Why Is Clubbell Training Superior?

The distinction between plate-loading vs. the constant Center of Mass

Scott Sonnon: I would never endorse plate-loaded versions of equipment because I have a few years of experience experimenting with not just plate-loading prototypes, but quite a few “adjustable” apparati which I have described in various articles. In my experience, I found plate-loading equipment to be HIGHLY dangerous for Circular Strength Training®  (CST) for obvious reasons. I could never in good conscience endorse such equipment for CST.

The differences between a “plate-loading” device and the Clubbell® pertain to:


Let me state this simply first – constant Center of Mass (COM) does not necessarily mean fixed weight. Secondly, plate-loading does not necessarily mean adjustable.

Anyone that has done any type of grip/forearm exercise knows that plate increments (2.5 pounds) are too great of a leap for CST. There’s just no way to feasibly get progress in CST using Olympic plates. Years of trial and error showed me this.

Obviously the person who would call the Clubbell® “non-adjustable” has actually never practiced CST at all. If they knew anything about the original Clubbell®, they would know that the grip length was specifically designed to make the implement micro-loading adjustable. The closer that the grip moves towards the knob, the more distant from the Center of Mass (COM), the greater the weight.

On the Clubbell®, your grip can be moved even millimeters at a time to ensure the Incremental Progression that allows for constant development. This prevents the plateaus from the dramatic leap of adding another plate. It took me quite years of design tweaking to create the final evolution in Circular Strength Training®

 – the Clubbell®. It’s simply eons beyond any of the contraptions tried in the past: telescopic extension bells, plate stacked pins, sand loaded balls, et cetera.

Bottom line is this: a strength training implement is only truly adjustable if you can increase the load incremental to your progress. If the addition of another plate is too great of a jump, then that implement is categorically not adjustable. In other words, plate-loadable does not mean adjustable.

I had to create a new design that could continue to be incrementally progressive. So, I threw all of my plate-loading designs into the junk pile incapable of accomplishing the task functionally and safely. My friends and clients saw some of my many various contraptions and can attest to the inherent dangers that plate stack pins cause in CST.

It was during one of my times consulting with an engineer that it dawned on me the benefits of sledgehammer training. With sledges as you continue to pound the tire, your hands slip farther and farther away from the hammer head. The farther from the COM, the greater the challenge. However, when I worked a new swing, or worked on new terrain, or different weather, or partially submerged in water, I would choke up on the handle to learn the new skill. I realized this variable grip depth afforded me precisely the graduated development needed to make it consistently and safely to the next level.

Over the years, this design nuance inspired the long handle (and as a result variable-distance COM) of the authentic Clubbell®. This special handle neck allows anyone at anytime to increase the load by even the most miniscule increments. The long handle design of a secure COM in the Clubbell® is the only truly adjustable weight Circular Strength Training® implement. Anyone that’s swung a stack of plates around their body knows that the diameter makes it impossible to maneuver safely through the exercise without dangerous impact with the body. Yes, I learned this the hard-way.

Obviously if an exercise such as an Armpit Cast requires the implement to move from Back Position into Order Position, in the Back Position the implement must be perpendicular to the ground to keep the arm in its normal range of motion. Due to the diameter of plates, when you swing a stack of plates behind your head, your grip will carry beyond the normal ROM of the shoulder resulting in injury, not to mention the bruises (if not bone breaks) you’ll receive when the stack hits your back. I don’t think I really need to explain this obvious point. I feel very fortunate that none of my injuries were permanent when I experimented with these design types.

This is why years of experimentation and research evolved the smooth profile of the polyurethane coated Clubbell® - the only TRUE “club” for exercising (“bell”).

This begs the point of the protective polyurethane coating Clubbell®

I never intended for all of “this” – I was just creating a piece of equipment for myself. I had no problem investing enormous funds in research and development. It was a fun labor of love creating the safest and most functional apparatus for Circular Strength Training® possible.

Since I trained out of the sanctuary of my own mountain home, I required some protection for the surfaces of my house, even in my gym. The steel caused so many cosmetic and even structural damages to my home (and car) that I realized something needed to be changed or added.

When I reluctantly lent my equipment to friends, it reinforced this need. Most of my clients train out of their home and in professional studios. You need a special place for parking a stack of plates, iron cast or steel lathed device. Obviously the Clubbell® can be placed and taken anywhere and protect property due to its thick polyurethane coating.

Okay, I admit it. I tried initially to keep cost down and create just cast-iron and even lathe club replicas of the old time “bowling pin” design.

After several broke because of falling over on the knob, I consulted with an engineer who apprise me of the failings of single piece units. In single piece units, the structurally weakest point is where the handle meets the knob. After investing too much money in replacing these designs and trying to increase material density, we realized we needed to have the knob as a screw type attachment to the neck.

