Physical Culture

Workout for Iran

Anyone who has access to television, radio, or printed news media knows that a struggle is now occurring in Iran, in protest of an injustice against democracy and the will of the Iranian people. There is a lot of ugliness in the news right now, so I hoped to use this blog post to highlight a positive aspect of Iranian/Persian culture to balance the pervasive negativity.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a bit of a fitness and exercise nerd. I like researching the more off-the-beaten-path forms of fitness. That attitude lead me to implements like the kettlebell, which currently makes up 90% of my training. One day while in research mode, I began to take an interest in the Pahlavani tradition of Iran. The Pahlavan figures prominently in traditional folklore, and the sport/martial art of Varzesh-e Pahlavani translates to “Sport of The Heroes.” The traditional Iranian gymnasium within which these warrior arts were undertaken is known as a Zurkhaneh, or “house of strength” and that just SOUNDS cool, doesn’t it?

Here is a good video illustrating some of the exercises and movements of the Pahlavani tradition:

I decided to create a workout based loosely on the movements I’ve seen done and perform it today in honor of the struggle going on in Iran right now. I wanted it to be arduous and tough, and you are welcome to follow along and give it a try too (at your own risk).

The only equipment you will need is a pair of heavy clubs. The Pahlavani swing heavy clubs known as meel, but modern interpretations such as the Clubbells manufactured by Torque Athletic would work. I created my own out of plumbing material, as shown in this video:

I filled mine with sand in the handle, and then steel BBs in the heavier part. I estimate it weighs approximately 10 lbs and thats heavy enough for the rep-range I’m using them on.

The exercises I chose were the Iranian Twisting Pushup, the Hindu Squat, the Club Shield Cast, and lastly, the V-Up. All of these are visible in the video attached above, except the V-Up. I wanted to simplify the workout as much as possible so I deleted the shield-pressing motion you’ll see in the video. However, you’ll notice that the legs are held up above the ground and twisted from side to side, recruiting the core to stableize. So I added the V-Up to involve the core, and considered it a suitable substitution. You’ll note there is no posterior chain or pulling movements, but I wanted to stay true to what I’ve seen on the videos I’ve dug up, so I left those out.

The workout was organized like so:

  • 10 Rounds of the following circuit, with 1 minute of rest between rounds and no rest between exercises.
  1. 10 Iranian Pushups
  2. 20 Hindu Squats
  3. 30 Alternating Shield Casts (15 per arm)
  4. 10 V-Ups

This workout ends up adding up to 100 Iranian Pushups, 200 Hindu Squats, 300 Shield Casts, and 100 V-Ups. When strength and conditioning was required in order to defend your family and homeland, this degree of fitness would be barely adequate. How much we’ve given up!

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