Combining Kettlebells and Indian clubs

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Categories: Indian clubs, strength training

While many of our tribe members swing mainly Indian clubs to stay fit and healthy, many more also use kettlebells.

Be it Girevoy sport, kettlebell marathon or just good old fashioned strength training, kettlebells, like Indian clubs, share many similarities and advantages for people who like to train at home.
Both pieces of equipment are complementary for well rounded fitness and sustainable training.

As you may be aware, I have a diploma in strength training and I used to compete in kettlebell sport. My knowledge and experience allowed me to successfully coach many people online from 2010-2017. While kettlebell sport made up a large part of my business, many of my customers wanted simply to become stronger, leaner and fitter without having to go to a gym.

The idea of kettlebell complex became popular for my clients not competing in kettlebell sport. Complexes are time efficient and fun, and you can still track progress. When well designed and programmed, kettlebell complexes offer results, compliance and maybe a little hatred from clients…

So what’s a complex anyway?

Simply put, a kettlebell complex a series of exercises done back to back after one another without putting the kettlebell(s) down.

The variety possibilities are endless.

Complexes in themselves are nothing new. Before kettlebells were rediscovered at the end of the 90’s, complexes were performed with dumbbells and barbells.

Javorek, a Romanian coach, is credited with the use and popularity of this method in the 1960’s.

The original complex consisted of 5 exercises done for 6 reps each:

  • upright rows
  • high pull snatch
  • squat to push press
  • bent over rows
  • high pull snatch

That is a lot of time under tension and volume with a decent weight! Complexes usually work the whole body and cardiovascular system at the same time.

The general idea of complexes is that one exercise must flow directly into the next, which is perfectly suited to kettlebells or Indian clubs!

You can find tons of kettlebell complexes on the internet, with some more or less suited to your goals.

Here are 2. One has a strength focus, the other targets mobility, stability & coordination.

Complexes for strength and mass?

If aiming for strength and muscle mass, the programming parameters of load (think repetition range) and volume (number of repetitions x number of sets x load) must reflect that.

Before you get scared away by the thought of adding too muscle mass to your frame, let’s keep things real! We are not talking about competing in bodybuilding or anything like that. 

Your actual bodyweight might not change much on such a program, but your body composition (how you look) will improve. 
Also, keep in mind that our muscle mass diminishes as we get older, it is called sarcopenia, which in turn impacts negatively your metabolic heath.  

Gaining muscle mass means a better hormonal profile, a better metabolism, stronger bones, and a whole list of other benefits.

The only downside is that your clothes will feel tighter, and you might need a larger size T shirt or start wearing loose fit pants.

Back to our kettlebell complex… One thing you should realize straight away when using the same weight across all exercises, is that we are stronger on some exercises than others. Usually, the weakest exercise will limit the amount of weight you can use in a complex.

While there are faster ways about how to build strength and muscle, but we’re doing it in a way that will increase your muscular endurance and cardiovascular system at the same time.
Because it’s fun and challenging, it means you are probably more likely to stick to it and get results though.

How Indian clubs complement kettlebells

When picking exercises and designing a kettlebell complex for strength and mass, you will be able to handle most weight on exercises that stay in the sagittal plane of motion.
This is where we use the Indian clubs to complement kettlebells, as most Indian club exercises happen in the frontal and transverse planes.

Indian clubs are successfully used around the world by physiotherapists and athletes to increase mobility and performance.

1. Better mobility in the shoulder girdle and thoracic spine helps the overhead shoulder position. Optimal range of motion and stability is key for safe kettlebell training.

2. Swinging clubs is an effective way to decompress the joints and balance the hard and soft aspects of physical training.

3. And finally, the full body and brain integration involved in swinging clubs smoothly and fluidly improves coordination, timing, agility, and body awareness. Building new neural pathways also goes a long way to look after your brain health!

Heavy and light, strength and mobility, yin and yang, stimulus and recovery. You get it, right?

A fail-proof program

To make the most out of both training tools, and solve programming issues, I created the Rising Tsar program.

It is a 12 week kettlebells and Indian clubs program where complexes and other training methods are used to increase strength, muscle mass, cardio and mobility.

Elements of variability, progressive overload and autoregulation are built in the program. This is what makes it sustainable for longer periods of time.

You can train 2-4 times a week on this program. Actual training time for each session, not including warm up, varies from 20 to 40 minutes.

Kettlebell exercises include: Turkish get up, swing, clean, jerk, half snatch, bent over row, squat, jump squat and loaded carries.

Indian club exercises include both British style (open style) club swinging, and Persian meel type (closed style) club swinging.

All in all, you’re in for a treat!

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