As the US Coach, I took our national team to Lithuania for World Championships, and there we met the team from Tajikistan. Their wrestlers were incredibly well conditioned, who shared with me their strength training methods called zurhkane or zoorkhane. One of the methods of this millennia old tradition originating in ancient Persia was club swinging. This confirmed research I had been conducting since 1993 into alternative conditioning methods of Russia, India and turn of the century North America.
In 1993, I unfortunately allowed my arm to be broken at the World University Games in Montreal, Quebec. Submitting ("tapping out") would have cost the USA Team more team points, rather than losing by technical superiority (my opponent won on points.) I managed to finish the match without injury disqualification (if your opponent breaks your limb in Sombo, you lose, but I hid this from the referee). That silver medal was the most important victory of my career, because it taught me the value of "connective tissue strength." My concealment of the injury led to avascular necrosis in my scaphoid: a condition that locked my hand in vice-like pain unable to hold anything. When your sport involves being able to grip a man and throw him to the ground, the inability to hold anything is career ending.
I had no intention of quitting martial art. In fact, 12 years later, I came out of retirement and won the International San Shou Championships at the age of 36, with only 6 weeks to prepare for a fighting sport I had never competed in. How did I do it? Well, all of the conventional approaches failed.
Aerobics, bodybuilding, powerlifting, bootcamp style and so-called functional training each were created within the past 100 years. None of these conventional methods are appropriate for combat sports - which are in my opinion, the ultimate test of physical fitness. As the USA National Coach, I sought out forging a conditioning program that was specifically designed to increase the safety, performance, health and career longevity of myself and my athletes.
With my academic background in physical education, I infused modern sport science into this montage of scattered folk movements in order to create a systematic proprietary system to combative physical preparation. Clubbell® training evolved from the centuries proven tradition of swinging weight in three dimensions rather than lifting it in two dimensions.
I was exposed to kettlebells in the 6 years of training that I did back and forth throughout Russia with the national and Olympic coaches of various combat sports such as Sambo, Boxing, Kickboxing and Fencing. Kettlebells were a middle ground between conventional training and Circular Strength Training®. The kettlebell somewhat displaces its center of mass, but not to the extent of the Clubbell®. The superiorly displaced center of mass of the Clubbell® creates an extreme leverage challenge. The leverage challenge creates positive neurological force production without the injury to connective tissue caused by conventional weights: the greater the actual weight, the more damage to soft, connective tissue (the reason that conventional weightlifters are riddled with soft tissue, joint and spinal injuries.) The displaced center of mass of the Clubbell® (and to a much lesser extent - the kettlebell) allows less actual weight while eliciting superior force production; thus allowing greater heights of strength conditioning, but without the problematic injuries associated with conventional weight-training.
The kettlebell has a conventional handle which rests on the skeletal structure (pulls against the fingers like a dumbbell or barbell), unlike the Clubbell® which distracts (pulls through the grip like a rope swung around one's head, so it must be held with muscular strength alone). The more than actual weight rests on the skeletal structure, and the greater that actual weight is, the more that soft connective tissue (such as around the joints and the spine itself) accumulates trauma. Therefore, since the unique club-like handle pulls through the grip, only muscular contraction can hold the Clubbell®, and thus eliminates the injuries so rampant in conventional weight-lifting (kettlebells, dumbbells and barbells.)
Unlike conventional weight-lifting of kettlebells, dumbbells and barbells where you must increase the weight of the implement in order to increase the force production, the Clubbell® is swung. Swinging weight increases torque. Increasing torque increases force production. Conventional weight lifting is restricted to linear increases of force with increased weight added. Clubbell® training increases exponentially: swinging them twice as fast produces four times the torque. Superior force production means superior strength conditioning in a fraction of the time and without the litany of injuries associated with conventional weight training.
Finally, and most importantly, conventional weight training can only be moved in two planes. This limited range of motion attempts to isolate particular muscles. Isolation, however, is a myth long since debunked. The body is composed of an interconnected myofascial web: a double-bag system. The "inner bag" contains bone and cartilage, and where it 'cling wraps' the bone it's called "periosteum," and over the joints, it's called "joint capsule." The "outer bag" contains an electric jelly we refer to as "muscle" and covering it we call it "fascia" (and other names, but let's keep this simple.) Where that outer bag is tacked down to the inner bag, we call those "muscle attachments" or "insertion points." You see, our bones and joints 'float' in a sea of continuous tension, and our bones act as compressive struts pushing outwards while this 'web' (this double-bag system) pulls inward in a unique balance which Buckminster Fuller named "Tensegrity" (or "integrity of tension.") Clubbell® training is tri-planar: moving through the sagittal, coronal and frontal planes.
By moving tri-planar, the Clubbell® strengthens the myofascial chains across their full range of motion. This increases soft tissue elasticity rather than traumatizing it like the two dimensional movements of conventional weight-lifting. Soft tissue elasticity diminishes as we age and is primarily responsible for most injuries for athletes and the aging: which is why these apparently disparate groups are the Clubbell®'s largest advocates. Moving in three dimension washing the joint capsules with nutrition and lubrication, breaks up fascial adhesions, smoothes off boney profiles (abating osteoarthritis), and distracts the bones (abating osteoporosis). Conventional weight-lifting equipment cannot do this, nor would I endorse attempting to swing kettlebells, dumbbells or barbells as substitutes for Clubbell®s, since the Clubbell® with its protective outer coating and smooth profile was specifically designed for swinging around the body. Swinging kettlebells, barbells, and dumbbells proves disastrous to one's property and one's body.
Yes, you see the obvious development of the arms, shoulders, upper back and chest of Clubbell® training enthusiasts. However, the most misunderstood difference between Circular Strength Training® and conventional weight-lifting is that the Clubbell® is specifically designed to connect the superior force production of torque to one's core. The Clubbell® is truly a mere extension of the body. Every exercise in the CST repertoire is a "core activation" exercise, which is why you see such incredibly powerful abs, obliques and strong lower backs of Clubbell® users. Furthermore, all exercises are full bodily intensive: creating incredibly powerful glutes, hams, quads and calves from the leg drive.
The age of use for Clubbell® training has been from age 4 to 87. Many of my classes are full of "baby boomers" who are looking to become pain free, agile and graceful, as well as strong, powerful and fit. However, my seminars are filled to sold out capacity with doctors, chiropractors, physical therapists, strength coaches, professional athletes, fitness models and personal trainers. There's just no "target market" for Circular Strength Training®. It can benefit everyone.