In this video I show you one of my favorite training tools that you’ve probably never tried – Indian Clubs. I have used them to help rehab my shoulders after an AC separation in both of them and they are a great way to improve shoulder and wrist mobility, upper body coordination and inject some fun into your routine.

You can buy the Indian Clubs I use in my facility by clicking on this link.

You can learn more about how to use Indian Clubs from the highly recommended Club Swinging Essentials DVD and Manual.

14 thoughts on “Indian Clubs – the best training tool you aren’t using

  1. mark buckley says:

    Hi James
    I dont usually comment on internet forums etc. but felt I had to on this. I have purchased some of your products and like your general approach to training and programming, but the premise of this video is wide of the mark! Joints do not just “jam up” joints become restricted from trauma (inflammation causing scarring, causing adhesions) or degenerative processes (arthritis) and we naturally lose flexibility as we age as our soft tissue composition changes, we lose the elastin component (hence eye bags and wrinkles). Most pain post exercise would be acutely DOMs if it is chronic you either have an osteoarthritic joint or are experiencing soft tissue overload from excessive load, affecting ligament, tendon, bursae etc. Unfortunately you have fallen into the dogma of much of the American health and fitness industry which has adopted some of the less proven areas of rehabilitation science such as stability (FMS, supple leopard etc.) much of which falls down under scientific scrutiny. FMS for example does not predict injury in large scale studies, low FMS scores do not correlate with performance measures such as vertical jump height, broad jump length etc. I have to agree that correct exercise form is essential when training but multiple “correctives” before you even train to “fire up your weakened stabilisers” and mobilise the stiff stuff this is rubbish, these are exercises under low load conditions they are regressions nothing more. The original trans abs dysfunction studies that kicked of the “muscle imbalance” and stability era in rehabilitation is questionable in its findings if you actually examine their data, it has largely be dropped by physiotherapists, physical therapists etc. The same can be said for foam rolling, trigger point release etc. no evidence of effect pre exercise on improved function or performance.Foam rolling is helpful for reducing DOMs post exercise as are other forms of massage.Trigger point release is a whole can of worms, like myofascial release with poor science and dubious quality studies supporting it.
    This leads me to banded traction, in physiotherapy (physical therapy) ( I’m UK based) we used to use mechanical traction for low back pain, this stuff generates forces much higher than a bit of resistance band and guess what a complete waste of time for treating low back pain. All the clinical guidelines on what may or may not help for back pain and all the RCT’s and systematic reviews agree, a waste of time. For other joints you are not going to be able to create enough distractive force to “decompress” the joint whatever this means with a bit of elastic band, never mind the premise of why people may be hurting in the first instance.

    I agree and science agrees that flexibility is an important component of “fitness” both musclotendinous extensibility and joint mobility. But the above methods will not achieve them. Science suggests pre exercise a warm up consisting of large joint movements that mirror the movements that are to be used in the sport/exercise as well as raising the heart rate core temp etc. and no static stretching (temporarily deceases muscular strength). Post exercise static stretches can be used to increase both joint range and musculotendinous extensibility.

    Please stick to intelligent programming and exercise selection for mountain biking and leave the pseudo rehab stuff alone. Dan John has the right idea, his “history of the history” on his blog is one of the most intelligent commentaries on the fitness industry, its past and its future I have ever read.
    Just to add some justification to my comments I am a British physiotherapist (physical therapist) of 20 years qualification, I hold a higher degree in physiotherapy as well as an undergrad degree. I also have an undergrad degree in sports and exercise science. I work in an A and E (ED) managing acute soft tissue injury as well as rehabbing individuals with musculoskeletal injuries or post orthopaedic surgery so feel justified and qualified in my comments.
    Kind regards Mark

  2. mark buckley says:

