This article is evidence-based, verified by Blake Conner, Certified Strength, and Conditioning Specialist.
We have so many different “advanced” pieces of equipment to train with now. We have barbells, machines, bands, and more. All of which are great, but did you know that there are even more primitive pieces of equipment. Things that were used to prepare warriors for battle or hunting were also used to become stronger and more resilient.
Archery is a sport that requires the right level of strength and muscle mass, and many tools can be used for it. One of these is the Indian club or the clubbell.
The club is shaped like a bowling pin, with the majority of the weight being at the furthest end. The handle is much thinner and allows for a full grip. These clubs are typically made from steel but can also come in a wooden variety.
What is so fascinating about clubbells is their versatility. They can be used for so many different movements and exercises for building muscle, building strength, or just getting into better shape.
Uses of the clubbells can be compared to that of a kettlebell, but many club-based movements are specific to them.
Which Muscles Do Clubbells Work?
Clubbells can be used to target a variety of muscles and muscle groups. Any piece of equipment that is weighted can be used advantageously to build muscle or strength in certain areas. They can primarily be used to hit the muscles that are involved in archery!
With the design of the clubs, they are most often going to be held in the hands. This makes them a great tool to target the shoulders, back, chest, and arms. They can, however, be used to target the core muscles as well as the legs. Most movements will involve some swinging, but also squatting, pressing, hinging, pulling, and pushing. This will cover multiple planes of motion, again, making these a versatile piece of equipment.
Let’s say that we are working on the upper body. The clubs can be used to lift in a way that targets every head of the shoulder. Hitting all three heads (the front delt, lateral delt, and rear delt) will lead to the development of a well-rounded shoulder.
This improves the look of the shoulder but also enhances the strength and resiliency of the shoulder. Shoulders can be very prone to injury if they are not worked out in a more balanced manner. Therefore, training all three areas will help to reduce injury risk.
In addition to the shoulders, the clubs can be pulled from various angles to activate muscles in the back. Having a strong back can help to stabilize the entire body and reduce injury as well.
As you are swinging the clubs, you will be using a ton of your core muscles—this due to the amount of stabilization that is needed to control the weight. When compared to a sit-up, there will be a much higher level of usage happening when swinging the clubs when looking at the core. While at the moment you may not notice it, you will feel sore the following day.
The arms will develop well from holding the clubs. This will be seen in the forearms, but also in the biceps and triceps. These smaller muscles will be used to control and stabilize the clubs as you press, swing, or pull them; thus, making them grow and develop.
In addition to the upper body and core musculature, the lower body can be worked as well. This can be done with various forms of squats, lunges, deadlifts, and hinges. Like the kettlebell, the clubs are just an implement. They can be used as a form of resistance for really any movement.
There will only be some slightly unique differences in how it is held or controlled through a move. There are increasingly heavier versions of the clubs, meaning that you can progress in strength and muscle mass as you advance.
With the idea of training for archery, all of these muscles are important. You can even make this more specific to archery by how the movements relate. For example, if you are pulling the club from behind the back and over the shoulder, it mimics, pulling an arrow from the quiver.
This pullover motion takes muscle from the shoulders, back, arms, and even core to perform. Getting faster and more durable at this motion would significantly improve your performance when it relates to archery.
Clubbells Vs. Kettlebells for Archery
In this article and anywhere you may find these pieces of equipment, they will be compared to a kettlebell. Most people assume that they are just an early version of a kettlebell. When looking at how they are similar or different, there are many ways in which this can be.
When looking at similarities, use comes to mind. They are both able to be used for a multitude of movements. They can both be used for various squats, presses, hinges, lunges, and or swings. Within those, they can both be used to build muscle mass and gain strength.
They are a form of resistance, which is one of the essential variables when considering strength or muscle gain. Without resistance, there are only so many things you can change to drive adaptation. Both the clubs and the kettlebell involve a high level of stabilization to be used.
