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Lost Arts: Clubbing

How long have people been using modern loadable barbells to get in shape? Maybe 100 or so years, if we are being generous. How long have we, as a species, been swinging big ass heavy shit around as preparations for war? Literally time untold. We know more these days but that doesn't mean we are putting that information to use.

Forbidden bonk.

Background & Aesthetics

I think the first big club in recorded history was Sharur, the club the Mesopotamian god Ninurta used to bash Asag (some big ass monster so ugly that he could boil rivers by looking at them) and his crew of rock monsters. I think the most important tool of bashing, mythologically speaking was the olive wood club Heracles carried to beat his way through multiple ancient enemies. Why am I talking about mythology examples of clubs and races? I want you to understand how old this tool is, and how it could have possibly been the first thing that was used for violence. And through that knowledge, activate some deep-seated subconscious chimp brain axion in order to do big man shit. But truly if you look at mythological examples you'll see the development of the ancient physique aesthetic. Through art and sculpture, we see the musculature that ancient people deemed important (I'm talking mostly Greek/Hindu art here). We see a big neck and upper back from picking things up, rowing, and chopping motions. We see moderate delts for endurance in the shoulder socket, and a smaller but defined chest. We see moderate biceps but large triceps (a defined long head as it applied to overhead extensions, like throwing spears or extending the elbow with a club/sword/ax), and forearms that are almost the same size as the upper arm (grip is important). All of these things, chest size notwithstanding, are all still fairly well respected in the modern male body, but this is where things start to differ. The ancient ideal for the midsection wasn't a small wasp waistline, but a big blocky trunk with huge obliques from carrying shit around all day. Big glutes, hamstrings, and calves were also an ideal that no longer really applies in the modern-day. When you get to thinking about it, the muscles that were most developed and ideal in ancient times were the "Go" muscles: lats, core, triceps, forearms, glutes, hams, calves. Sounds like deadlifts, pullups, dips, and farmers walks to me; but I digress.

Motions & Muscles

The plane of motion most people work in is the sagittal plane of motion, that being front and back type stuff like pressing and rowing. The motions used in club or gada work is in the transverse plane, or a rotational type movement. Why is this important? It's a plane of motion regular barbells can't train and that most people never ever work in their life. Why am I bombarding you with history and anatomy? Both of those things are cool, that's why. Rotation occurs in most life skills that require you to throw an object, person, or punch. Anti-rotation, the resisting of rotation is also a byproduct of these implements and that's needed for carrying offset loads, which is arguably one of the most important human skills since you rarely have balanced loads you need to carry. Let's get into the muscles these things work, and I'll relate the motions to exercises you probably know. So let's take the basic casts for example. In both your hands go from around sternum level, around your head and back. The initiation of the movement is somewhat like a clean and press: you're hitting your biceps, delts, and traps. Then anytime you have the elbow going from overhead to the side of your body (like a pullover) you're working your lats and the long head of your triceps. Let's not forget the death grip you have to have on these things to keep them from spilling off and murdering your neighbor. Or the fact you have to maintain a plank-like brace at peak rotation. So when you get down to it, swinging heavy shit around works your whole upper body, midsection, and some lower body for stabilization. Not only that but you're stretching your thoracic spine (great for overhead mobility), learning to deal with a lateral load on your spine (I think this is important, and it sounds cool), and you are tractioning damn near every upper body convective tissue.


Stop bitching about not having a gym. Build one of these and get ox strong. There are hundreds of ways to make a mace or clubs. I'm not gonna explain every which way to do it but I will include some images and one or two links. The old iron pipe in the local hardware store is a good and simple way if you have plates.

If you don't have plates here is an awesome link to homemade traditional concrete gadas.

I've even seen people look for thrift store bowling balls, expand the thumb hole, and fit a pipe into it with epoxy.

Pretty dope, ngl

I wanna shill for Chris Duffin for a moment. If you don't know who he is, just know he is the first man to pull 1000lbs for 2 and squat 1000lbs for 3. Yeah, he is a strong guy. Well, he swears by maces and he designed a top of the line knurled Olympic plate loaded one called a Shoulderok. If you have the cash it's the best money can buy.

Clubs, depending on the weight you want, can be made out of iron pipe as well.

Parts (main pipe):

Parts (main pipe):

  • 1" steel nipple end cap.

  • 10" x 1" steel nipple pipe.

  • 1.5"-1" steel nipple bushing

  • 2"-1.5" steel nipple reducer

  • 8" x 2" steel nipple pipe

  • 2" steel nipple coupling connector

  • 2" x 2" steel nipple pipe

  • 2" steel nipple end cap.

Parts (inside weight pipes - fit inside each other):

  • 12" x 1.5" steel nipple pipe

  • 12" x 1" steel nipple pipe

  • 12" x .5" steel nipple pipe

And if all this fails and you can't/won't build something there is always ordering some online from whoever's is doing fringe athletics these days. Psst: Wolf Brigade.

Exercises and Such

I'll get right to it: don't do dumbass Onnit workouts with your mace or club. Overhead pressing or rowing your mace looks retarded and is retarded. "Flows" are generally even worse. You're lifting weights not at baton practice. For the mace: 360 swings and 10 to 2 swings are the most important. Clubs however you have a lot more to work with. You have the 360 (shield cast) and the 10 to 2 (gamma cast) with clubs but also pendulums (inside and out), and the big daddy: Mills (reverse and regular). There are other exercises you can do that rely on the leverage of maces/clubs, and by all means, try them out, but focus on these. Now if you have a load of these things have sets and reps in the higher numbers (20+), but if you only have one or two, and progressive overload is hard to figure, just use the density method. 20 minutes with a heavy club or mace will give you a new outlook on life. Now, where to add this into your workout. I've struggled with this for some time now: what muscle group should this fall under? And I think I finally decided, shoulders or for me a push day. I will use my heavy mace for a big shoulder lift or I will use my light mace in lieu of raises, but this is just me. If you feel this more in your back, by all means, put it on your back day as upper back work instead of shrugs or something. Although I warn you against replacing rows or pull-ups for swinging unless this is all you have.

For exercise demos I recommend the following on YouTube:

  • Paul Taras Wolkowinski (very traditional)

  • Mark Wildman (stuntman trainer)

  • Rik Brown (MyMadMethods on youtube. He’s literally called the maceman)

And for sure subscribe to Greg Walsh out at Wolf Brigade and Kyle Helsper, two cool fucking dudes who are hard as nails and stronger than hell. They have also forgotten more than I will ever know about this stuff, so please show them some support.

Greg makes awesome maces fyi


Swing heavy weight, become greater.

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Helter Skelter
Helter Skelter
Apr 06, 2020

Good write up.

I like to get in a good heavy mace/club workout when doing a shoulder day.

I also like light breezy workouts on Deadlifts days and martial arts days for getting the shoulders activated

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