    Hi James
    I dont usually comment on internet forums etc. but felt I had to on this. I have purchased some of your products and like your general approach to training and programming, but the premise of this video is wide of the mark! Joints do not just “jam up” joints become restricted from trauma (inflammation causing scarring, causing adhesions) or degenerative processes (arthritis) and we naturally lose flexibility as we age as our soft tissue composition changes, we lose the elastin component (hence eye bags and wrinkles). Most pain post exercise would be acutely DOMs if it is chronic you either have an osteoarthritic joint or are experiencing soft tissue overload from excessive load, affecting ligament, tendon, bursae etc. Unfortunately you have fallen into the dogma of much of the American health and fitness industry which has adopted some of the less proven areas of rehabilitation science such as stability (FMS, supple leopard etc.) much of which falls down under scientific scrutiny. FMS for example does not predict injury in large scale studies, low FMS scores do not correlate with performance measures such as vertical jump height, broad jump length etc. I have to agree that correct exercise form is essential when training but multiple “correctives” before you even train to “fire up your weakened stabilisers” and mobilise the stiff stuff this is rubbish, these are exercises under low load conditions they are regressions nothing more. The original trans abs dysfunction studies that kicked of the “muscle imbalance” and stability era in rehabilitation is questionable in its findings if you actually examine their data, it has largely be dropped by physiotherapists, physical therapists etc. The same can be said for foam rolling, trigger point release etc. no evidence of effect pre exercise on improved function or performance.Foam rolling is helpful for reducing DOMs post exercise as are other forms of massage.Trigger point release is a whole can of worms, like myofascial release with poor science and dubious quality studies supporting it.
    This leads me to banded traction, in physiotherapy (physical therapy) ( I’m UK based) we used to use mechanical traction for low back pain, this stuff generates forces much higher than a bit of resistance band and guess what a complete waste of time for treating low back pain. All the clinical guidelines on what may or may not help for back pain and all the RCT’s and systematic reviews agree, a waste of time. For other joints you are not going to be able to create enough distractive force to “decompress” the joint whatever this means with a bit of elastic band, never mind the premise of why people may be hurting in the first instance.

    I agree and science agrees that flexibility is an important component of “fitness” both musclotendinous extensibility and joint mobility. But the above methods will not achieve them. Science suggests pre exercise a warm up consisting of large joint movements that mirror the movements that are to be used in the sport/exercise as well as raising the heart rate core temp etc. and no static stretching (temporarily deceases muscular strength). Post exercise static stretches can be used to increase both joint range and musculotendinous extensibility.

    Please stick to intelligent programming and exercise selection for mountain biking and leave the pseudo rehab stuff alone. Dan John has the right idea, his “history of the history” on his blog is one of the most intelligent commentaries on the fitness industry, its past and its future I have ever read.
    Just to add some justification to my comments I am a British physiotherapist (physical therapist) of 20 years qualification, I hold a higher degree in physiotherapy as well as an undergrad degree. I also have an undergrad degree in sports and exercise science. I work in an A and E (ED) managing acute soft tissue injury as well as rehabbing individuals with musculoskeletal injuries or post orthopaedic surgery so feel justified and qualified in my comments.
    Kind regards Mark

    • bikejames says:

      Thanks for the insights. I agree that some people can oversell the value and use of some tools like the FMS but I’m not sure that just because there isn’t a study telling us why something works it means that it doesn’t have some value. Remember that at one point science told us that steroids didn’t work and they had the studies to prove it while the people in the trenches knew that something was definitely working. The same can be said with strength training for endurance events and the list could go on and on about things that science hadn’t proven and denounced at one point but we now know have a lot of value.

      My point is that we need to strike a balance between hard core science and only doing things that have been proven in a study and intuition about what is really working in the real world. While we may not be able to explain it through science, methods like foam rolling, static stretching and banded traction have helped decrease pain and increase people’s ROM. To dismiss what I’ve seen work and know others have used with success as well because there isn’t a study to back it up seems like throwing out the baby with the bath water.

