Ancient Hindu Exercises

Let us now talk something about the ancient Hindu exercises that was used by Hindu warriors in the ancient times and still used by the pehlwani wrestlers even today in the northern India and some parts of Pakistan.

There were certain specific exercise equipment and methods used by ancient hindus. One of the most prevalent was Gada, or, mace; which is very prominently seen being held by even Lord Hanuman of the Ramayana times. During the ancient times the hindu warriors will wake up early. They would engage in gada or mace practice, along with wrestling, archery, and swordsmanship. Warriors would swing heavier versions usually made with a bamboo stick having a heavy stone at one end, besides dueling one another with gadas. Ancient hindu warriors were some of the fiercest of the ancient world due to their rigorous physical and tactical training.

Gada training didn’t catch on in the western exercise enthusiasts until very recently even though the Indian Club enjoyed popular use amongst them as early as the 19th century. In recent times the mixed martial artists have taken up heavy mace training as a way to strengthen muscles involved with throwing the opponents to the mat. As the mace provides an amazing full-body workout the functional fitness and natural movement practitioners have also taken to it.

Ancient Hindu Exercises - Akharas

The most popular ancient hindu exercises were popular amongst the ancient hindus and especially unique to the Indian wrestler’s training were (and are even popular today):

  • Gada (mace swing)
  • Jori (club swing)
  • Dumbbell swing
  • Dand (often referred to as hindu pushup)
  • Bethak (often referred to as hindu squat)

Many other exercises are part of a wrestler’s program. Some are equally unique, such as the Sumtola (log-shaped Indian barbell) and Gar Nal (stone neck rings), while others are commonplace in gyms around the world, such as barbell and dumbbell exercises, and callisthenics, such as pull ups and dips.

True Minimalist Fitness

The gymnasiums of Akhara are of pure minimalist design; nothing fancy or flamboyant. They have earthern floors, no fan or air conditioning units, rarely any mirrors, no sound systems. Very few have a water pump for meeting the rehydration needs of the enthusiasts, and / or, practitioners. The ancient hindu exercises practiced in the akharas use an equally Spartan equipment. It is constructed from clay, stone, bamboo poles, wood and iron. This is fitness stripped to its most bare and naked form.


Rarely one will hear the clanking and clashing of heavy iron or the screams for “one more rep”. Egos are left at the door as the Akhara is also a temple to the god of strength – Hanuman. This god has a statue and / or shrine at each and every Akhara, which also includes some of the modern gymnasiums. As such, each Akhara is by definition a holy place and is treated as such by all who enter.

The exercises that are listed can be considered as some of the core exercises of the Indian wrestlers’ workout regime, which is followed even today. Not all are necessarily performed in a single workout by any single wrestler or people doing exercises in the traditional exercises in the small towns and villages of India. These exercises are dictated by the guru of the concerned Akhara (the chief – who usually is also an ex-wrestler or champion). The exercises are also dependent on how the trainee feels or wants to accomplish.

Ancient Hindu Exercises – Gada (Mace)

The gada has an appearance of a giant lollipop.  It is a roughly constructed strength tool consisting of clay, cement, or stone with a bamboo pole which could be over a meter long inserted into its center. The gada has been in use in India since ancient times, and was used as a weapon in earlier period. It was employed as a training tool to increase a warrior’s battle prowess. This gada is now mainly used for increasing and practicing for strength in Akharas. The main movement employed is the rumali or head move.

  1. The Gada is swung from between the legs to gain momentum, and then launched over the shoulder to begin the Rumali.
  2. Catching the momentum, the head of the Gada is then swung in in a pendulum arc behind the body before being pulled up and over the shoulder, pausing momentarily before being sent back over the opposite shoulder.
  3. The arcing movement is used again to achieve the same result on the opposite side. This is repeated for the desired number of repetitions.

The Gada, if used correctly fully engages the core musculature and is a great tool for developing grip, back, and shoulder power. It was the weapon of choice for Hanuman and has been shown in all the depictions of him symbolizing strength and power. It is very vividly mentioned in detail in the ancient texts Ramayana and Mahabharata.

Ancient Hindu Exercises – Jori (Clubs)

The heritage of Jori comes from warfare, and they are clubs used as a pair. There was a cultural exchange with the Persians who invaded North India many centuries ago, due to which there have been parallels with the Iranian clubs or Meels. It takes great skill and coordination to wield Jori effectively, and it is an exhilarating experience once understood.

The move by Jori is also called as Rumali (head move).

From the ready position, the Jori is swung over and away from the shoulder in a large semi-circular arc over one shoulder. The Jori that is in motion is pulled cleanly over the shoulder to rest on the upper chest, the arm pulling it down and away. At the point of contact the second club will be swung, replicating the movement of the first.

The movement is done for repetitions. It is a particularly good exercise for the grip, shoulder girdle, back, chest, and torso. It is a full-body exercise that requires timing and a high level of concentration. It also makes you feel like a true warrior!

Ancient Hindu Exercises – Dumbbell Swing

During the couple of centuries British rule in India the dumbbell swing evolved very much. A cross-pollination of physical culture took place. The British saw values in the club training of the Indian wrestlers. The dumbbell swing was known as Indian club swinging after the British modified it to suit their own needs and took it to their country. In more of an intricate gymnastic fashion, the modified version utilized smaller clubs.

Meanwhile, the Indian wrestlers adopted the dumbbell to fit in with their current training paradigm. The circular dumbbell swing, or cast, mirrors the Jori swing. Whereas the Jori is swung from the rear to the front, the dumbbells are swung from the front to the back. This makes them highly complementary to each other, in keeping with the holistic approach taken in Indian physical culture.

Rotate the cleaning of dumbbells at the waist firing one bell across your center in a semi-circular arc after cleaning them to the shoulder. Allow the weights momentum to carry through. Rotate your torso, using it as a counterweight.

The dumbbell should be pulled in back to the clean position quickly as it reaches the opposite side, dipping the knees to absorb the force. For repetitions it should be repeated with the opposite dumbbell. This exercise hammers the upper back and is great for the grip. Especially when the weights are increased it can get draining very quickly.

Ancient Hindu Exercises – Baithak (Bethak or Hindu Squats)

Baithak’s called as squats helps in gaining the thighs muscles, as lower part should be the strongest to support the upper body of human being. If the lower section is not strong enough to support the upper section, that can lead to collapsing of body, or sometimes it can cause crushing of bones. Squats does not require any machine or money expenditure; what It only requires is your dedication. It also helps in growing of abs muscles, specially at the lower abs.

The lower parts should be the strongest to support the body. Thus baithaks called as squats helps in gaining the thigh muscles. Sometimes it can cause crushing of bones or lead to collapsing of body if the lower section is not strong enough to support the upper section. Squats require only your dedication, and not any machine or money expenditure. It also helps in growing of abs muscles, especially at the lower abs.


Ancient Hindu Exercises – Hindu Push-ups

The Hindu push-up starts from the “downward dog” yoga position and transitions to a “cobra pose” yoga position. It is also known as a Hanuman, judo, or dive bomber push-up. It is common in Indian and Pakistani physical culture and Indian martial arts, particularly Pehlwani.

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