February 14, 2019
Steel clubs (aka heavy clubs, Indian clubs, and clubbells ™) - an ancient weapon turned fantastic functional fitness training tool.
The steel club has an incredible history that dates back thousands of years. Clubs were used as weapons in ancient wars and as hunting tools as far back as caveman times. It became a training tool for warriors and wrestlers in Ancient Peria. It has been a popular training tool for wrestlers in India for over a century.
Now, in 2019, it is touted as one of the best functional training tools for boosting sports performance and developing resilient shoulders, elbows, and wrists.
In this article, we take you through the top 8 benefits of steel club training. We hope this inspires you to start training with steel clubs, so you can enhance your athletic prowess and protect your shoulders from the common shoulder injuries we all face as humans.
Steel club training is incredible for enhancing grip strength. By design, the weight of a steel club is unevenly distributed, which displaces the weight away from your grip. This causes your grip to be challenged in ways that most fitness tools can’t replicate. Ultimately, your grip strength will increase tenfold.
When performing steel club exercises, you will be working your fingers, hands, forearms and shoulders to maintain the steel club in the correct position, so it is tremendously effective for grip endurance and dexterity too.
Steel clubs have proven to be extremely beneficial for improving grip strength for those who are recovering from injuries and have a weak grip. Of course, it’s not only beneficial for those who are rehabbing their grip strength. Not by a long shot.
People who want to increase their grip strength for sports like MMA (think grappling), baseball, lacrosse, tennis, cricket, weightlifters (i.e. deadlifts), and rock climbers (this is the tool every rock climber needs) can achieve serious dexterity and grip strength & endurance benefits by implementing heavy steel club training into their weekly routine.
Most people only train their shoulders through a push and lateral motion. Steel club training works the shoulders in a completely unique manner. The steel club trains the shoulder through rotational movements, although they can also be used in traditional weightlifting manners (albeit with a distinctly different approach due to a displaced center of mass and offset weight).
Steel club training incorporates a variety of pullover, rotational and swinging exercises through multiple planes of motion. Working your shoulders using rotational applications will not only build strength in your shoulders, but it will also increase mobility by moving them through a wider range of motion. This, in turn, works your rotator cuff, stabilizer muscles, and core muscles, all of which will greatly improve your rotational power, shoulder stability, and core stability when handling heavy objects or swinging a bat, club, racquet, throwing a FIST, or throwing a person over your shoulder.
All in all, steel club training can be superbly helpful for athletes of all high impact sports, from baseball to football to boxers and MMA fighters. Not only will they enhance their sports performance by having powerful and flexible shoulders, but they will also be much less likely to develop injuries in their shoulders thanks to increased shoulder stability and range of motion.
By training through a large range of motion via rotational exercises, you are creating a tractional force in your joints rather than compressive force. Compressive exercises, like squats, bench press, and deadlifts, compress your joints and shorten your connective tissue, while tractional exercises decompress your joints and length your connective tissue.
In fact, many things we do in our daily life compress our joints. So, implementing exercises that use tractional force, as most steel club exercises do, will curb and oppose connective tissue and joint degeneration.
Furthermore, for those who have been plagued by rotator cuff injuries, steel club training is an exceptional tool to rehabilitate.
And for those who currently have healthy shoulders, elbows, and wrists, but are at high risk (i.e. athletes and weightlifters), steel club training is the perfect tool for prehab. Use them before warming up for compressive exercises and you will have a much lower risk of injury.
Many steel club exercises incorporate swinging exercise which moves through various planes of motion. Although you could theoretically do this with other fitness tools, the steel club was designed for this purpose so it is much safer by comparison. The design of a steel club makes for a more natural and seamless swinging movement.
Note: The steel mace is another tool by design that offers multi-planar strength development. However, the steel mace offers a different kind of swing and movement potential due to the long lover.
The potential for multi-planar exercises is where the steel club and steel mace really separates themselves from traditional fitness equipment, which typically only works you through the sagittal and frontal planes. Steel Club Training can work you through all three planes of motion within one exercise. The three planes of motion being the sagittal, frontal and transverse planes.
The transverse plane of motion, being the swinging, rotational, and twisting movements, is the one plane that most people ignore.
Our natural movement patterns move us through all three planes of motion. Think about it, how often do you twist? Every day! So, it makes sense to train for strength through the transverse plane, doesn’t it?
Here are some exercise examples of how steel clubs incorporate multi-planar movements, thus developing strength and mobility in all three planes of motion (note: these exercises are more complex, use progressions to build up to these types of exercises, especially if you are using a heavy club):
Branching off from the previous benefit, if you are training in the transverse plane of motion, you are therefore building rotational strength and force. Performing rotational movements will develop a rotational force which is known as torque.
As mentioned further above, rotational movements will create tractional force, which is great for your joints. It’s also excellent for improving core strength.