      Now, back to the banded traction. I think that we will just have to agree to disagree on it’s value. When I don’t stretch and do things like banded traction I can feel the negative effects. From my experience it takes more than the small amount of mobility work approved by science to help us stay moving well as we age and play hard and I’ve worked with a lot of riders who found the fountain of youth after injecting some of these things into their routines. I understand that your experience and background lead you to a different conclusion and while I can respect it I hope you can respect where I am coming from.

      BTW, you mentioned Dan John. He’s a friend of mine and I’ve been over to his garage to train a few times. He actually has bands and uses the chest/ shoulder stretch like I show here from time to time. He also seems to find stretching (he’s a huge fan of Yoga), foam rolling and other things that science hasn’t approved of yet helpful in keeping his joints healthy and his performance levels high. In fact, mobility training is a huge part of his message when you really dig into it. Anyways, just found it interesting that you brought him up given his views on some of these things as well.

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts, it is always nice to get some intelligent commentary instead of personal attacks.

  3. mark buckley says:

    Thanks for your response, mine probably seems to oversell the science from your point of view, but that is my background and training! I also work in the “trenches” of rehab of musculoskeletal injury and have done for many years and have a wealth of real life experience/anecdotes etc. to back up my practice, but what I really have to do to benefit my patients is take a step back and look at the bigger picture of what will really help them. This has to be scientific research on large groups of individuals like them carried out in a valid way,otherwise I run the risk of bias and falling foul of believing my approach worked brilliantly when all it was was placebo or regression to the mean or a myriad of other reasons rather than what I did.

    My problem with the fitness industry is the what appears to be blind acceptance of a persons opinion as “this is what we do”, the guru approach. This has pervaded rehab for years but is now on the wane. I agree we need to be open minded about things, but we must base this open mindedness on a plausible rational, or basic scientific principles.

    I disagree about the strength training for endurance sports this has some good scientific proof in elite runners, cyclists and cross country skiiers, it has been shown to improve efficiency in all these sports, even in elite performers and so improves their performance when replacing some of their endurance training.

    With regard to foam rolling, yes is works post exercise to reduce DOMs and so will improve movement from that point of view, science has proven this. Pre-exercise waste of time, same as trigger points, this is a complete can of worms scientifically. In regards to improving flexibility don’t forget muscle and all our soft tissues have the property of thixoprathy, shake them up a bit and they get more extensible, so in “the trenches” a lot of ‘techniques” will seem to improve flexibility in the short term, but if you are doing large compound mobility movements that have an element of static stretching, static stretching and foam rolling all in the same session, session on session what is working? If you don’t care then you are doing your client a disservice by potentially wasting their precious time on fluff, give them the really effective stuff!!

    I am a fan of yoga, pilates and tai chi, they all combine mind body connection of movement, joint mobilising and static stretch components,and all are proven in rehab research to help in low back pain management none more effective than the other.They all having components of what science tells us will help improve mobility!

    I agree with you on the Dan John’s mobility emphasis from reading his works and his blogs. I agree with improving mobility, it is effective in helping improve function as is resistance training, just do it in a way that makes sense and has scientific plausibility! Which brings me nicely back to the bands, as a way of adding additional force to a stretch such as a pec stretch yes they could help, like a partner stretch but not in the rational you present as “decompressing the joint”. A band will not have enough traction force to “jack open” a joint, in addition your proprioceptive organs in your for example shoulder capsule, ligaments and rotator cuff will be activated making your cuff reflexively contract to prevent this. The science on low back traction is very sound it does not work! Banded stretches as lovely as they look are fluff, will you see improvements in mobility/ flexibility from the exercises in your video? You bet, you are statically stretching and moving your joints they will feel great afterwards. As an N of 1 experiment, Just try mobilising your joints (move them), statically stretch without the band, you will feel the same! Try some static traction with the band, bet you feel no improvement in flexibility! So is it the band or is it just the movement/static stretch, step back bigger picture.
    I still rate your programming and like your take on the strength stuff, sensible sound advice like Dan John and Pavel.
    I also love a good debate and a bit of critical thinking!
    Again kind regards
    Mark

  4. mark buckley says:

    Thanks for your response, mine probably seems to oversell the science from your point of view, but that is my background and training! I also work in the “trenches” of rehab of musculoskeletal injury and have done for many years and have a wealth of real life experience/anecdotes etc. to back up my practice, but what I really have to do to benefit my patients is take a step back and look at the bigger picture of what will really help them. This has to be scientific research on large groups of individuals like them carried out in a valid way,otherwise I run the risk of bias and falling foul of believing my approach worked brilliantly when all it was was placebo or regression to the mean or a myriad of other reasons rather than what I did.

