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A Beginner's Guide to Indian Clubs

A Beginner’s Guide to Wooden Clubs

Written by
October 1, 2014
Updated August 25, 2022

About 3 years ago I attended a Perform Better Learn by Doing, 1-Day Seminar. One of the reasons I went was to hear Brett Jones lecture on Restorative Practices, particularly the use of wooden clubs, as I had little knowledge on the tool and only an awareness of their presence in fitness as an ancient tool. This sort of old school training was the direction I was headed. Although the wooden club has been around since the dawn of mankind, the club we use today first became popular in England and America around 1900.

Listening to Brett Jones’ lecture on this ancient tool was fascinating.  He spoke of it as a weapon and how training was martial or combative in origin but that warriors needed a restorative practice to counter the training intensity of constant battle. This is where we get most of our club swinging techniques.

We did a hands-on portion of the seminar and after 20 minutes of swinging a pair of 1 lb Indian clubs my shoulders felt the best they had in years…I was hooked. There is much to be said about the effectiveness of a tool that in twenty minutes can help a lifetime of shoulder gunk. Here are some benefits of wooden club swinging and why you might want to start integrating club swinging into your training practice.

Wooden Clubs Benefit #1: Manipulation

Humans are designed to grasp objects and manipulate them through space. Sadly, in today’s society we do very little of this. Our hands have suffered because of it. Arthritis and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is on the rise and in general people just have weak hands. Although grabbing a club isn’t necessarily a strength exercise, just moving the club around and letting the weight do the work for you has some amazing health benefits for your hands and fingers.

Remember your hands and the abilities they possess are what make you human, no other creature can do more with a hand. Also, your hands are your primary tool for nearly every single daily activity life asks of you, so take care of them.

Wooden Clubs Benefit #2: Traction

Think of traction as someone gently pulling on your arm and creating a nice stretch in your joints. The feeling of elongating your arms feels fantastic. Traction creates space between the joints, which is so vital to longevity, connective tissues and the durability of your joints.

This controlled separation and pulling allows for an increase in circulation, synovial fluids to flow (like lubrication for your joints), placing the connective tissues under gentle stress which helps strengthen and protect the body from injury. Your body’s wrists, elbows and shoulder capsule all feel this sort of pulling sensation, which is extremely important if you want to continue to train for many years to come.

Wooden Clubs Benefit #3: Mobility

I could lead you down a rabbit hole discussing the benefits of shoulder, wrist, elbow, thoracic, and cervical mobility that comes from practicing wooden club swinging, but we would be here for a full day. Using fancy diction and nerdy enthusiasm that would seemingly never end. I will spare you and just state that nothing has done more for my over all shoulder mobility than club swinging.

My shoulders feel brand new after a swinging session. The shoulder is built to flow into a full range of motion, and the uniqueness of the wooden club allows you to use a plethora of movement patterns allowing for this. I recommend a 1-2 lb pair of wooden clubs for swinging, as it is not for the ego driven, “I’m super strong” crowd. In fact 2 lb wooden clubs are more than enough for even the strongest person. It will humble you. Recently I got to use Onnit’s new line of 1.5-pound wooden clubs, which were smooth, well-balanced and had the feel of being much older, which I liked.

They move nicely and my shoulders feel amazing. If you want to extend the life of your shoulders then you have to improve their mobility and range of motion. Most of us are “stuck” with pronated (rolled forward) shoulders. Clubs have a profound effectiveness for opening us back up and restoring our shoulders to full health, mobility and posture.

Wooden Clubs Benefit #4: Meditative

Swinging wooden clubs is meditative. It is easy to get into a Zen-like trance after swinging for a bit. Mainly because you are not thinking about work, or errands, or dinner, or the kids etc; you are focused on not hitting yourself with a weapon. This hyper focus weeds out distraction and cleans the mind.

Decreased stress, higher cognitive function, and a feeling of euphoria are three common side effects of club swinging. If you haven’t tried club swinging, I highly recommend it for any number of the reasons I mentioned. Grab a set of wooden clubs and join in on this age-old practice dating back to ancient Persia, and have some fun while you restore the health of your upper limbs.

Mark Smith is the owner of Asylum Fitness in beautiful Wilmington, North Carolina. He is a Movement and Strength Coach that uses unconventional tools and methods to make his students a little better with each practice. His main focus is movement, he believes, “We were born to move. Reclaim your birthright.” He encourages his students and all those he meets to just play, similarly to when you were a kid, believing that play is the foundation of movement and movement is life. “By learning to move better and improving our mobility, everything falls into place.” he says. Mark is an Outdoor Fitness Enthusiast, is well versed in corrective exercises, and currently holds a level 1 FMS (Functional Movement Screen), and is a MovNat level 2 certified trainer and is always seeking to learn from the best. He also has a background in track and field, martial arts, ballroom dance, and currently is practicing parkour.
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