Whether it be a press or a squat, the core turns on to keep it controlled. If you have ever used one of these implements, you would understand that this is a lot different than a standard piece of equipment.
Clubs and kettlebells are often made of the same or similar material as well. This allows for them to be drop-resistant and heavy. Dropping either one would definitely damage the floor before it destroyed the weight! So, the similarities are more about the things they can be used for. Obviously, there are some technical differences, but for the most part, they are very similar.
The differences are not expansive, but they are apparent. The club, for starters, does not typically get as heavy as a kettlebell. This is due to the fact that it becomes challenging to hold. If you are using the standard neutral grip (like you are holding a hammer), you can only go so heavy. This is due to the wrist only being able to stabilize so much. Versus when using a kettlebell, your only limiting factor is your grip.
There are kettlebells that go as massive as 200 pounds, whereas there are clubs that go upwards of 45 pounds. If your goal is to go a lot heavier, you would be limited to the clubs. Also, when it comes to technique, the clubs are typically used in pairs. On the other hand, the kettlebells generally are used as just a single piece of equipment.
This makes the clubs uniquely tricky to use for some movements, which is due to the amount of stabilization and coordination that is needed to operate two weighted pieces of equipment.
As you can see, there are numerous similarities and differences. One is not merely better than the other, but they are unique to the goal someone is trying to achieve. The form of exercise and technique may also resonate with someone when using one or the other.
When looking at benefits, strength, and muscle gain can come from them both. It all depends on how you want to use them!
|Clubs and KB’s Similarities ✅||Clubs and KB’s Differences ❌|
|Can be used for squats, lunges, deadlifts, swings, presses. |
Reduce injury risk
|KB’s get heavier than clubs |
Amount of weight that can be held
Clubs used in pairs
Can Clubbells and Kettlebells Replace Standard Weight Training?
The short answer is YES. However, there are some ideas to consider.
One is that you can only go so heavy with these pieces of equipment. As stated before, kettlebells typically cap out around 200 pounds and clubs 45 pounds. If someone’s goal is just to get stronger and be in better shape, then these implements can 100% replace regular weight training.
Interestingly enough, individuals find this unique form of training to be more entertaining, which leads to a better compliance level among users. Thus, leading to better results in the long run.
Now, if someone is trying to become a powerlifter or lift the most amount of weight, they will have a tough time doing so with just clubs or kettlebells. This is due to the fact that the amount of weight can only go so high. The body needs a constant progression of weight to drive adaptation higher, and that extends much farther than 200 or 45 pounds.
With this article being focused on someone looking to be stronger and more fit for archery, clubs, or kettlebells could completely replace traditional weight training. You would be able to build the desired amount of muscle mass, get stronger, improve performance, and reduce the risk of injury. All of which could be done with just the clubs or kettlebells. A combination of the two could also be advantageous.
How to Use Steel Clubs in a Weight Training Program
When looking to use clubbells in a weight training routine, you just need consistency. You just need some sort of method that involves getting the clubs out and actually doing some kind of work. This can be very unorganized, or it can get very precise. It all depends on your goals.
If you are someone just looking to improve your fitness levels and gain some muscle, you don’t have to be as specific. This can be as simple as freestyling with the clubs four times a week. You can have fun and freedom while getting a great workout.
If you have some more specific goals in mind, then you would need more of a program to follow. This may include a progression of movements tailored around your desired results. Need a stronger core? Then you should be implementing a regime that supports that.
As far as using them in a workout, they are typically used to swing. The clubs can be used to create a “halo” around the head that is called a 360. This is a very foundational exercise for the clubs that work on building the smaller muscles of the shoulder.
The stabilization and control that is needed work wonders on this area of the body. They can be held and used for your more basic movements such as squats and lunges as well. You would benefit greatly from a combination of more flow-like movements and general movements.
Now to expand on the idea of a flow-like movement, this is similar to how a dancer flows to and from specific actions. There are a smooth transition and a rhythm to it. It looks to be a constant motion that doesn’t pause or have stops within it. This can be a great way of training the body due to the way you have to shift your center of gravity.
