Have you ever heard of clubbells? I had not heard of them until I met Summer Huntington, a new fitness friend of mine, and one of the 15-20 head clubbell coaches in the world. Over dinner at Gemma one night in NYC, Summer told me about clubbells, which inspired me to learn more about them and how they are used in fitness today.
Scott Sonnon, founder of Circular Strength Training (CST), includes clubbell workouts along with several other components as part of CST. I interviewed Summer to get the inside scoop on this under the radar workout program. When she arrived at my apartment to demonstrate and then give me a clubbell lesson, Summer pulled out a small 5lb baseball bat/bowling pin-like object. I had never seen exercise equipment like this before.
Clubbells take their form from ancient Indian wooden clubs that were traditionally used for martial arts and pehlwani wrestlers in India. According to Wikipedia, they were first recorded in ancient Egypt and the Middle East. Later in the 19th and 20th centuries, Indian clubs finally broke out as a popular exercise tool in Europe and the U.S. Wikipedia says, “Indian clubs belong to a category of exercise (and juggling) equipment that was popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in Europe, the British Commonwealth and the United States. They comprise bowling-pin shaped wooden “clubs” of varying sizes and weights, which are swung in certain patterns as part of an exercise program. They can range from a few pounds each, up to special clubs that can weigh as much as 50 pounds. They were used in carefully choreographed routines where the clubs were swung in unison by a group of exercisers, led by an instructor in the front, similar to modern aerobics classes. The routines varied according to the group’s ability and the weight of the clubs used.” Currently Sonnon’s clubbells come in 5lbs to 45lbs.
Check out the photos below, read my interview with Summer, and the watch the video of Summer giving me my first clubbell lesson.
What are clubbells?
Clubbells are a tool used for strengthening arms, core, legs and other exercise. They are one component of a three-winged system called CST, Circular Strength Training.
What are the other two CST components?
Intuflow and Prasara Yoga. Intuflow is a series of joint priming drills. Prasara Yoga in Sanskrit means, “flow beyond thought.”
Who developed CST?
About 15 years ago.
How is it that I have never heard of this before?
They keep it really small to maintain the quality of the instructors. If they teach to the masses it would water down the instruction. It is kind of underground. Only now Scott has just been approached by a mega-company so we’ll see what happens. They have coaches in 68 countries.
Is CST a franchised business or how does it work?
Clubbell coaches start their own studios and teach CST at those locations or to clients privately. There is no franchising but I believe there is a licensing fee if you have your own place at which you teach CST.
How long is a clubbell session?
One session is one hour to ninety minutes.
How much is a session with you?
Between $130 and $180.
Is this an average cost in general?
It depends on geographic location and with whom you are training. Scott charges $2000 per hour.
Tell Me About CST Teacher Trainings.
Coach Sonnan books one to two trainings throughout the world each year. He is flying to Italy today, has trainings in Australia, Japan and many other places. People fly from around the world to attend his trainings. The last training I attended was in Washington State. There were people from Russia, to Brazil, to Europe.
How do people find out about the trainings?
He has a cult following from selling videos and books for the past 15 years. He also has a big online presence. Scott was an expert martial artist and has a PHD in Applied Bio-Mechanics. RMax is the Parent Company and they’ve hired all trained CST employees who do the operational and marketing work.
How many people attend trainings?
Each has about 30-50 enrollments.
How much is training for one person?
I believe $1800 for three days. And you don’t always pass the test and get certified.
How did you get into CST yourself?
I was doing Bikram yoga and was also interested in dynamic exercise. Scott was from the hometown I grew up in, Bellingham. Scott wanted to use me as his model for the exercises for a section of the encyclopedia DVD he was making for CST. That’s how I got started.
Is there philosophical or spiritual aspect to it?
CST is very anti-dogmatic about spirituality. They leave that for the yoga people. CST wants people to find freedom through movement. CST is a practice like yoga. It takes a lifetime to master. There is always continuous evolution of movement and exercises.
Would you say that CST is going through a major growth phase?
Yes, we are going through a huge growth phase. There are many knock-offs now of Indian club certifications and a lot of press about CST coaches being technique fascist. Scott is happy to be that. He answers with, “Technique is fitness. You can only go as far as your form can hold you.” And he is big on regressions too. Scott has taken his trainings to the military.
You have mentioned that you are spearheading an effort to incorporate the use of clubbells into yoga. As a yoga purist, I am curious about this. I keep fitness as fitness and yoga as yoga.
Clubbells with vinyasa is a new venture. It has never been done before.
Why did you decide to integrate clubbells and yoga?
I have been training clients in clubbells on a yoga mat all along because that is how it’s done. I found that certain clubbells helped clients do their yoga postures better too so thought I’d try to integrate the techniques.
I paused Summer here so that we could start my lesson. I find clubbells to be very interesting. The techniques require a lot of focus, discipline, coordination, strength, and flexibility. Learning the positions was challenging at first, but once I did a few repetitions I could immediately sense it getting easier as my body absorbed the information and the movements became more fluid. The next day I was super sore!
Though I enjoy clubbells, they do not present exactly the right workout for my body or me. I tone up very quickly even holding books or washing dishes! The clubbells were too heavy for my comfort and I envisioned my arms and trapezius muscles ballooning up because with weights, they always do very quickly. I called Summer while writing this to ask her if CST clubbells come in lighter weights. She said no but I hope that one day they will make lighter weights for those who bulk up easily or just want light tone. I can envision clubbells being useful to those who really need and want to tone up as well as the other components of CST catching on and becoming a sought-after fitness trend. My biggest concern is that like any rigorous or challenging workout, one could very easily injure themselves in a clubbell workout. Therefore, I recommend only working with the most well-trained teachers and being extra aware of your technique.
As for clubbells plus yoga, when I teach yoga, I leave out all bells and whistles. To me, yoga is yoga, an incredibly body and life enhancing ancient lineage as it is. I do look forward however, to seeing Summer integrate all of her work. Her first video is certainly stunning and alluring to watch and I had a lot of fun making ours!