My Experience with the Clubbell:
Sports Specific Training
by Tyler Hass
| I recently met with Scott
Sonnon, martial arts champion, expert trainer and the inventor of
Clubbells. Our goal was to use Clubbells to enhance the performance
of a specific skill. We worked on the tennis serve. There are many
misconceptions about sports-specific training, in fact we encountered
a few of them during our meeting.
Scott and I were sitting on the court discussing the various considerations
that must be taken into account when devising a sports-specific
training program. As we were talking, a man from another court walked
over to us, he was curious about the Clubbells and asked us what
we were doing. We told him what they were and how we were going
to use them to enhance tennis performance. Without hesitation, and
I mean none whatsoever!, he picked up a Clubbell and started swinging
it like a baseball bat with both arms. Scott informed him that you
don't want to exactly mimic the sporting action because it will
compete with the coordination you have developed to carry out that
skill with precision. Next, he tried mimicking a serve and told
us that it was difficult to do with both hands. Next, Scott told
him that you don't swing a Clubbell with two hands. Armed with these
two valuable pieces of training info from Coach Sonnon, and forgetting
one of them, he tried to mimic the serving motion with the club.
Yikes! Eventually he started to walk away. But before he could get
away from me, I stopped him, and asked him for a few tennis balls
I forgot to bring my own and we would need them later!
This man's demonstration probably saved Scott about 10 minutes
worth of explanations, so we moved onto the Clubbells. The first
thing we worked on was the basic swing, a basic element of all of
the drills we worked on later. My experience with kettlebells helped
shorten the learning curve with this, however, there are a few key
differences between a Kettlebell swing and a Clubbell swing. The
first and most obvious difference is that the weight swings outside
of the legs, rather than between them.
| Next, there were subtle technique
issues, such as using the rotation of your wrist to initiate the swing
and keeping the shoulder down at the top. Each and every rep is a
challenge with Clubbells, there is no room for complacency. Because
of the leverage and the precarious balance, each rep must be treated
as if you are doing bottoms-up work with a kettlebell. You must learn
to use your whole body as both a stabilizer and a shock absorber,
because to rely on your wrist alone would be far too inefficient and
dangerous. Learning to use your whole body in this manner is a unique
form of proprioception and is one of the most positive effects of
Our experiment to crank more juice out of my serve was the most
interesting part of our meeting. The idea was to have me hit a few
serves, do one rep of an exercise, and then hit a few more serves.
I will not explain the intricacies of the drill I performed, because
the video will do a much better job of putting an image to the terminology.
Anyways, I first cleaned the Clubbell to "order". I
then brought it into the "back" position and took a side-step
out and cast the bell into side pendulum, ending by parking it after
the arm swing subsided. After performing this drill, I picked up
my racket and hit a few serves. I noticed an increase in power after
each set of the exercise, in fact, some of the later serves definitely
would have been aces! One important note of the protocol we used
is that it did not induce fatigue. It was not a "workout"
and I did not break a sweat or even breathe heavily. The goal here
was to optimize my muscle software for power. Since excessive fatigue
contraindicates power, I stayed fresh for the entire duration of
Another important thing to note, as our friend demonstrated to
us earlier, is that the drill we performed did not attempt to mimic
a real serve. Instead, it used movement patterns related to a serve.
This was a much more sophisticated method than other "tennis-specific"
workouts I have seen, which I will describe for comedic value only.
This is the Weider principles in action: tricep kickbacks to simulate
the snapping action of the elbow, wrist curls for a powerful flick
of the wrist, the French press for moving your arm from behind to
front, quarter squats because a real squat is too hard to teach,
and of course a hundred crunches and side crunches. This idea of
isolating each muscle group in the sporting action does absolutely
nothing to contribute to the development of a whole-body, integrated
movement. What I did today was integrated, total-body and sports
specific. Another advantage of the Clubbell is its portability (a
major advantage of the kettlebell as well). Imagine all of those
Nautilus machines sitting on a tennis court
Specific Physical Preparedness (SPP, also called Sports-specific)
is one of the most misunderstood and confusing topics in the training
world, but it is the holy grail of athletic preparation. The Russians
were the first to capitalize on SPP, but fortunately pioneering
trainers like Scott Sonnon, Pavel, Ethan Reeve, Coach Davies, Dick
Hartzell, and a few others understand it and are bringing SPP to
the people. The most advanced training of today is a blast from
the past. It's a good time to be training.