This leads me to choosing the ball size. I rapidly discovered that small balls have ZERO functional value.

The “gum-drop” handle of old time ‘bowling pin’ designs never went over 10-15 pounds without gaining ball size. Now, since I created a long neck for micro-loading adjustable nature of the Clubbell®, the Center of Mass was distant. Small balls were insufficient to stop the implement from sliding out of even the smallest hands, not to mention larger hands which wouldn’t even feel it disappearing under their grasp. Couple that with some of the polished-handle madness of early designs and I had a recipe for disaster. And that’s just the outward projection of Circular Strength Training®.

We finalized on a special type of knob because it was sufficiently large enough to create a grip purchase which prevents the implement from sliding out of the hand if gripped correctly. It was chosen because its special composition allowed a large purchase without adverse weight increase - in other words, without shifting the constant COM towards the grip.

If you looked at some of the insanity of my earlier creations, you would be compelled to ask me what would stop a plate-stack from pushing down (obviously it’s actually the Earth pulling down) the weight through the grip.

Some miniscule ribbing? Iranian meels had dramatic changes in diameter, but that precluded the ability to make the implements adjustable through changes in grip depth.

Anyone who has used any of the overhead exercises of CST wants a safe and substantial device exterior profile to prevent injury. Polished handled implements slid right up to the plates when holding it in Torch Position over head, or any type of Snatch shock absorption (that is, if I was able to keep it from flying upward in the sky when you snatch it because of tiny ‘gumdrop’ knob designs.)

I finalized on the magnum-shaped design of the Clubbell®, since the rapidly expanding diameter prevented the grip from moving higher. Couple that with the specialized “CRINKLE COATING” grip texture and you can see that the Clubbell® is the best design imaginable.

Okay… the obvious insanity of collars

Folks, this should be right in front of everyone’s eyes. Unfortunately, it was directly in front of mine… because collars failed. Collars were designed for keeping plates from adjusting outward. Collars were not designed to keep plates from falling downward on your head. Like I said, unfortunately, I found out the hard way.

Imagine holding a stack of plates over head. Now imagine the only thing between you and those plates is a collar. This sealed my fate. One cannot safely produce a collared device for moving weight in 3 dimensions, in other words for Circular Strength Training®. Furthermore, since friends and clients had been beginning to ask to borrow my equipment, care and consideration for their safety was my highest priority, so I couldn't in good conscience offer them any sort of plate-loading collared device.

We finalized on a constant center of mass (an internally weighted device) of the Clubbell® to guarantee no product failure from collars ever happening.

Why did we choose metal over wood for the Clubbell®?

Grip security impacts the user in this type of training. Wood absorbs hand oils and the sanding makes the surface smooth. As such, wooden implements do not allow for alterations of grip depth. Wooden bowling pins are fine when doing ultra-light weight movements, but when moving real weight with torque, the poor design of wooden grips become an exercise in lethal projectiles.

Density: most obviously - Can you imagine how large a wooden 25 pound, not to mention a wooden 45 pound version of the Clubbell®? My wooden variants I created early in the evolution of the Clubbell® were impossible oversized in order to meet the needs of functional strength training.

Consistent Center of Mass: Having a consistent Center of Mass (COM) relates to the density issue. Because of the nature of wood grain, it's impossible to keep consistent the constant center of mass from one implement to the next. This created dangerous results when having expectations of the COM from one user to the next and from one arm to the next.

Durability is the other obvious factor. The wooden prototypes that I created over the years (as well as the old "Indian Club" antiques I procured from auctions) remained subject to material inconsistencies - in other words, wood have grain. Any drop, topple or clank caused the grain to create splits in the wood, especially at the neck where wooden variants were most fragile.

Cost: This doesn't even address the cost of producing such large wooden implements coupled with the rate of breakage due to the inherent flaws of wood grain, and you have an unacceptably high cost burden would have to be carried by the consumer.

These reasons obviously were additionally why metal lathing and casting were inferior prototypes as well.

People can create whatever Frankenstein invention they wish. Like I said, I didn't create my "Cadillac" for anyone else but myself initially, and later my close trainees. Only much later, after protracted, convincing argument did I consent to move to making my design commercially available for everyone to benefit from. For me the goal was always the MOST FUNCTIONAL, DURABLE, ADAPTABLE, SAFE, and RESULTS PRODUCING device for Circular Strength Training® possible.

We accomplished that in the Clubbell®, which is why RMAX.tv Productions will always be the original, the leader, and the best source of Circular Strength Training®.

Early on my evolution in creating the Clubbell®, I experimented with many more designs than those mentioned above. Each of these resulted in product failure, personal injury and/or property injury, EXCEPT FOR THE FINAL EVOLUTION of the Clubbell®.

