There have been a number of workout trends coming and going in the last decade. From CrossFit, to kettlebell training, to battleropes, to Insanity, to boxercise, to TRX… it seems that we’re constantly finding new things to spend our money on and to pin our hopes on. Not all of them are bad mind – kettlebell training in particular is a great way to train – but they’re still ‘fads’ seeing as they seem to come out of nowhere and take the community by storm.
Another ‘fad’ that has been doing the rounds lately is something called ‘Indian club training’ or ‘mace training’. Like Kettlebells, this type of training is actually not new at all, but has rather recently fallen back into vogue as a result of some good marketing and a visual appeal.
But is this one useful like kettlebell training? Or is it a nonsense fad like ‘vibration plates’?
What Is Indian Club Training?
Essentially, an Indian club is a long pole with a ball on the end – a mace. Only the mace isn’t full of spikes this time, but are instead just heavy metal balls that weigh the sticks down. These days you’ll often find maces made entirely from metal, but in the old days the sticks themselves would have been wooden. They can range in weight and come in flavours varying from 2-50 pounds.
These clubs don’t actually come from India however and are instead from the Near East. Originally called ‘melees’, they were used throughout ancient Persia, Egypt and nearby areas by wrestlers looking to build strength. Back then they didn’t have dumbbells, and training with these clubs would develop specifically the muscles needed to throw an opponent to the ground (think shoulders and obliques).
Since then, the concept has travelled around the world and come in and out of favour. Recently they became more popular following the growing use of kettlebells and now there are many aerobics classes available where you can go and copy complex choreographed routines.
The Benefits of Indian Club Training
Like the kettlebells, Indian club training is effective because of the imbalance in the weighting. When you hold the end of the mace, you then have to essentially ‘lever’ the ball upwards which immediately increases the amount of resistance you’re struggling against. Because of the unique shape of the clubs as well, it is possible to swing the maces, which means you can a) generate momentum and thus get a cardio workout, and b) involve multiple muscle groups. While swinging the Indian club around your head for instance, you will be using your core in particular to stabilize your body, while at the same time using your arms and shoulders in order to keep the weight aloft and keep it moving.
Should You Get One?
If you’re interested in learning more about this kind of training, then there are a wealth of videos and demonstrations available on YouTube that you can watch. You’ll quickly see that this is a unique, powerful, fun and practical way to train. So you should rush out and get one, right?
Hold your horses!
On the one hand yes: Indian club training is a very useful way to build muscle in a ‘functional’ and compound fashion, and it will also help you to burn calories. But on the other hand, it’s also not going to completely transform your workouts.
One of the problems with mace training is also one of its strengths: you will be holding the pole at the end, which means you’ll be training the forearms more in every movement. This is great because most of us do not train our forearms enough, and thus we end up with weak grips. The problem though, is that it means you’ll often fail to perform a repetition before you even challenge your other muscle groups. That means you’ll probably have to use a lighter weight than you would with a dumbbell or a kettlebell, and in turn that means you probably won’t give yourself enough of a challenge to build bigger muscle.
But that’s really not the main issue I take with mace training. Instead, the main problem as I see it, is that it brings nothing new to the table. The unusual shape of the mace is what gives it its unique benefits: but in fact you can do the very same thing with a chair. Hold a chair from your dining table by the backrest, gripped tightly in each hand and swing that round – now you have an awkward weight that you can do a lot of unique moves with.
The same is true of a rake. And the same is true of a backpack filled with weights…
The point is, you don’t need to spend money on another new piece of training equipment. The lesson you should learn from these ‘fads’ is that actually there are a huge number of ways to train and the only limitation is your imagination…