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Fact checked by Kirsten Yovino, CPT Brookbush InstituteFACT CHECKED
February 03, 2019
Although Steel Clubs (also known as clubbells) and Indian Clubs have been used in the East, more specifically India and Ancient Persia, for hundreds of years, they are fairly new training tools in the Western world.
They’ve been gaining a lot of popularity among many subsets of fitness, such as weightlifting, functional training for athletes, and unconventional training in general.
Influential pro trainers and doctors understand the benefits that Steel Clubs and Indian Clubs provide, so they’ve been pushing them on clients, and in turn, the mass accordingly.
With any new fitness training tool and equipment comes questions. One common question, which we are addressing in this post, is “what size Steel Club should I start with?”
This is a great question, and although it could possibly be answered in one run-on sentence or a paragraph, it’s best to break this down for you thoroughly so you can make a smart, informed purchase, and most importantly, keep yourself injury-free while training.
Here is a quick briefing on both Steel Clubs and Indian Clubs and the differences between the two.
Club training is considered one of the oldest types of training. And we are talking the dawn of humans old. It makes sense if you think about it. A club is a tool you’d imagine a caveman walking around with on a daily basis.
Moreover, we know warriors wielded clubs in battle as far back as 2,000 years ago, thanks to depictions of ancient wars. Also, gladiators fought each other with clubs, amongst other weapons.
During the Bronze and Iron era, heavy clubs were used to develop strength for swordsmanship. This is when heavy clubs really became a training tool rather than a weapon.
Because of this, many club movements and exercises are derived from sword combat training.
The Clubs we see today, and many of the moves associated with them originate from Ancient Persia. Wrestlers of the time used them as a conditioning tool for their shoulders, core and grip strength. They’ve been used in India in a similar fashion since the 18th century, and they are still one of the most popular tools there.
Club training found its way to England during the Victorian-era when health and fitness became mainstream.
Many soldiers from the British, Indian, Australian and US militaries trained with clubs up until the beginning of World War I.
Sometime during the late 90s, club training reappeared and it has been going strong, gaining more popularity each year ever since.
Here's a more in-depth history of Indian clubs.
Steel clubs, often referred to as heavy clubs or clubbells, are made of steel (obviously) and they kind of look like a bowling pin.
Steel clubs weigh anywhere from 5 to 45 pounds and are 18 to 28 inches long.
They are incredible tools for building grip, forearm, shoulder, and core strength.
Steel club training often involves swinging motions and is a great way to train kinesthetically (balance and body awareness). When swinging a club, the weight of the club and the speed at which it is swung develops a rotational force. There is no other training tool that you can swing with one hand and produce the kind of rotational force that a steel club can.
The rotational force will open up your joints - wrist, elbow and shoulder joints - thus creating much more strength, stability, and mobility. Shoulder health and power is one of the greatest benefits of the training with a steel club.
Steel clubs are often sold in singles and as pairs. They are sold in pairs because many steel club exercises involve the use of two clubs, one in each hand.
Very heavy clubs are used two-handed. As steel clubs can weigh up to 45 pounds, they can also be used as a lower body training tool. You can perform squats (with out all the pressure that comes with a barbell) and front and side swings (similar to a kettlebell), among other exercises.
Now, most heavy clubs in India are made of wood, but they still function as “heavy clubs” as they are, well, HEAVY.
There are also wooden clubs that weight much less than steel clubs, they have a different purpose. These are called Indian Clubs.
Indian clubs are essentially the same design as steel clubs, but much lighter and made of wood. They can also be made from a hard type of plastic.
Indian clubs typically weigh from 1-3lbs, and they are sold in pairs. A good Indian Club will be around 18 inches long.
Light clubs like this are made for rehab, prehab and warming up. In fact, many doctors prescribe Indian Clubs for patients with shoulder and elbow issues, as they are great for injury rehabilitation.
People use lightweight clubs in a smooth and rhythmic manner, both open and closed arm style.
If used on a regular basis, they can prevent many types of injuries by creating fluidity in the joints, and by increasing range of motion and mobility.
Furthermore, they are fantastic tools for warming up before any overhead pressing exercise and for athletes who repetitively throw or swing a football, baseball, bat, or golf club.
Although one Indian club would do the job, it's best to get a pair. Two is just more effective, efficient and FUN.
Indian club exercises involve rotational swinging patterns and multi-planar movements. By performing the exercises, you reap a number of benefits...
Having both Indian Clubs and Steel Clubs makes sense for most athletes and weightlifters.
For example, you could warm up with Indian clubs then incorporate the steel clubs into a barbell overhead should press workout by supersetting the heavy clubs after OHPs to further hammer down on your muscles.
You could also simply use Indian clubs to warm up then use steel clubs for an entire workout. If you know what you are doing, you can get a killer workout in, and most importantly, in a safe manner in regards to joint health.
First off, many people are surprised how much heavier clubs feel than they actually are.
Here’s why they feel heavier than the actual poundage reads.
Unlike a dumbbell or barbell, the weight in a clubbell is not evenly distributed. This is the reason the tool is so fantastic and can be used in so many uniquely beneficial ways. By nature of design, Steel Clubs and Indian Clubs place the center of mass away from your grip. Having the weight displaced far from your hand makes it very awkward to handle for beginners, and this kind of training completely changes the dynamics of what traditional lifters are used to. It also works muscles that usually aren’t being engaged.
Here is the best place to start for those who are experienced with weightlifting and athletics but new to this kind of unconventional 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 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 have a “big ego” in the weight room, throw that away when it’s time for steel club training. Even a 25lb clubbell is going to be very difficult to use for a beginner. And, although it seems like a lightweight, the strength, power, endurance and muscle development you receive from this kind of training is quite “heavy”.
Now, if you don’t want to drop that much money straight away to be able to purchase 3 different clubs, you can easily get away with either a pair of lighter steel clubs or a heavier one for two-handed work. This all depends on your goals.
If you are an athlete looking for coordination, agility, and strength-endurance benefits, choose two 15LB steel clubs.
If you are looking for explosive/ballistic strength, a 25-30LB single club would do the job.
However, if you can afford a range of sizes, then you can explore a wide variety of drills, combining strength and volume training.
When in doubt:
We like to tell people that when in doubt, go one size smaller than what you think will be good for you. So if you think a pair of 15lb clubs would be good for you for doubles, consider going 10. If you choose the heavier option, you might not be able to perform the exercise properly. 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.
When it comes to Indian Clubs, it’s not the size that matters, it’s how you use them ;)
As we already mentioned the benefits of the Indian Clubs above, we’ll get straight to the point here. Indian Clubs are made for warming up and combating battered shoulders and maintaining shoulder health, so a pair of 1lb or 2lb Indian Clubs is perfect to reach the desired effects.
No matter how strong you are, or how flexible you are, 1lb or 2lb Indian Clubs ARE enough for you.
If you want us to make the choice between a 1 or 2-pound Indian Club simple for you, just go for a pair of 1lb clubs. Work on the movements properly, and once you’ve mastered the drills, go up to 2lb clubs, then 3lbs.
You’ll be super surprised how demanding these are due to the kind of drills you'll be performing, especially for those with any kind of shoulder issues.
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Seek professional medical advice
The final note we want to make is that you should always consider existing injuries and the capability of your 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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