    My problem with the fitness industry is the what appears to be blind acceptance of a persons opinion as “this is what we do”, the guru approach. This has pervaded rehab for years but is now on the wane. I agree we need to be open minded about things, but we must base this open mindedness on a plausible rational, or basic scientific principles.

    I disagree about the strength training for endurance sports this has some good scientific proof in elite runners, cyclists and cross country skiiers, it has been shown to improve efficiency in all these sports, even in elite performers and so improves their performance when replacing some of their endurance training.

    With regard to foam rolling, yes is works post exercise to reduce DOMs and so will improve movement from that point of view, science has proven this. Pre-exercise waste of time, same as trigger points, this is a complete can of worms scientifically. In regards to improving flexibility don’t forget muscle and all our soft tissues have the property of thixoprathy, shake them up a bit and they get more extensible, so in “the trenches” a lot of ‘techniques” will seem to improve flexibility in the short term, but if you are doing large compound mobility movements that have an element of static stretching, static stretching and foam rolling all in the same session, session on session what is working? If you don’t care then you are doing your client a disservice by potentially wasting their precious time on fluff, give them the really effective stuff!!

    I am a fan of yoga, pilates and tai chi, they all combine mind body connection of movement, joint mobilising and static stretch components,and all are proven in rehab research to help in low back pain management none more effective than the other.They all having components of what science tells us will help improve mobility!

    I agree with you on the Dan John’s mobility emphasis from reading his works and his blogs. I agree with improving mobility, it is effective in helping improve function as is resistance training, just do it in a way that makes sense and has scientific plausibility! Which brings me nicely back to the bands, as a way of adding additional force to a stretch such as a pec stretch yes they could help, like a partner stretch but not in the rational you present as “decompressing the joint”. A band will not have enough traction force to “jack open” a joint, in addition your proprioceptive organs in your for example shoulder capsule, ligaments and rotator cuff will be activated making your cuff reflexively contract to prevent this. The science on low back traction is very sound it does not work! Banded stretches as lovely as they look are fluff, will you see improvements in mobility/ flexibility from the exercises in your video? You bet, you are statically stretching and moving your joints they will feel great afterwards. As an N of 1 experiment, Just try mobilising your joints (move them), statically stretch without the band, you will feel the same! Try some static traction with the band, bet you feel no improvement in flexibility! So is it the band or is it just the movement/static stretch, step back bigger picture.
    I still rate your programming and like your take on the strength stuff, sensible sound advice like Dan John and Pavel.
    I also love a good debate and a bit of critical thinking!
    Again kind regards
    Mark

    • bikejames says:

      Awesome response, let me make a few quick points of my own…

      First, where does science figure out what to study? The truth is that sports science has discovered very little. Instead, they study what successful coaches and athletes do. They then tell us what the measurements they took told them. This isn’t good or bad, it just is.

      However, this means that someone has to step outside of what is accepted by science and have success for science to know what to study in the first place. This is the problem you run into by only doing what has been proven by science – you never allow yourself the chance to find new and better methods. For example, I’m not sure that there have been any studies on doing 10 sets of 3 reps with decreasing rest each week but I can tell you that it works. And by the time someone in the science world takes time to study it and tell me why it worked I will more than likely have moved on to something else. Tinkering is a big part of the advancement of any field (read the book Anti-Fragile to get a real look at the contributions of tinkerers vs. science over the years) and while I am in no way saying there is no value in knowing and applying what the science tells us, at the end of the day it is those that step outside of those boundaries that really drive us ahead. And that is where the balance between science and intuition needs to come in.

