Since the first time I ever set hands on a kettlebell and swung it in 2006 I’ve been a constant student on mastering my techniques. Like many, I picked up one of Pavel’s books because there was really nothing else out there during that time. Then, as soon as I had the income to save up for my StrongFirst Kettlebell certification I became even more addicted to kettlebells. Fast forwarding to now, kettlebells are at an all time high popularity and it’s common to hear the title “kettlebell enthusiast.” If you’ve invested thousands on cast iron kettlebells over the years, attended courses, take pride walking around barefoot, can say “comrade!” like Pavel, have your own courage corner (because corporate gyms don’t have real kettlebells)…..congrats, you’re a kettlebell enthusiast.
Now contesting my long love for kettlebells I have to admit my short comings with them…they get boring after a decade of training with them. “It’s NOT you kettlebell…it’s me.” Seriously, it’s really not the tool or the style of training — it’s more so we need new challenges at some point to keep us going in the long run. I found steel clubs (or what some call heavy clubs) in 2015, and during that time I felt I needed something new in my workouts to challenge me. So I want to break down why a kettlebell enthusiast would find steel clubs as a possible interest to invest in. To be clear, I’m posting this article more so that you’ll appreciate kettlebells even more (not less) after utilizing steel clubs like I have.
Steel Clubs Swing Better Outside The Hips
Even before I got into steel clubs I thought performing double kettlebell “skier swings” were down right stupid and dangerous. Why? First, the kettlebell’s mass has a HIGH chance smacking the outside of your knees. Second, to avoid getting hit this causes the knees to cave in (valgus) during the back swing phase. There’s a reason why kettlebells are swung, cleaned, and snatched from inside the hips to better load up the hamstrings.
However, when the steel club’s elongated shape is swung from outside the hips it really feels like you’re loading up into a broad jump because the clubs shape can travel further in the back swing better than double kettlebells. Not only that, with the torch like grip against the handle the wrist laterally extends causing more extension along arms with more range of motion for the outside swing. This the major game changer for swings with steel clubs versus using kettlebells. Watch the tutorial to see the the true difference:
Steel Clubs Are Perfect For Your Medium Lift Days
In StrongFirst we have a saying, “if you have heavy days…you don’t need light days.” This doesn’t mean lift heavy every day, but I’m not sorry saying dancing around with a light kettlebell will not do anything for your strength at the same time (Onnit makes good equipment…not education). So having medium lift days are good days to perfect your technique. What’s great about steel clubs is you don’t need a lot of weight to have a good workout with them. While a 45lb kettlebell maybe be no problem for you…that’s a completely different story with a 45lb steel club. I recommend beginner men go no heavier than 15lb clubs and women go higher than 10lbs with doubles.
A great example for a medium lift day would be windmills. They are a major favorite among kettlebell enthusiasts to attain flexibility, t-spine mobility, and shoulder resilience for lat engagement. Among playing with the steel clubs one day I tried them with windmills and it was more challenging than I thought (especially with doubles). Once again the torch grip is what makes this so tough. With so much stability needed the index and thumb really have to work hard to crush grip the handle. Check out the video tutorial below to see what I mean:
Steel Club Swipes & Kettlebell Snatches Similarities
If there’s any steel club exercise that resembles the kettlebell snatch it’s steel club swipes. What makes the kettlebell snatch technique so hard to learn at first is NOT ripping up your hands (related article: Why Your Kettlebell Snatch Sucks). Having the same finger dexterity to bypass scratching up the meat of the palm is also required for the double swipe. What I also love about swipes is it enforces abdominal bracing from the club’s weight in the accelerated pull over position. So this means your breathing mechanics ALSO have to be on point (just like the snatch).
I hope I gave you, the kettlebell enthusiast, a different look on how to apply what we already know into steel clubs and challenge our skills. If you’d like to learn more about steel clubs and workouts for them I have plenty more articles like Beginner Guide for Steel Clubs and Steel Club Double Workouts linked here. I also have an entire ebook program, GADA Club: Guide for Indian & Steel Club Strength Training, on how to build your skills with them in the education chapters with indian clubs; having 40 workouts split into beginner, intermediate and advanced levels for singles and doubles (all included with over 150+ hyperlinked videos in the PDF file). Be sure to use promo code: GOINGCLUBBING10 to save at check out.