Black and white drawing of shirtless man swinging clubs.As you know by now, inefficient equipment can lead to great workouts. It’s why we prefer free weights to machines, and it’s why kettlebells, slosh tubes, and sandbags have gotten so much attention from us recently. The more work the equipment does for you, whether it’s a bench press machine keeping your press perfectly aligned or even a symmetrical dumbbell with perfect balance, the less work you’re actually performing. And a workout’s effectiveness depends exactly on that: the amount of work performed. Using symmetrical free weights like a barbell or a dumbbell is great and allows you to focus purely on moving tons of weight (a form of work); using machines that guide and assist you is actually counterproductive (don’t be a slacker) and ineffective.

Enter the clubbell. Like the kettlebell, slosh tube, and sandbag, the clubbell is an awkward, unwieldy tool that hits muscles – to use a cliché that actually works in this case – you never knew you had. It’s essentially a really heavy baseball bat. Just like with a baseball bat, you hold it by the slim handle. Unlike a baseball bat, the “hittin’ end” of the clubbell is significantly weightier. It’s not hollow, or filled with wood; the clubbell is solid and dense. But don’t use it as a baseball bat (on second thought, going out to the batting cages with a clubbell could be really, really satisfying and result in a pretty good workout; just don’t try to sneak one into your company softball game, unless you’re the CEO). Instead, you’ll get a lot more out of it by using the clubbell in a series of targeted, specific exercises designed for it.

You can buy a clubbell – they’re becoming quite the popular workout tool – along with accompanying workout DVDs from a number of places online, but it’s infinitely more satisfying (and far cheaper) to make your own. I’m a big fan of dirt cheap do-it-yourself options, so my personal favorite is the quick and dirty clubbell made from cheapo plastic baseball bats.

Simply cut a circle in the top of the handle and fill it with anything you want. Whatever material you choose will determine the weight. You can add sand, cement, ball bearings, or anything that will fit in the hole and conform to the shape. Because it’s a five dollar bat, you’ll need to fill it completely to maintain the shape. Seal the hole and wrap the handle in tape for grip.

You could do the same with a more expensive, more durable aluminum bat. Just drill a hole in the top or bottom and funnel in some filler, making sure to seal the hole when you’re done.

Or, try this:

A word of caution, though: like any unconventional piece of workout equipment (slosh tube, kettlebell), the clubbell requires a certain level of expertise and focus. Because the clubbell is so unbalanced and heavy (a potentially lethal combination), just picking one up and going wild with it is akin to that moment in every kung-fu movie fan’s life where he picks up a pair of nunchuks and promptly hits his own testicles. Be careful! Twenty-five pounds of dumbbell is a joke, but twenty-five pounds of clubbell is serious business. For beginners, start with fifteen pounds. Don’t laugh – the weight is really quite remarkable. Any more and you’ll throw out a shoulder or crack a bone (or neuter/spay yourself) if you’re not careful. And if, by some small chance, the clubbell isn’t heavy enough, just change your grip location.

Used in the right way, though, a clubbell workout is a beautiful and intense experience. Make sure you have enough space around you (about six feet in all directions to be safe) and make sure you have a weight you can handle. Also, have two clubbells. Instead of swinging between your legs (like with a kettlebell), with clubbells you swing outside of your legs. Doing otherwise would be a bit awkward and mostly incompatible with human physiology.

The actual workouts are difficult to describe. Just keep in mind the same fundamentals that guide your other workouts. Taking from our kettlebell post a couple months back, here’s the correct form for the basic, standard clubbell swing (from which you can transition into any number of exercises):

“Maintain proper squat position – feet shoulder width apart, toes slightly out, slight curve in lower back, weight on your heels, chest out, shoulders back, eyes straight ahead – with the [clubbell(s)] resting [outside] your legs. Grab the bell and, as if in a deadlift, rise up while pushing your hips out. Drive the [clubbell] up primarily with your lower body and core; your shoulders will help, of course, but they shouldn’t be the main agent of movement.”

At this point, the clubbell should be pointing directly upwards. Let it continue its circular path so that it touches your shoulder blades, and then bring it back. This will hit your wrists, forearms, triceps, shoulders, core, legs – pretty much everything.

For more, just watch the following videos. The thing about clubbell exercises is they’re all very fluid, and textual explication is difficult to convey. Watching videos is far more effective. And besides, the best part about a workout tool like the clubbell is discovering your own personal exercises. Experiment! Try weird movements, while maintaining form and being mindful of how the body moves (to avoid injury; you don’t, for example, want to swing a twenty-five pound clubbell with one hand like you’re trying to swat a fly), to see what works best for you.

And a few more videos:

Clubbell Lever Press

Outdoor Clubbell Training

Clubbell Barbarian Squat

Of course, we wouldn’t necessarily recommend making clubbells a staple of your workout regimen, but it can be a fun, periodic addition to your routine. Also, one last cautionary note: due to the unwieldy nature of clubbells and the range of motion required for their use, we want to impress the importance of starting with light weight and taking care to master moves before advancing.

What about you, readers? What’s your take on clubbells? Got any interesting homemade options?

Photo Courtesy of Straight to the Bar

Further Reading:

10 Ways to “Get Primal”

Dear Mark: Do You Ever Take a Rest Day?

Medicine Ball Workout

My Daily Near Death Experience: Kettlebells, Clubbells, Hammers and More

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