With a normal movement such as a strict press, you find your center and stay there. With the clubs, you have to continually shift where this is. Thus, creating the “flow.” If you have ever seen any sort of weapons training, this is a similar technique that is used. If you are to get the most out of each strike, you have to have your weight in the right place.
These flow-like movements can also be particular to archery training. When looking to make such specific improvements, you need to mimic some of the actions and positions that are being used during archery. We touched on one of these in the earlier section, but let’s look at some more you can use in workouts.
Here is a video detailing some techniques and movements that can be used with the steel clubs.
You can see in this video how these movements mimic or even translate into what you are doing for archery.
We can mimic the draw back (6:15). Once the arrow is in the bow, we have to pull it back to prepare the shot. This involves a lot of the shoulders, back, and core. Using a club, we can set up and initiate this pull.
By using the club, we are adding some resistance that will challenge those muscles in a way that’s even more difficult than the bow. This will help the muscles adapt in a way that will make the bow seem light.
The shoulders can also be injured by using a bow. This is something we want to avoid altogether. We can do so by strengthening the entire joint. By taking a lighter club, you can take the arm through the whole range of motion. This can help not only to open up your shoulder but also to reduce the risk of injury (4:39).
As you can see, these movements can relate very specifically to how you are performing with your archery. General strength matters, but you need to get more specific as you progress to not only get better but to stay injury-free.
Here is a sample workout:
- 6 Rounds of the following:
- Double Russian Club Swings x 10 reps
- Single Arm Club 360’s x 10 reps each arm
- Neutral Grip Double Club Overhead Presses x 10 reps
- Double Club Front Squats x 10 reps
This circuit style workout is great for getting your heartrate up, improving your shoulder stability, building muscle, and building strength. All of which would create a great foundation for you to continue building from.
The clubbells are a great tool when it comes to building muscles, reducing injury, or even getting more muscular. They are a versatile set of equipment that can be used for different forms of exercise.
When looking to improve for archery, they are great for increasing strength, muscle mass, and your core stability. With them being such a primitive form of equipment, they almost go hand in hand with this sport.
Clubbells are very similar to kettlebells, but there is a multitude of differences as well. The option should be weighed by what your goals are at the time.
Either way, they are a great piece of equipment and can make things a little more interesting.
How much do Indian clubs weigh?
Indian clubs vary in weight. If they are made from wood, they don’t often exceed over 5 pounds. Those are the lighter versions that are great for beginners. Once you move into the steel clubs, they begin to get a lot heavier. These can weight from 3-5 pounds all the way to 45 pounds. Depending your experience, I would recommend starting light.
Can Indian clubs build muscle?
Indian clubs can build muscle. You are going to want to progress some variable within your training though. This can be the amount of weight you are lifting or the volume (amount of reps) at which you are lifting. The more advanced you become, you will need more weight or more reps. It is recommended that you start light and work your way towards the heavier clubs to build maximum muscle.
What is the weight of a steel club?
Steel clubs differ from normal Indian or wood clubs. They are made of steel and weigh a lot more. They can range from 3-5 pounds and get as heavy as 45 pounds.
What size steel club should I get?
You should start small at the 3-5-pound weight. There is a lot of technique that goes into using the clubs, so you want to make sure you have that down. From there you can slowly increase.
Blake Conner is a nutritionist who graduated from Mississippi State University. He is also a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA, as well as a certified nutrition coach through Precision Nutrition. Blake runs his own remote nutrition coaching business to help people become the best versions of themselves.
- https://www.daviddarling.info/encyclopedia/D/deltoid_muscle.html (shoulder)
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thoracolumbar_fascia (back)
- https://www.physio-pedia.com/Abdominal_Muscle_Anatomy (core)
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bicipital_aponeurosis (arms)
- https://pixels.com/featured/1-diagram-illustrating-muscle-groups-stocktrek-images.html (legs)