      Second, one of the issues we run into with science is that it is reductionist by nature. You have to single out a single variable and see what changes happen when you manipulate it. But what if the single variables don’t work by them selves but work together synergistically? If I have someone doing foam rolling, stretching and dynamic mobility together in a routine then who is to say that it isn’t the combination of the 3 that is leading to the improvements? Maybe just doing foam rolling or stretching doesn’t work by themselves but together they do more than they can individually.

      With that said, I don’t know exactly what is happening with the banded traction/ stretching but I have done both it and the regular static stretching and I can tell the difference in how I feel afterwards. I have a very beat up elbow that catches and bothers me from time to time and it feels like it can move better after using the band than it does if I just stretch. This is especially true if I add in the movement stuff I showed and don’t just stretch, which is something you can’t do without the band. Maybe it isn’t decompressing the joint space but it is doing something different than just stretching it. And while I know that is just my experience I have also used banded traction in my facility and seen it provide some instant relief and helped people move better and have a higher quality workout.

      Now, I think it is important that I say that I don’t want to come across like I am over-selling the value of banded traction. It isn’t a miracle worker and it isn’t going to make up for a lack of a good overall mobility strategy. It is just one tool that I have in my toolbox and not even one that I use all of the time, just as needed in cases where it is needed. I just wanted to do a video to share it with other riders who might also benefit from it.

      Honestly, at the end of the day if we were discussing this over a beer we would agree on 99% of this stuff. But I do think that tinkering has an important role to play. It is a dangerous path because it can lead to some crazy shit and the “guru” thing you mentioned but it also leads to some major breakthroughs. I think that this mobility stuff is one of those areas that the tinkerers are ahead of the science but we will all benefit when the two get closer together.

      Just my thoughts, thanks for your so far and a good, thoughtful debate is always welcome.

  5. mark buckley says:

    Hi James

    Thanks for your considered response. I do agree that over a beer we would probably agree on 99% of stuff as well! I think it is commendable (and good business sense!) to post interesting stuff on your site that you have found useful in your facility. I took exception to the semantics of your attempt to explain how it may work. This stems from my frustration at seeing on the web and also hearing from patients dubious accounts of how various treatments, exercise techniques, etc. may work to give you a magic boost or cure you of an ill that no one has cured you of before. Often these have no basis or rational in physiology or any other branch of science.

    I agree that science has limits and that “tinkering” as you put it has value. As i said before an open mind is important. However, I see a difference in systematic observation or tinkering and just random stuff because you thought it might work/have seen a cool internet post on it/my mate down the gym swears by it. Not that I am accusing you of any of these!

    Intelligent observation and “tinkering” are the cornerstones of good science. The scientific method as you rightly point out is reductionist, this is the battle cry we hear often from complementary health practitioners. You cannot study our reiki, reflexology, faith healing etc. because it is holistic it cannot be reduced. Yet in the world of rehab. we have the pragmatic RCT. Compare one package of care with another, do not reduce to a single intervention and see the results. You have proposed a great pragmatic study into the most effective way of improving flexibility. No flexibility work, foam rolling, static stretching, foam rolling and static stretching, banded stretching, foam rolling and banded stretches. Control time spent stretching, account for training type, load and intensity and level of previous stretching and of you go, recruit adequate subjects to each group, blind the assignment to groups, blind the assessors and find meaningful, valid, reliable methods of measuring flexibility and potential well being ! However, this would be very expensive and time consuming. This is why the science lags behind in some cases. But basing everything you do on “tinkering” is difficult to justify. Uncontrolled observation comes with significant bias, the obvious one being wanting to able be to prove yourself right! Enthusiastically endorsing a technique may evoke the placebo response in the person it is being applied to so the response to it is not to what is done but to how it is endorsed (buy that carbon fibre 27.5 wheeled enduro sled and slay like a king! After riding it you won’t say its barely better than your old bike and you ride no better on it!) selling placebo is obviously selling snake oil.

