Category: Indian clubs

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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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We have been talking about karlakattai for at least 2 years. Our pahlavandle XL was the first club we produced inspired by this club swinging practice. So it was about time more people discovered the traditions of this ancient practice.

We were lucky to talk to Karthik Vilwanathan who is studying under Sir Jothi Senthil  Kannan, his “guru”, or “the one who helps remove ignorance”. Sir Jothi resides in Tamil Nadu, where he is keeping the traditions well alive with his school, workshops and book on the subject.

For those who still do not know what karlakattai is, and how different to Persian meels and British club swinging, here’s a quick breadown.

Karlakattai is a holistic health practice based on swinging wooden clubs. there are 5 types of clubs, plus one specifically for women.
The designs of clubs are based on their purpose, and shaped to the morphology of the practitioner.

Clubs are swung as single club with 1 or 2 hands, and also swung in pairs. 

Out of the 64 types of Karlakattai suttrus  (swings or rotations), only 4 are done with double clubs. 10 of those swings are done with both hand on a single club. The rest are done single handed, often time switching hands from side to side as 1 repetition.

And now, we leave it to Karthik to tell us more.

If you’d rather just listen to it than watch the whole thing, Click here to listen or save the mp3 file.

Our discussion with Karthik  covers many subjects:

  • 3:10 How common place are karklakattai in India
  • 5:20 Influence of western culture in Indian
  • 6:50 How did you re-discover karlakattai
  • 10:15 Your first set of Indian clubs
  • 12:00 Sir Jothi Senthil Kannan
  • 13:20 Cultural identity
  • 18:55 What did you notice since you started karlakattai practice
  • 23:05 Learning process & preparation
  • 25:20 Traditional Indian club exercises
  • 27:35 Daily practice
  • 29:00 How do other people react to karlakattai
  • 33:48 Six different types of karlakattai, starting weight & progressions
  • 47:50 Heavy clubs practice versus competition aspects
  • 50:00 The reasons behind barefoot training
  • 52:55 Favorite suttrus/ swings
  • 55:50 Training philosophy & guidelines
  • 58:48 Kusthi training versus karlakattai
  • 1:00:10 Breathing
  • 1:04:35 Workshops

Get in touch with Karthik:

https://www.facebook.com/karthik.vilwanathan https://www.instagram.com/karthik.vilwanathan/
https://karlakattai.com/

The 2 videos below show examples of karlakattai suttrus.

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We have been getting a few inquiries lately about how to combine club swinging with other strength training modalities, such as barbells and kettlebells.

Since we have different club swinging programs available (including the latest Hanuman workout volume 5), here is some practical advice.

Prioritize your training goals

What do you want to achieve? What is most important for you? A bigger deadlift? 100 reps unbroken meel swings with heavy clubs? Learning new complex exercises? Better cardio?

Have a good think about it all, and put your goals in a numeric order, with #1 being the most important one for now.
Once you have your list, time to plan for the goals you chose. For the next 8-12 weeks, focus on #1 and #2, including them in your program each time you train.
Add goals #3-5 here and there on occasion, when you feel you have time and energy.
Disregard anything over #5.
That’s it, keep at it for 8-12 weeks. After that, you may write a new list, or carry on.

Depending on how many days you can train, and how much time you have each session, you could structure your week in many ways. Here are 2 simple ways.

Option 1 | Training 3 times a week

Use the classical heavy, light, medium day approach mentionned in Bill Starr’s book ”The strong shall survive”.

Kettlebell/ barbell strength training x20-30 min. Pick 3-5 lifts.

Follow up with:
Club
swinging x10-15 minutes (Meels 101 on heavy day, light clubs on light day, Hanuman workout series on medium day)

Option 2 | Training 5 days a week

Day 1, 3: Hanuman program, using the variability table included in the program.

Day 2, 4: Strength training with barbell/ kettlebells x20-30 min followed by some of the exercises in Meels 101 for 5-10 min.

Day 5: Kettlebells/ bodyweight training x15-20 min, followed by light double club swinging x5-10 min

Is it the perfect solution or program?

Don’t overthink it too much. Get going first, and tweak the program along the way. Too many people want the perfect program, without having a perfect lifestyle to begin with. Take the first step!

How you pick exercises and rep scheme depends on your personal goals, and equipment available.
Heavy weights are lifted for a low reps (3-5), while lighter weights are lifted for higher reps (6-10 or 10-20)

One of the principles I follow most of the time is not to train to fatigue, as the old texts mention. If you have read some books by Pavel, you’ll be familiar with the concept too.

Examples of how I personally combine things

Since the lockdown, I stopped training for kettlebell marathon competition. Therefore my training does not have to be 100% focused as earlier. I want to feel good, and have energy to do the things I have to do , play with my kids and so on.

I aim to get as much movement variation as possible on a daily basis.
By that, I mean I push, pull in different directions, raise my center of gravity, rotate, move laterally and backwards, crawl on all four, make use of uneven terrain, i
nclude single leg exercises etc…

Here are 6 examples for inspiration.

Option #1

EMM circuit: Every minute on the minute. Perform the exercises, and rest the remainder of the minute. Set a time limit to the circuit, 20-30 minutes is usually plenty.