Not only will you be able to swing harder than ever, but you will also decrease any chance of an injury resulting from twisting. Twisting is a natural movement pattern so this is essential, especially for athletes.
Which leads us to ask, why do so many people neglect the transverse plane of motion (i.e. rotational exercise)?
If you think about it, most powerlifters and weightlifters don’t bother performing exercises in the transverse plane because no competition lifts move them through that plane of motion. Thus, most people who train follow these weightlifting professional’s regimens without thinking things through fully. If you are an athlete of any kind, or even a strongman, you will be twisting and turning all the time. Therefore, it is absolutely crucial to add transverse plane exercises to your training plan. This is sports performance training 101.
To end this without any controversy, if you are one of those people who train split squats or lunges, you are ahead of the game, as those do train the transverse plane. A big reason you see athletes doing a lot of unilateral training. With that being said, steel club training takes the transverse plane to the next level.
With rotational exercises comes deceleration training by default. When slowing the momentum of a rotational swinging movement with a steel club, you will be developing declarative strength. This is exactly what athletes need to minimize the risk of injury caused by decelerating or changing directions, which is quite a common occurrence in sports.
Keep in mind, It’s not only important for sports, real world situations can lead to a need for decelerating or changing directions in an instant, and it’s best to be prepared for this. In fact, many injuries are not even result of contact, they are caused by an inability to decelerate or change directions quickly.
Kinesthetic training is essentially training for body awareness, i.e. balance and coordination.
Due to the offset weight of a steel club, steel club exercises are very similar to unilateral training. Unilateral training (like split squats, lunges, one arm presses) is essential for increasing balance, coordination and core stability.
By performing a single arm exercise with a steel club, you are combining unilateral training and offset training, which is like a double whammy for improving balance, coordination and core stability.
The steel club will greatly improve sports performance as most sports require exceptional balance and coordination. This is why you see a lot of unilateral training in athletic programs, and a big reason the athletic community is taking to the steel club like no other.
This benefit essentially goes hand in hand with kinesthetic training. By training for balance and coordination, you are increasing core stability. Core stability is best trained through anti-rotational exercises. Powerful core stability will allow you to take force from one side while maintaining balance. Football, basketball and soccer players will greatly understand the importance of this.
It’s always good to try something new in life, it’s even better when that new thing is proven to be effective and it’s a lot of fun. Steel clubs release our inner warrior and innate being. They are also therapeutic and meditative in a sense. This may seem like a pseudo-benefit, but you should never underestimate fun.
Steel clubs range in size from 5 to 45 pounds. Clubbells made for rehab typically weigh around 1-3lbs. Clubs ranging from 1-25lbs are usually sold in pairs as many exercises involve doubles.
If you are interested in heavy club training, the following sizes will be good for men and women who are well-conditioned and experienced in the weight room but are new to steel club training.
For men who are new to steel club training, we suggest getting a pair of 10LB Steel Clubs for double drills (15lbs at a maximum, even if you are very well conditioned), and a 25-30lb Steel Club for single, two-handed drills.
For women, we recommend buying a pair of 5lb Steel Clubs (10lb max) and a 15-20lb Steel Club for single, two-handed exercises.
If you don’t want to buy 3 different clubs at once, you can easily get away with either a pair of lighter steel clubs or a singly heavier club for two-handed work. This all depends on your goals…
With that being said, if you can afford a range of sizes, then definitely go for it. You will be able to explore a wider variety of drills, both strength and high volume training.
If you are still having doubts about which size, here is a good rule of thumb:
When in doubt, go for one size smaller than what you think is “probably good for you but challenging”. For example, if you are thinking about a pair of 15lb clubs for doubles, consider 10s instead, because if you choose the heavier option, you might not be able to perform the exercise properly or you will be limited in some capacity when it comes to learning everything from A to Z. You’ll be surprised how challenging steel clubs are compared to what they actually weigh.
It’s always better to start light. Plus, simply performing more repetitions will get you to where you want to be in terms of a challenge.
If you have a “big ego” in the weight room, throw that away when it’s time for steel club training. Even a lightweight clubbell will offer all of the benefits we’ve listed in this article.
For rehab drills:
When it comes to super lightweight clubs, it’s not the size that matters, it’s how you use them. So a pair of 1lb or 2lb clubbells will be perfect for rehab benefits.
Trust us, no matter how strong you are, or how flexible you are, 1lb or 2lb Indian Clubs ARE enough for you. Once you are comfortable with 1lb clubs, you can move up in weight accordingly.
SEEK PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL ADVICE
The final note we want to make is that you should always consider existing injuries and the capability of your low back, and wrist, elbow and shoulder joints. If you’ve had any issues in the past with joint injuries or pain, be careful and consult a professional before exploring steel club training.
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