    In terms of sports science research check out DeLorme TL. Restoration of muscle power by heavy resistance exercises. Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery 1945 27:645. This i’m sure you will agree has had a very significant effect on how lots of people have and do still train, and check out that publication date!! If you haven’t already, check out Dan John’s “the history of the history” on his blog, he cites even older sports science “research” ( think Greek)

    Going back to banded stretching maybe its the additional force of stretch from the band that helps that is the only rational I can think off that is plausible, thank you for agreeing it does not “decompress the joint” I’m glad you have found something that helps with your elbow pain (have you consulted with a good physical therapist interested in sport and not to over interested in the FMS!)

    Thanks again for the good discussion
    Kind regards
    Mark

  6. mark buckley says:

    Hi James

    Thanks for your considered response. I do agree that over a beer we would probably agree on 99% of stuff as well! I think it is commendable (and good business sense!) to post interesting stuff on your site that you have found useful in your facility. I took exception to the semantics of your attempt to explain how it may work. This stems from my frustration at seeing on the web and also hearing from patients dubious accounts of how various treatments, exercise techniques, etc. may work to give you a magic boost or cure you of an ill that no one has cured you of before. Often these have no basis or rational in physiology or any other branch of science.

    I agree that science has limits and that “tinkering” as you put it has value. As i said before an open mind is important. However, I see a difference in systematic observation or tinkering and just random stuff because you thought it might work/have seen a cool internet post on it/my mate down the gym swears by it. Not that I am accusing you of any of these!

    Intelligent observation and “tinkering” are the cornerstones of good science. The scientific method as you rightly point out is reductionist, this is the battle cry we hear often from complementary health practitioners. You cannot study our reiki, reflexology, faith healing etc. because it is holistic it cannot be reduced. Yet in the world of rehab. we have the pragmatic RCT. Compare one package of care with another, do not reduce to a single intervention and see the results. You have proposed a great pragmatic study into the most effective way of improving flexibility. No flexibility work, foam rolling, static stretching, foam rolling and static stretching, banded stretching, foam rolling and banded stretches. Control time spent stretching, account for training type, load and intensity and level of previous stretching and of you go, recruit adequate subjects to each group, blind the assignment to groups, blind the assessors and find meaningful, valid, reliable methods of measuring flexibility and potential well being ! However, this would be very expensive and time consuming. This is why the science lags behind in some cases. But basing everything you do on “tinkering” is difficult to justify. Uncontrolled observation comes with significant bias, the obvious one being wanting to able be to prove yourself right! Enthusiastically endorsing a technique may evoke the placebo response in the person it is being applied to so the response to it is not to what is done but to how it is endorsed (buy that carbon fibre 27.5 wheeled enduro sled and slay like a king! After riding it you won’t say its barely better than your old bike and you ride no better on it!) selling placebo is obviously selling snake oil.

    In terms of sports science research check out DeLorme TL. Restoration of muscle power by heavy resistance exercises. Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery 1945 27:645. This i’m sure you will agree has had a very significant effect on how lots of people have and do still train, and check out that publication date!! If you haven’t already, check out Dan John’s “the history of the history” on his blog, he cites even older sports science “research” ( think Greek)

    Going back to banded stretching maybe its the additional force of stretch from the band that helps that is the only rational I can think off that is plausible, thank you for agreeing it does not “decompress the joint” I’m glad you have found something that helps with your elbow pain (have you consulted with a good physical therapist interested in sport and not to over interested in the FMS!)

    Thanks again for the good discussion
    Kind regards
    Mark

    • bikejames says:

      I totally agree, tinkering is a slippery slope and resulted in some pretty bad things which is why we need science to come in and help us figure out what is really working. And I also agree that there is nothing new under the training sun, I’ve been reading a lot of old time strong man books and I’d say most people could get more from them than they could the latest “modern” diet and exercise book.

      It sounds like we should have that beer some time, this has been an interesting discussion.

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