Postwork yoga and happy hour is cool and all, but some people are trying their hand at something a little different: axe throwing. The latest trend sweeping (or barreling toward) the nation, by way of Canada, has participants gathering with friends to hang out and yes, throw a hatchet at a wooden target. Casual. (Let's be honest, we all have those days where throwing a hatchet may feel like an ideal way to let off some steam.)
At an axe-throwing bar, customers can rent lanes much like a bowling alley or batting cage. But here, your swing is something much more primal. And depending on your idea of a good time, it may be just as much fun—and also, give you a sneaky workout while you're socializing, showing off your skills to your friends, and, well, tossing sharp objects around.
According to Kelly Josberger, co-owner at Stumpy's Hatchet House, their venue is "a place for adults to come and play."
"Our goal was to provide a venue that took people out of the technological world to be somewhere rustic and somewhat primitive. At Stumpy's, our tagline is 'A Social Throwdown,' meaning we provide a very social environment to do a very primal activity," Josberger tells SELF. A visit to Stumpy's starts off with a safety lesson, in which each guest is taught to throw a hatchet safely and given tips on technique. The minimum guest age is 21—which makes sense because people are literally drinking beer and throwing hatchets around. But according to Josberger, there is an extensive safety plan in place, and staff members called "throwing coaches" monitor all guests throughout each session to make sure no one's too rowdy and reckless.
Stumpy's became the first indoor axe-throwing bar in America in 2016, and has grown since then to 17 franchises with more on the way. Other axe-throwing venues are popping up across the country, too, from Detroit Axe to Urban Axes in Philadelphia. According to Josberger, guests don't usually visit specifically to get a workout. She suggests the bar for "people who are looking for an adventure," whether that's a first date, a corporate team-building experience, or a birthday. It's also a popular bachelor/bachelorette spot. (According to Josberger, "these get pretty competitive," so choose your wedding party wisely.)
But one welcome side effect of spending two hours hurling a hatchet at the wall is that you will indeed get a decent upper-body workout. And if there's a chance a workout may be involved, we always want to know more details. So we decided to ask a certified personal trainer about how to turn a casual evening of hatchet throwing into a low-key workout.
Whether you hold an axe double-handed overhead or throw with one arm, you're working your upper body and core. "By keeping the legs grounded to stabilize the body you are working your hamstrings, calves, quads, and glutes," trainer Nadia Murdock explains. "The driving force of this move is powered by the latissimus dorsi [the largest muscle that runs all the way down your back], trapezius [the muscle along the top of your shoulder that connects your shoulder to your neck], deltoids [the rounded contour of your shoulders], pecs [your chest muscles], and the oblique muscles [the muscles on the side of your abdomen]." Translation: Even throwing an axe at the wall can be broken down in terms of body benefits.
Gymgoers might even recognize the movement of axe-throwing is similar to other more gym-appropriate exercises. "Depending on how you throw the axe, this exercise closely mimics a popular movement known as the wood chopper," says Murdock. A "wood chopper" in the gym is a core exercise that's done usually with a cable machine. It involves holding the cable with both hands above your head to one side, and then pulling it down diagonally across your body to the opposite leg as you twist your torso to follow. You can also do a similar move with a dumbbell. Even doing a medicine ball throw (into the wall) can mimic the movement of tossing a hatchet.
Keep in mind that a hatchet-throwing bar isn't exactly a boutique gym—more like a fun place to spend an evening with friends. The physical activity is an added bonus. Still, Murdock says you can always think about axe throwing as a gateway to experiencing other forms of fitness. If you like working with your arms at a hatchet-throwing bar, why not try boxing? Or attempt a new kind of lift? Fitness doesn't have to be so traditional, and finding an activity you love that gets you moving is a great way to make exercise feel like less of a chore. Even better if it also gives you a chance to kick back and unwind with friends.