  • min 1: 20x jump rope cross over, 2x kettlebell jump squats, x1/1 one arm push up, x1 ring pull up
  • min 2: 20x full swing with thick grip club (left hand)
  • min 3: 20x jump rope cross over, 2x kettlebell jump squats, x1/1 one arm push up, x1 ring pull up
  • min 4: 20x full swing with thick grip club (left hand)
  • etc… until the time is up

Option #2

Strength circuit: use the correct weight to stay within the desired rep range.

  • Turkish get up x1/1
  • Sumo Deadlift x6
    1 arm row with thick grip x6-10/6-10
  • Single seated calf raise x12-15/12-15
  • Neurogrip push ups x6-10
  • Light clubs x1 min
  • Rest as needed, do 3-5 work sets.

Finish with ab roller, and static lunge holds

Option #3

AMRAP: As Many Rounds As Possible within a defined time limit, 20-30 minutes.

  • Push up complex
  • Meels complex
  • Kettlebell get up 

Repeat the sequence for time, resting as needed.

 

Option #4

Pavel’s ”Simple and sinister” (kettlebell swings and Turkish get ups), using a single heavy club for 5-15 min at the end

Option #5

Pavel’s ”The quick and the dead” (kettlebell swings/ snatch and explosive push ups), using 2 light clubs as active recovery between exercises.

Option #6

Contrast intervals: One hard interval followed by an easy one to provide active recovery, targeting different movement patterns.

  • Fast pace kettlebell snatch or 1 arm long cycle x4 minutes
  • Slow/ easy paced circuit with bodyweight and clubs x3 min
  • Repeat 4 times

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Let me introduce our Canadian ambassador, Mark Robson, who runs a fitness studio called MeFirstFitness in Toronto. At Mefirstfitness, the instructor crew specializes in group fitness with 45 classes a week, one on one personal training and weight loss challenges. 

Mark has a background in sports such as Hockey, Martial Arts,  Volleyball, and a host of certifications from Personal trainer, kettlebell, steel mace and Heroic Sport level 1 instructor.

Let’s hear about Indian clubs and group classes!

How, why and when did you get started with Indian clubs?

I started training with Indian Clubs about 3 years ago. The past 2 years much more seriously due to reoccurring rotator cuff tears.

What kind of clubs do you prefer to swing?

I swing all styles of clubs. I love to swing heavy for sheer power and strength. I like smaller clubs for injury prevention, warmup and rhythm/dance. I also like clubs in between for endurance and cardio.

What is it you specifically enjoy about club swinging?

It doesn’t feel like exercise to me. I love to put on my favourite music and swing for hours. No two workouts are ever the same.

What do you see as the main advantage of lifting odd unbalanced objects versus conventional weights?

I feel its more functional and practical to real life movements and situations. I also feel like I get a better full body workout.

What are the benefits of club swinging for your clients in your opinion?

I do a lot of club swinging with clients for warm ups and to help increase their range of motion (mostly at the shoulder girdle). Clients are also less familiar with them than dumbbells so they find it to be a little more fun when used for more traditional exercises.

How easy/ hard was it to get your clients sold on the idea of swinging clubs?

It depends on what and how you teach them. Most feel the benefits of the light clubs immediately and often ask me if we can start our workouts with them.

For someone wanting to improve athleticism and well being, is swinging clubs enough? What are some great complementary activities to club swinging?

I never like to limit myself or my clients to just one type of training. The obvious answer to this question would be body weight exercises but I also am adamant about adding cardio as well as some power lifting and kettlebell training to all my clients routines. This provides a good combination of endurance, strength and power to your workouts.

What do you like about the Pahlavandle and XL, compared to other types of clubs on the market?

The biggest benefit for most people getting started is the price. The pahlavandles are the most affordable clubs on the market today. In addition you can take them anywhere you go and they are adjustable in weight based on the size of the bottle you use and the filler. Same could be said for the XL. In addition the shipping costs from Heroic Sport are incredible. You won’t pay cheaper shipping anywhere in the world!

Do you use the Pahlavandle in your classes or workshops? How do people react the first time you show them a plastic handle?

Yes, totally! They react no differently than they would to a regular set of wooden clubs. Most wouldn’t know the difference, plus the Pahlavandle swings virtually the exact same way as a wooden club, so even experienced users wouldn’t notice a difference.

What advice can you give to people just starting up?

Find a coach, take a course or get yourself some online videos to study. You need to start with the very basic circles and moves. Practicing is the only way to get better.

Do you have a favorite template to structure a training session?

I’m not a fan of structure personally as I get bored rather easy. But when teaching clubs I like to start with one move before adding another and building to more complex sequences as we go.

1 thing people wouldn’t know about you?

I’m also a musician, comic book lover and avid gamer.

Anything you wish to add?

I’m very happy Thierry asked to interview me for this Blog and I am a proud Ambassador for Heroic Sport. Reach out to me if you want, as I would love to share my passion for everything Club related with you! Cheers and keep swinging!

You can get in touch with Mark through his facebook and instagram pages, or head to his site.

 

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