can't speak to whether or not they are awesome subs.

15 Min Leg Hammer (20 minutes):  Uses a weight or a medicine ball.  The warm up hurts, so that gives you an idea of how this one packs a punch.  Lots of lunges, so focus on putting weight in your heels and focusing on your hamstring.  Sagi also makes counting jokes.

15 Min Glute Chisel (20 minutes):  Uses a weight or a medicine ball.  If you are modifying without the ball, really get that foot off the ground.  I take some of the jumping out, but I make sure to focus on squeezing and good form.  Push through the pain.

Here's What I Like:
  • It covers it all: balance, strength, power, speed, agility, and cardio.
  • They talk to you the whole time - this was a good thing for me - I need the push.
  • I felt strong after every workout.  I felt like I really worked hard and it felt good!
  • I’ve been interested in trying out more weight lifting, but also a little unsure of how to get started.  Enter Hammer and Chisel.
  • Autumn. She is a great motivator, I like her style of exercises. I knew this from 21 Day Fix and is a part of what prompted me to try Hammer and Chisel.
  • It's totally included in the Beachbody On-Demand subscription. No added cost if you're a member!
  • The detailed nutrition plan.  I have experience with the fix containers, so it wasn’t new to me, but this plan gives options to build, not just lose fast.  If you aren’t familiar with the containers, I do believe it is a wonderful guide to give you visuals on making better food choices.  It isn’t so much about portion control - I can some times have difficulty eating them all - it is about eating foods that are better for your body.
The containers guide you to choose good-for-you foods.  I tend to overstuff them a tad, especially on the greens!  Foods like these have more volume and fill you up!

What I Don't Like:
  • I had to go get more weights! And I think I still need more.
  • I couldn’t do all the moves exactly as fast.
  • I had to really be OK with pushing myself as much as I could without losing form. I had to be OK with not doing it as perfectly or having to modify.
  • I do feel like I would make more progression if I had a legit pull up bar, but seeing how I can’t even do one pull up, it would be a slow progression - see my prior bullet point.
  • They talk to you the whole time.
  • All of my dislikes are really no fault of the program, just my own struggles through the program!
Progress.  It comes.  I definitely wish I had taken before photos to see the difference (another reason to track your progress!).  I am super happy to see these improvements in definition!

Things you should definitely consider:
  • You can modify many, if not all, of the moves.
  • I don't have exactly all the right equipment or weights all the time.  I still make it happen. I don't have an adjustable bench or a stability ball. I modify the moves on an incline following the modifier or using my kid's bouncy ball. I promise I will get a stability ball soon.
  • Do not skip the cool down and get yourself a foam roller. You work those muscles hard. Take care of them.
  • You can mute anytime.
  • Write.  It.  down.  You need to see your weight progression and you need to see that it’s time to push yourself further.
  • Progress takes time.
  • You are at home and you are the one lifting the weights. You must get uncomfortable. You must push your limits.
  • I would not consider this a beginner program. I don't consider myself a beginner, but I had to take time to ensure proper form and still push my weight limits.

So, is this program for you?

If you want to get stronger, build muscle, improve your form and technique, then yes! I love having another style of fitness that is different from the quick and dirty, lose weight, high cardio mess. Thumbs up! Or, should I say, guns up!

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