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Tools of the trade: Indian clubs and Clubbells

A pair of Indian Clubs.

Martial artists often turn to the unconventional for strength training equipment. Sometimes it's out of an ill-conceived notion that using barbells and dumbbells won't help with martial arts training. Sometimes it's a genuine attempt to address the specific needs of a particular martial art. Sometimes it's just a search for something new and different; martial artists like new toys too.

Recent years have seen a resurgence in the use of heavy clubs as strength training equipment. A great deal of this resurgence has come from the efforts of Scott Sonnon, head of RMAX International, who made a major effort to promote his Clubbells as a superior strength training tool for the martial arts. Other trainers and organizations have also begun promoting the use of this ancient tool.

Image Courtesy of Squidoo

Club swinging as a method of strength training has a long history in the martial arts. As the name suggests, clubs were used by wrestlers in India for centuries, but analogous tools are found in Persia, Turkey, China, and Okinawa. Let's face it; the idea of swinging around a heavy stick to get a workout isn't a terribly complicated one.

Club training offers several benefits to the martial artist. It's a fantastic way to develop grip strength and endurance.The swinging patterns of club are great for developing strength-endurance for the entire upper body. Proponents of club swinging have also suggested that clubs work wonders as a tool for strengthening and rehabilitating the shoulder, elbow, and wrist.

The biggest problem with club training is it's lack of accessibility. Clubs are not found in most commercial gyms (though Equinox in Boston's Back Bay does appear to have Clubbells on hand), which means that you'll have to get a hold of a pair on your own. With costs starting at nearly $50 a pair and skyrocketing up from there ($200 for a pair of fifteen pound clubbells), you aren't getting very much equipment for your money. Especially since they aren't adjustable. Worse, clubs require a great deal of room to use effectively, which makes them a terrible choice for apartment dwelling Bostonians. Of course, if you own a gym or martial arts school, then you'll most certainly have someplace to store and use them.

If you have the income and inclination, clubs can make a fun and interesting addition to your strength and conditioning routine. Given their cost and space requirements, however, most martial artists will probably be better served with something simpler.

For more info: 
RMAX International, producers of the Clubbell.
360 Fitness, an RMAX Affiliate servicing the Metrowest Boston area.


  • Malcolm Pugh. 5 years ago

    Speaking as a boxer, boxing coach and a Strengh and Conditioning coach for all sports.I would highly reccomend the Clubbells, when used properly they are second to none.

  • Shane Heins 5 years ago

    Something about the primal feel of swinging around a big stick must be what makes it so much fun:).

    Jacob, some feedback on disadvantages to club swinging.

    I've been swinging Clubbells for a couple years. I live in a basement suite and have never had any problems. Sure there are a couple of moves you can't do, but most you can. I trained for 5 months straight in a space of 9ft x 5ft with my Clubbells. No problems. Training my clients that live in apartments? No problems.

    As to cost for what you get, I felt it was very worthwhile. After a couple years with the 15's, only now do I feel the need to move up in weight. But even then, only with certain movements. Those 15 pounders will continue to get loads of use (most are seriously shocked how heavy 15lbs Clubbells feel). As to adjustability, I can't speak for other clubs, but Scott Sonnons Clubbells are. It's in the design. Change grip placement, you change leverage, therefore force production. Easiest adjustment you'll ever ma

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