If you’re handy with tools, you probably already know that pickaxes have many uses. To get the best out of this tool, you need to use the correct technique. In this guide, we’ll show you how to swing a pickaxe, the safe and effective way. Let’s get started.

Steps to swing a pickaxe

Correctly swinging a pickaxe will reduce fatigue and increase power. You’ll also reduce the odds of jacking your back from overuse. Follow these steps to get the job done the right way.

1. Set your stance

Before you even think about swinging, get yourself into the right stance. Start by positioning your feet about one shoulder-width apart, with your left foot a little in front of the right. If you’re left-handed, place position your feet the opposite way around.

2. Check hand positioning

Grab the base of the handle with your less dominant hand, knuckles facing the same direction as the blade faces. Use the right hand to grasp the top of the handle, next to the head.

Before lifting the axe any further, hold the pickaxe at waist level in the “ready stance”.

3. Swing the pickaxe

From ready stance, swing the shoulder around and bring the pickaxe back behind the head. Avoid bringing the tool directly back over the head as you won’t get the same power. By rotating the pickaxe around to the right, you generate more energy through the shoulder, along the handle, and out the head.

As you bring the axe down, the right hand should slide down the handle to meet the left hand. Not only will this technique create explosive power, but you’ll also reduce the chance of injuring your back.

As the axe comes down, closely watch the target point, making sure the tip of the axe strikes accurately.

Dealing a powerful pickaxe blow is similar to swinging an axe so check out that guide to learn more.

Quick tip: When using a pickaxe for the first time, look for a quiet place away from other people and other obstructions. Practice swinging until you’re comfortable using it.

A vertical collage of pickaxes.

Commonly asked questions

Which side of the pickaxe do I use?

A pickaxe usually has one pointy pick and an adze which is a thin, unsharpened blade. Use the pick side for breaking up hard dirt and the adze for clearing out ground. In practice, you’d start with the pick to break up the terrain if it’s rock hard. Next, swivel the tool and swing with the adze to pry big chunks out of the ground more effectively. The flat side is also great for breaking up roots.

If the ground is already soft, the adze can be used first, without the need for a pick.

How do I use a pickaxe when the ground isn’t rock hard

If the ground is too hard to shovel, but not solid as a brick, there’s another useful technique you can use. It’s ideal for aerating a lot of ground fast.

Instead of bringing the pick about your head, only bring it halfway. Then bring it down without sliding the right hand down the handle. After one strike with the pointy side, swivel the tool and swing again, this time hitting with the chisel side. Continue rotating between the two sides, each strike, to quickly break up soil for a garden bed.

How much do pickaxes weigh?

A pickaxe will commonly weigh between 2-5 pounds, which is calculated by measuring the weight of the head. Although a heavy pickaxe will have more power and be more effective with hard ground, it is also harder to swing, resulting in faster fatigue and hand strain.

Should a pickaxe be sharp?

A pickaxe requires occasional sharpening but doesn’t need to be razor-sharp like a felling axe. A file or grinder will both work well at sharpening the bit. 

What can I use to replace a pickaxe?

If you don’t have a pickaxe then the next best option is a mattock. This tool is excellent for prying, chopping, and digging. It usually combines a horizontal adze with a vertical axe blade.

Are pickaxes still used in modern times?

A pickaxe may have been around for centuries, but it’s still used by modern-day miners for occasional underground and surface mining. They’re also handy for emergencies, landscaping, ice breaking, and general backyard work. You can check out more uses for pickaxes here.

Summing up

A pickaxe is a super-useful tool to have in the shed. It may not compete with a rotary hoe on productivity, but it still has its uses. For small jobs where you don’t want to pull out a large device, it’s a great option. In areas that you need to access by foot, pickaxes are much easier to transport. They also provide an incredible upper body workout! 

With the correct swing, a pickaxe can deal massive damage to tough ground, concrete, ice, bricks, and more. Focus on swinging the shoulders and hitting accurately. The axe head is heavy, and gravity will do most of the job for you.  

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