Breaking into the UK market, Danish company Heroic Sport sent me a pair of Pahlavandles to test out on the Shop4 Martial Arts blog. Perfect for strength and conditioning, either solo or in a class situation, see what I thought of the Heroic Sport Pahlavandles in this review.
What Are Pahlavandles?
Pahlavandles are essentially portable Indian Club handles. The beauty of them is that they come in a nice little drawstring bag, are light and can be easily carried into your rucksack or luggage; a bit hard doing that with one-piece Indian Clubs or other weights such as dumbbells or kettlebells. To turn them into actual Indian Clubs which you can use, screw each plastic Pahlavandle onto the end of a plastic drinks bottle. The drinks bottles must use the traditional, deep screw-on cap, not the shallow ones which some water bottles have. Bottles containing Coke, Pepsi, Fanta etc are usually good – I use a pair of little 500ml Coke ones for my Pahlavandle club workouts. The maximum volume of bottle you can use with these Pahlavandles is 1.5 litres.
As the Pahlavandle is a handle only (it actually translates to Heroic Handles), you can choose whatever you want to go into the bottles for the weight, for instance water, sand or rice. Each will give a different weight so you can experiment with what suits and challenges you. You can choose to fill your chosen bottles up partially or fully with your chosen contents and when you decided to ‘upgrade’, as it were, you can simply change material contents or screw on a larger bottle.
When screwing the Pahlavandles onto the bottles, it’s important to make sure it’s a tight fit. I use water in mine so I fill them to the top, screw on the handles nice and tight and then give them a squeeze to ensure there’s no air or water escaping as that could cause the contents to leak. The cap off the bottles can be screwed onto the base of the Pahlavandle so you can replace the cap on your bottles when you’ve finished with the weights or if you decide to change to a different weight bottle.
Who Created The Pahlavandle?
Co-owned by Ron Bader and World Champion Kettlebell lifter, Thierry Sanchez, Heroic Sport Pahlavandles were created by Ron after he suffered life-changing injuries after falling from scaffolding in 2009 which severely affected his body, mind and fitness. After meeting Thierry, who commissioned him to make some wooden Indian Clubs for his classes, Ron took up club swinging to improve his physical strength and coordination and quickly benefited from the exercise.
The idea of the Pahlavandle came from the awkwardness of trying to obtain varying weighted clubs and also the concept of an adjustable club that could be used by young people and beginners as well as more experienced Indian club swingers. This resulted in the creation of the Pahlavandle.
Using the Pahlavandles
Prior to using the Pahlavandles, I’d been experiencing a tight right shoulder for a number of years. As a grappler, this affected my performance when training and sparring as a chicken wing, v-arm lock or head-and-arm triangle would usually come on a lot quicker than I’d like. Tapping early due to your own body giving up instead of the submission being applied properly isn’t always the most beneficial for either yourself or for others to drill technique, as it gives a false sense of how quickly a submission may be applied when in fact more torque or movement may be required for those with ‘normal’ flexibility.
With my shoulder limitation very much at the forefront of my mind, I decided to do some simple “windmilling” with my arms during my first session with the Pahlavandles; holding a club in each hand and rotating my arms forwards and backwards. With a crunch-crack-crunch, my shoulder groaned but freed up as I continued with the rotations. It immediately felt looser and after a couple of sessions of doing this technique and others, my shoulder was completely mobile! No tightness and no pain either. I suddenly regained a full range of motion in all directions that I’ve not had for years.
Going to the gym and grappling with my teammates following the Pahlavandle use, I can now withstand people putting submissions on me without tapping prematurely through pain. It almost brought me to tears because I must have been suffering from this for a good 4 years and all it needed was a bit of weighted rotations to free it up. Just for this fact alone, Pahlavandles have won me over. But it didn’t stop there…
As someone who enjoys martial arts, be it grappling, Ju-Jitsu or Muay Thai, I was interested in how the Pahlavandles could be used to help my martial arts game. In the past, I’ve experimented lifting weights in a certain way to replicate movements I would use in these arts, such as lying on my back and bridging using dumbbells which represents my opponents weight and gi lapels.
The style of grip used for Pahlavandle Indian Clubs, and the fact that the weight is at the end of the handle, allowed me to use different movements, swings and techniques which weights like medicine balls and dumbbells simply wouldn’t allow me to do. This opened up a lot of creativity on my part as I could practice certain slices with a double handed grip on my 1.25 litre bottle to replicate katana/bokken cuts and katas. Alternatively, using a pair of lighter 500ml bottles, I took one in each hand and simulated a double lapel throw as I would do in Ju-Jitsu; this really made my forearms pumped! Again, using two bottles allowed me to simulate Muay Thai upwards elbow shots as well blocking and parry kicks using a downward block motion. The list of techniques that replicate martial arts movements is endless! The beauty of this is that it builds up strength in those muscles you use when performing these techniques normally with a weapon or with another person. For instance, with the throwing techniques, I’d usually need another body to practice but with the Pahlavandle clubs, I don’t.
As a novice when it comes to actual Indian club swinging, my form isn’t that great and I needed help on where to properly start with swinging routines outside of my own ideas. I downloaded some Indian Club drill videos from the Heroic Sport website that feature Thierry explaining and showcasing a variety of techniques that can be used to improve grip strength (great for grappling!), shoulders and legs. These videos and PDF guides, coupled with some of the videos on Youtube, have been enormously helpful in understanding posture and technique and I look forward in continuing to build on this by improving my positioning and form to get the most out of the exercises.
When training with the Pahlavandles, I usually do about 20 reps of each technique during a workout and my strength has most definitely improved. My forearms, triceps and biceps have increased in size and I’ve been able to increase the weight I use from when I first started.
Heroic Sport Pahlavandles are a remarkable piece of kit that I can’t recommend highly enough. The fact they can be carried around in your handbag or rucksack means you can easily take them travelling with you and continue your club swinging wherever you go, whether you’ve gone on holiday, gone camping, to the beach, whatever. You can’t really say the same with other weighted gear such as dumbbells or kettlebells. Even the proper Indian Clubs are too heavy and large to actual take with you anywhere, so these Pahlavandles are perfect!
I also like the fact that using Pahlavandles, instead of one-piece Indian Clubs, you can adjust the weight to suit you. With all other types of weights, you’re limited to the weight you’ve purchased, that’s if it’s an Indian club or kettlebell. If you’re using dumbbells, you have to lug around different weighted discs and purchase those discs which come at a cost. The Pahlavandle only requires water bottles of which there are plenty of those available at a low price and you’ll probably end up drinking the contents too. Win-Win! Then it’s simply a case of using your choice of filling, be it water, sand, rice, etc, and adjusting the volume accordingly. If you find it’s becoming too easy and you require more of a challenge, all you have to do is just buy a bigger bottle!
What really is the clincher for me, apart from its genius design and adaptability, is the workout it provides your body and the flexibility it restores. I’ve definitely seen improvements to my range of motion and strength and best of all, it’s so easy to just do a 10-20 minute session per day without it cutting into your life.
These Pahlavandles are great for solo training but their application would make for a brilliant strength and conditioning class for martial arts instructors or personal trainers. Though great for overall fitness, I feel there’s real benefits for martial artists to use these to build up their strength, flexibility and mobility in their joints. Since using the Pahlavandles, I now can’t see myself without them and will most definitely be taking them on my travels to ensure I can continue my training wherever I go.
Pahlavandles are available from Heroic Sport.