If you’ve been to a Clubbell Athletics workshop or certification, you know the formula for solid Clubbell mechanics. The 7-Key Components of Clubbell Structure are the primary focus of our work. Every now and again, it’s important to return to the basics, re-fortify foundational elements, and capture deeper learning along the way.
In that spirit, we offer this review of our foundation, the 7-Key Components of Clubbell Structure. They are:
- Crown to Coccyx Alignment
- Shoulder Pack
- Arm Lock
- Grip Confirmation
- Core Activation
- Hip Recruitment
- Leg Drive
Crown to Coccyx Alignment
“Long Spine” involves 3 elements to maintain the natural, spring-coiled S-curve of the spine under load:
- Chin down but not tucked – crown lifted. (Cervical) There should be a backward surge of the head and an upward pitch of the top of the skull in order to bring the head into anti-gravitation. Under load we tend to elicit the Moro reflex, and jut the chin outward, translating the neck forward, and rotating the crown down crunching the base of the skull into the neck. The nervous system is a neurochemical highway, and when we pinch off part of the thoroughfare, we reduce our neural drive and decrease our proprioception (balance, kinesthetic awareness, position sense, and tension activation.)
- Heart lifted, chest down, ribs shut. (Thoracic) Under load we tend to over-mobilize the mid-back to over-compensate for strength deficits when weight is too heavy or speed too fast, or due to adjacent joint tightness forcing the mid-back to move. Imagine lifting your heart toward your chin as your chin drops down, but simultaneously packing your solar plexus downward and clamping the sides of your ribs toward your hips. You’ll need to exhale (which correlates to Core Activation.)
- Tailbone down, not under. (Lumbar) Tailbone tucked suffices as a cue but some people suffer too much tuck (kyphosis) and others too much arch (hyperlordosis). People with too much arch really need to tuck, but people with pre-existing structural tuck should imagine pointing the tailbone down toward the Earth to maximize the appropriate angle. Under load we tend to exaggerate arching or rounding the lower back, destabilizing it and forcing it to bear weight; primarily due to adjacent joint tightness (in hips), or lacking sufficient strength for the weight or speed of the lift. Decrease weight or speed until this critical cue locks in.
This “Closed Packed Position” involves stabilizing the shoulder blades (scapuli) so the spine can carry the weight of the lift, and not the soft tissues of the shoulder girdle. Depress or drop the scaps down toward your hips by pulling your shoulders down. Don’t pinch your shoulder blades together. Roll them back until perpendicular to the ground. Under load we tend to allow hard-wired fear reflexes to elevate the shoulder blades, carry the weight or speed of the motion in the locomotive soft-tissues rather than by the skeletal chassis. These active cues used in each repetition will guarantee that the entire body resists the forced rotation caused by the weight.
Arm Lock involves 4 primary configurations:
- Guard Position: Keep forearms perpendicular to upper arms, forearms at a right angle to each other. Top gripping forearm pinched to ribs, bottom gripping forearm tight to belly. When shoulders are tight, scaps are winging forward or tipping backward, and elbows destabilize away from ribs, causing weight to be carried by the small delts. Actively flare the lats and pull the tricep into the cobra fold of the lat, drive the elbow down to the rib and pinch to the ribs to transfer the force through the skeletal chassis to resist rotation.
- Order Position: Same arm configuration as Guard position, except Clubbell is positioned along centerline instead of off to one side. Connect elbows tightly to ribs. Flare lats and engage triceps by actively pulling two hands in opposite directions.
- Back Position: Keep the top gripping forearm as close to the head as possible, like performing a rising elbow strike or boxer’s cover, tucking the elbow toward the forehead, and forearm above the ear. The opposite forearm should remain perpendicular to it. If shoulders are tight, then it may force the elbows to flare outward and carry the load on the rotator cuff, and cause the mid-back to arch.
- Flag Position: Elbows should be locked by tricep tension, and externally rotating the elbows outward, trying to turn the elbow “pits” toward the sky – elbow “points” toward the Earth, and trying to pinch the chest/pecs flexed. If rotators on shoulders are tight, then elbows pits may not turn upward, and continue to face each other. This means the elbows destabilize and the weight or speed of the lift gets carried by the soft tissue and can lead to elbow tendonitis. All swings should be performed with full flag lockout to prevent injury and to use the whole body to swing the weight.
Grip Confirmation includes the actions of aligning the wrist to sustain traction and on regulating the gripping configuration of the fingers. Wrists should be aligned with forearms “flat” so that you don’t exceed flexion or extension, or deviate with lateral bend, just like you would want your wrist alignment to throw a punch. Tightness in the forearm flexors can cause you to excessively curl the wrist, and tightness in forearm extensors cause you to bend back the wrist when holding and swinging weight. Grip should not be a death-tight hook like on a barbell deadlift or a strict pull-up, but should change tightness depending upon the angle the weight gets swung or lifted. When swinging the Clubbell, the wrists, like holding a fencing epee, tilt thumbs forward in saber grip, meaning that the pinky pulls tightest backward, while the thumb pushes forward and downward. But in Back Position, the thumb and forefinger pinch strongest, like making a tight “OK” sign with your hand, while the pinky side of the hand is used to help push through the rotation.
Core Activation requires its own dedicated address of content, but involves a process of “crushing the can” of the core:
- Cinch in the transverse abdominus (your corset) by bringing naval toward your spine, but without “hollowing” and sucking your naval upward to your chest; and cinch in your intercostals and serators (the belt around your solar plexus). You must exhale.
- Crunch down the rectus abdominus (your 6 pack), ribs toward pelvis without rounding the mid-back and crunch down obliques and quadratus lumborum (your lateral line) from ribs toward hips. You must exhale.
- Pull up the pelvic floor (your Kegel, perenium, anus, urinary muscles) to “lock” and prevent leakage of power out the bottom of the can.
To crush the can, you exhale and push down, cinch tight, and pull up. Simple, but not easy. Practice. You’ll improve with practice, even if only practicing one cue at a time.
Hip Recruitment includes 4 critical elements to combine the rotation of one hip with the other. If the hips are tight, then the lower back is forced to destabilize: rotate and twist leading to potential dangers; or the knees are forced to rotate outward or buckle inward to accommodate the hip tightness.
- Double Hip Snap: Pelvis pushed completely forward with full hip extension, and knees locked.
- Side Hip Snap: One hip pressed forward to extension, usually rotating inward for side-swings of the Clubbell.
- Sit-Back: Folding at both hips so that belly comes toward thighs without mid-back rounding, sitting backwards as if to sit down in a chair.
- Side Hip Root: Folding at one hip like Sit-Back, but rotating backward at an angle as if sitting back in a chair at a 45-degree angle behind you.
Leg Drive addresses the downward pressure pushing the Earth away to compel the swing, to resist the forced rotation the Clubbell’s inertia attempts you to take, and to revolve and absorb the Clubbell during moments of its free-fall through the exercise. If the ankles are tight, your knees may be forced to track outward or inward, or more often, they tilt your foot inward (inversion; falling arch) or outward (eversion; over-treading), and prevent from tapping into the optimal pressing power of mid-foot drive. Pushing the Earth away from mid-foot “grounds” you most effectively, and allows you to attain anti-gravitation. As the Clubbell swings, it attempts to pull you off of mid-foot, to the inside arch and outside foot sword as well as onto your heels or balls of feet. Resist the rotation, and maintain optimal leg rooting and drive into the Earth.
We understand it can be overwhelming to focus on so many nuances all at the same time. Pick one or two that need the most work and make those your training mantra until they become second nature. Then move on to the next. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. And remember, there is no such thing as perfect technique, only perfect practice.