Site icon Elevating Fitness

Welcome to the Indian Club

Let’s go back to the start

Over the next few months you are going to see the (re-)emergence of a very simple, functional tool. I will tell you now, there’s a bunch of folk who will try to lay claim to “discovering” it. They will tell you what’s “old is new” again. They will probably try and convince you that they have “top secret” information. It may even be from the Eastern Block.  And if you are really lucky they might just ask you to part with an extraordinary amount of cash to learn the “long lost and never before seen art”  they use.

Well listen up. There are no secrets. Welcome to the Indian Club.

Indian clubs have a rich history, from the Persian Wrestlers Zoorkaneh (House of Power) through to the British Army. Jonathan Lewis of Balance Physio informs me that Indian Clubs are still being used by the Royal Marines. Such is their history with that elite force that Physical Training Instructors are known as Club Swingers. If you are interested in the cultural history of club swinging you will find some in the references at the bottom of this article. If you are interested in how Indian Clubs might help you, read on…

Over a year ago fellow IKFF Instructor Jason Dolby, the Cali Caveman, told me about something he’d been using to rehab shoulder issues. Having suffered two shoulder dislocations myself and struggled with impingements and mobility issues I obviously wanted to know more. Jason had done his homework, tracking down information as from various sources including the respected Dr Ed Thomas. When Jason returned to America he forwarded me a set of Indian Clubs and I set to work. Ed Thomas was kind enough to email me information on the historical background of Indian Club swinging and some articles he had previously published. I purchased a copy of the ancient Indian Clubs and Dumb Bells: Spalding’s Athletic Library by J. H. Dougherty (Published 1911) – which is historically relevant but not exactly inspiring.

One important thing did come out of Dougherty’s book. There is a diagram of a man holding clubs surrounded by the numerous overlapping circles that swinging Indian Clubs create. Ed Thomas had highlighted the similarity between this and the circular movements of Kali. I turned to my copy of Dan Inosanto’s “The Filipino Martial Arts” and there is exactly the same set of circles. So with guidance from Jason Dolby, Ed Thomas’s work and my background in training and martial arts I began a personal journey back to shoulder health.

Before we go further, let’s clear up any confusion. Indian Clubs should not be compared to the Clubbells made famous by Scott Sonnon. Sonnon has successfully promoted his own brand of strength and conditioning using Clubbells weighing anything up to 45 pounds. The humble Indian Club that we start with weighs in at 1 pound. And for most folk this is all they might ever need. What we are interested in is recovery and restoration.
Indian Clubs are about mobility. If Kettlebell training is the Yang component then Indian Clubs are Yin. The clubs are used in a neutral stance and with a relaxed posture, the focus is on letting the Clubs do the work. The clubs themselves add a small but significant weighted component to many of the standard mobility and calisthenic drills we do. The major focus for Indian Club training is the rotator cuff. The thoracic spine, elbows and wrists receive substantial benefit too. By adding Indian Club’s simple circular movements we can create extension in the joints, lubricating them, engaging the supporting musculature, ligaments and tendons and gently encouraging a fuller range of motion.
For anyone involved in an activity where the shoulder girdle plays a major role (ie: Golf, basketball, tennis, throwing sports, combat sports and martial arts) Indian Clubs provide a safe, effective warm up, deep recuperative benefits and a neuromuscular challenge. As the drills get more complex they add an element of “Brain Trainer” to the equation. It is of course possible to incorporate footwork and make the endeavour more complex but for now focus should be on the areas that receive immediate benefit. Basics and fundamentals first.
Eric Cressey, who specializes in applied kinesiology and biomechanics, talks about the mobility of the shoulder joint coming at the expense of stability and in turn how this impacts performance. In particular he highlights the most common injuries, those caused by overhead motions  including throwing and pressing. Whilst promoting mobility, Indian clubs provide the added benefit of engaging the rotator cuff in exactly the types of movement that integrate stability. We are getting out of the linear and into the circular. By addressing these limiting factors we support the integrity of the shoulder and that carries over to any strength work we do. Anything less is building on a fault line.
Training is Trauma – Mobility is Medicine

Training Is trauma. You will hear this phrase at Simple Strength workshops, usually followed by – Mobility Is Medicine. Show me someone who trains consistently, with intensity and I will most likely show you someone who has compensations and niggling injuries. It comes with the territory and most of us at some point exceed our physical capabilities at a given point and pay the price. It is through restorative mobility drills and recuperative methods such as Indian Clubs that we can restore the balance and regain the bodies confidence.
In the next few articles I will outline Simple Strength’s Mandatory Mobility drills and the basic Indian Club moves we use to get ourselves out of pain and into action. have taken the initiative and produced a range of 1lb and 2lb Beechwood hand finished clubs which are now available. These are the clubs I have been using for the last few months with fantastic results. The Wolverson Indian Clubs have a slightly thicker handle than some of the clubs available which makes for more intensive forearm and wrist involvement. Several fellow IKFF CKTs are road testing these at present and we will be using them at the forthcoming BODYPOWER EXPO in Birmingham May 21st & 22nd. Come and see us in the Workout Area. Simple Strength will be hostingIClub Mobility workshops soon.
Please email me if you have any questions –

Jason Dolby
Jonathan Lewis
International Kettlebell & Fitness Federation
Eric Cressey
Earl Court 1954
A History of Indian Clubs
Dr Ed Thomas
Exit mobile version