What Muscle Does THAT work? Clueless gym trainee strikes again!

It was destined to happen, and I can’t say that I’m surprised. While swinging my clubbell the other day, I was asked the dreaded question of “What muscle does THAT exercise work?”

Now granted, I get asked this question a LOT. It seems that whenever I set foot into a health club, I get more than one person scratching their head while staring at me through a maze of mirrors. I’ll give them some slack, since most of the exercises I do are unheard of.

Sometimes, I respond with a scapegoat answer like, “I’m working abs.” And other times, I give a lengthy analysis of each component of the exercise. It really depends on the person, and how much I interpret their interest. I always liked Charles Staley’s response to the question. When Staley is asked “what muscle group are you working on?” He will often respond “You know when a quarterback throws a football, and you run to go catch it, and while running you turn around in mid-stride, catch the football, and keep running towards the endzone. THAT is the muscle I’m working right now.”

I never could bring myself to explain that to someone, so I’ll usually settle for saying “It’s a full body exercise.”

In this instance, I was doing clubbell mills, which is a sophisticated movement that requires a chain reaction of muscular contraction and relaxation all throughout the body in one swift movement. The clubbell mill feels like poetry in motion – it’s almost dancelike. Essentially, the clubbell mill is an intricate display of the specific application of strength generated from the legs, and channeled up through the arms and out into the clubbell which has become an “extension” of your body. It’s marvelous in its sophistication!

There is really too much happening in the clubbell mill to explain it point by point, and I’m sure I would lose you quickly. You’ll just have to see it. I filmed this video to get some feedback on my technique. I would rate myself at a 9 out of 10, technique-wise based on my own perception and on the feedback I have received. So, this is generally what a clubbell mill should look like.

Clubbell Mills with John Sifferman

I hope that we begin to shift away from the muscle-specific paradigm of strength training, and begin to adopt a more movement-based paradigm. Muscles are only one part of the puzzle – our health and fitness includes a much broader domain than tissue size and strength.

If I could teach you something right now, it’s that our bodies aren’t made up of different “parts.” We’ve given names to different organs and systems to help us identify them. We have mistakenly assumed that our organs work in isolation, independently of one another – when they actually work most harmoniously as a whole. The same is true of the systems that contribute to athleticism and strength activities.

Put simply, compound exercises are more efficient than isolation exercises. There is a never-ending spiral of sophistication that we can apply to our strength training, and with increased sophistication comes movement efficiency. And that is one of the major themes of this blog – movement efficiency through sophistication.

I’m not sure if our culture is ready to move away from it’s muscle-specific ideals yet, but I hope I never get asked that dreaded question again.

Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!

To your health and success,

Fitness Professional and Clubbell Athlete

P.S. If you would like to purchase your own clubbell, visit the RMAX Clubbell Shop.

One Response

  1. Well said John!

    I get that same thing all the time. What muscle does that work? Duh! If only they had any idea that most exercises work multiple muscles simultaneously unless your some freakish bodybuilder doing extreme concentration curls!
    I only train full body now and yes my biceps have grown despite not isolating them!!
    Compound exercises are the quickest (note:not 5 second ab style quick) way to bigger and better gains in all-round fitness and strength, with out a doubt.

    Keep up the great work


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