Indian clubs were very popular with physical culturists of two and three generations ago, but today they have become something of a lost art. But these clubs stand the test of time and personal trainers and gym rats alike should think about incorporating Indian club training into their regular strength training routine.
From the 1860s through the depression years of the 1930s, Indian clubs were used by American men, women and children for both exercise and sport. A distant relative of a war club – called a “gada” – used by Hindus, the Indian club evolved from a weapon into an implement used to exercise. During the time the British occupied India, the British army realized that Indian club “practice” could offer valuable health and fitness benefits.
During the second half of the 19th century an American fitness enthusiast stumbled across the Indian clubs on a visit to London, and decided to bring them across the pond to introduce to the American public. During the early stages of the Industrial Revolution Americans had begun to embrace organized exercise because they were working less physical jobs and doing a lot more sitting. So the Indian clubs came on the scene at just the right time and joined calisthenics and gymnastics as the exercises of choice.
Okay, that’s enough history. Suffice to say Americans moved on to other pursuits during the 1930s and 1940s and Indian clubs became more popular as collectables than as pieces of exercise equipment. The clubs didn’t lose their effectiveness, people just moved on. Several years ago I stumbled across a product offered by Dr. Ed Thomas called “Learn the Ancient Art of Indian Club Exercises,” that included a pair of clubs, two books and an instructional DVD. With these materials I was able to learn the basic, extremely effective swing routines that comprise Indian club training.
As someone who has always suffered from cranky shoulder, I can say that Indian club training has absolutely improved the strength and “reliability” of my shoulder girdle. Most people don’t realize that a bad shoulder can lead to a whole series of related problems; shoulder pain/injury leads to loss of range of motion, pain, loss of more range and problems with the elbow and wrist. The basic circular patterns performed during club swinging help restore range of motion, strength and function to the shoulder girdle and allow the shoulder to better perform the more complex movements.
When performed correctly, Indian club swings can strengthen the shoulder girdle, shoulder joint, elbow and wrist joints throughout a complete range of motion and strengthens the all the muscles evenly that are responsible for producing and controlling movement. Indian club training is a great complement to traditional weight training/strength training methods that work in a basic upward and downward/forward and backward manner. Whether used for rehabilitation, warm up/preparation or for an actual workout, Indian club training is a worthwhile investment of both your time and money.