I had no interest in making my “Cadillac” commercial. I wanted the safest, most durable, most functional and most results producing implement I could create for Circular Strength Training®, because that's how I trained. When people began to insist that I make it available to the public, my insistence for safety increased. I would NEVER take a risk on the public with a design I have not thoroughly evaluated and personally experimented with myself.

One company actually did try to "borrow" the Clubbell® name to market their own version of our Clubbell® equipment. Their response to our initial and polite “cease and desist” letter, regarding their infringing use of our Registered Trademark Clubbell® (Reg. No. 2,727,333) was unapologetic and belligerent. They gave us no choice but to immediately engage our lawyers to prosecute the infringement of our trademark.

These minor diversions aside, I’m pleased to see that Circular Strength Training® and the Clubbell® have become so wide-spread and popular that other designs for Circular Strength Training® are coming out of the woodwork. We can only hope that these people have actually invested the time to understand CST and experiment extensively with their design before actually mass producing it and shipping it out to market.

As you know that’s not why I designed the Clubbell®. The Clubbell® is the natural evolution of my desire and effort to design the SAFEST, most FUNCTIONAL, most DURABLE, greatest RESULTS PRODUCING and most ADAPTABLE piece of equipment possible for CST. RMAX.tv Productions did.

This brings me to the dangers of a non-secure COM caused by plate-loading devices

When I first started, Circular Strength Training® , I created quite a few of these prototypes with which to experiment. There’s a rule of thumb with firearms that crossed over: the more moving pieces in a piece of equipment, the greater the possibility for error and product failure (it’s a rule of thumb in fighting as well with number of techniques from which to choose.)

Swinging weight in 3 dimensions like only Circular Strength Training® can, creates unique problems. If the implement's COM shifts because of plate-loading nature, the trajectory of the motion changes. One of several things then happens: you must let go, duck and cover; your body stretch reflexes causing micro-tears trying to restabilize (which it cannot in the extreme ROM of CST); the weight carries outside of a joint's ROM creating injuries (plate-loading devices sidelined me for months with a shoulder injury); and/or you try to change the movement to somehow catch the implement as it follows its new trajectory (dangerous acrobatics). None of these options I found to be fun, obviously.

Anyone that’s ever even bench pressed, the most one-dimensional exercise you can do involving only one half of one plane, knows that plates clang, move, push collars, and change the COM of the press. No one enjoys it when it happens, and it happens with even the world’s most “secure” collars. Now imagine swinging plates and collars over and around your head in circles and other shapes. Doesn’t sound fun, does it? It’s an exercise in stupidity (and yes, stupidity is how I learned not to do it.)

Lifting a water-filled keg over head to stabilize deviating weight is a great exercise. However, you do NOT want to be required to stabilize unpredictable Center of Mass when carrying weight in the extreme ranges of motion of your shoulder. It’s just plain unsafe and why a plate-loading implement could never be used for CST.

The Clubbell certification was extremely informative. As a trainers, we have many approaches to fitness, but being able to implement something as dynamic and beneficial as clubbells just makes the training we can offer that much stronger. The clubbell certification instructed by Coach Jones was great. It emphasized proper technique providing various progressions and modifications to suite a vast range of fitness levels. I am able to use what I learned from coach Jones with any and all of my clients. This certification is a good tool for all trainers to have, or even for those who just want to get a better understanding of club bells in general.  -Tess Kovit

I really like your web site. I forwarded it to a lot of friends who still can't figure out what I'm doing now that I quit the gym. -Robert Cremers

Since learning and getting certified on the clubbell certification months ago, I have had an opportunity to try some of the techniques Ive learned. As a professional MMA fighter, it has definitely improved some of my training routines. I find I have more grip strength, which is needed in my sport. I have also noticed an increase in core strength as well as mobility in my shoulders. Also a useful tool in MMA.

Aside from my own training, I have also started using the clubbell for my more advanced personal training clients. This has been a great way for me to mix up their workouts and make them a little more interesting and fun.

I would like continue learning more clubbell movements and techniques. In a short period of time I was able to expand my training and overall fitness using a tool that has so many dynamic aspects to it. -Joey Bareng

The clubbell certification was great!  I learned a lot of new exercises & combinations that I can use with my clients.  It was very hands on, so i didn't get confused at all and the instructions were very clear as to what we would be learning.  I especially liked the progressions of the movements & exercises because I could use them with my clients who are all at different levels. -Joanne Luat

I found the Clubbell workshop very informative and helpful.  Even though I had a previous certification in the Clubbell system, I learned a lot of new information from Coach Jones.  Some of the teaching progressions and techniques had changed.  I appreciate J Janero's effort to provide continuing education to the staff by bringing in top fitness professionals like Coach Jones.  This keeps all of us current on the latest techniques and developments so that we in turn can provide the best service to the clients.  I would recommend the RMAX Clubbell Certification to all trainers. -Steve Maxwell