Table of Contents
What Are Indian Clubs?
Indian clubs are clubs about 18” long and weighing a few pounds. Typically, they'll weigh 1, 2 or 3 pounds apiece. Despite being light, they can provide a serious strength workout and have many other benefits. To most people's eyes they look like skittles, bowling pins or elongated bottles. The shape features a handle with a knob at the base to ensure grip and the weight is mostly in the end of the club, allowing for swinging with momentum.
Where Are They From?
Indian clubs have been used by wrestlers in the Punjab and Persia for thousands of years. Exactly where they originate is open to debate, but the reality is probably that they come from more than one place. The clubs Hakka rugby players from Australasian teams use to intimidate each other were originally performed with short, sharp stone clubs held by short thongs and swung in a similar manner to indian clubs, but that didn't come from Persia or the Punjab. What we do know is that variations on Indian club training were widespread by the eighteenth century.
In the nineteenth century, they found their way into the British Army’s training manual and by the Second World War American soldiers were practicing Indian clubs in preparation for the Normandy invasion!
So Why Have You Only Just Heard Of Them?
It’s the ‘what’s old is new’ principle. Kettlebells are very old too, with a tradition in China going back thousands of years, yet they became the hot new thing just a few years ago. Clubs are making the same kind of comeback as martial artists, golfers, swimmers, powerlifters and all kinds of athletes rediscover their unique benefits.
What Are The Benefits Of Indian Clubs?
You move a barbell or dumbells in a straight line. But the body isn’t built for straight lines. Muscles wrap around the body in spirals, to power twisting, circular actions - imagine throwing a big rock to get the idea. Indian clubs let you use diagonal and rotational movements, allowing the weight to do the work and focussing on natural movements. Because of that emphasis on naturalness, flow and circular movements, Indian clubs can deliver benefits including relaxing the muscles of the chest wall and allowing you to breathe better and both strengthening and relaxing the muscles of the chest, arms, shoulders and upper back.
But the main benefit of Indian club training is in rehabilitating injuries.
The shoulder joint is one of the most easily-damaged joints in the body. All that moving weight in straight lines combined with our modern desk habits results in a curved (kyphotic) spine and weak rotator cuffs and scapular stabilisers that we don’t know how to turn on. What we need is something that re-educates our arms and shoulders to move naturally and fluidly, and Indian clubs fit the bill.
Indian Clubs And Your Shoulders
If you participate in any sport where you’re throwing overhead, pressing overhead or throwing fast and hard, your shoulder health is paramount. That covers just about all sports, from basketball through weightlifting and boxing to baseball and volleyball. Your shoulder isn’t just one joint and it takes more than just a few stretches to keep it supple, mobile, stable and strong. What’s needed is an exercise where you almost can’t move your shoulder wrong, and that’s where Indian clubs come in.
The Rotator Cuff
The rotator cuff controls your upper arm, determining how it rotates relative to the rest of your shoulder. A lot of rotator cuff injuries are caused by poor external rotation - turning your thumb out and your elbow back. Indian clubs have basic movements that concentrate on both external and internal rotation, so you can build these vital movements easily and naturally. Flag presses and other external rotation exercises that require you to stabilise the load at arm's length feature heavily, as do swinging and spinning movements.
Many times, what looks like a rotator cuff problem is really a scapula problem - the shoulderblade doesn’t move properly. The unique movements of Indian club training teach your shoulder, including your scapula., to move freely and naturally, eliminating shoulder pain, stiffness and weakness. They can be a great cure for poor posture caused by sitting hunched over a screen, too!
The One-Piece Body
Indian clubs don’t have biceps moves and triceps moves. Either they teach movement patterns, like the external and internal rotation moves we talked about earlier, or they teach broader ranges of movement that call the whole body into play, including the legs and waist. Most core exercises are just for the rectus abdominus, but Indian clubs will make your whole wasit strong and supple even as they build your shoulders and back. Most importantly, they’re good for learning great movement quality, including flow and grace, balance and relaxation. They’re the exact same skills you need for that Hail Mary pass, sneaky uppercut, counter in short time or double fake. Indian clubs will help you perform better, for longer, with less pain, and all in just a few minutes a day.