Staffs, Staves, and Sticks: Exercises with a Bar is a trilogy of books from Internal Force Fitness that details exercises you can perform with a simple bar. Whether you want to call it a staff, a stick, a stave, a wand, a pole, or a rod, you are simply going to perform some movements using a length of UN-weighted metal, wood, or plastic.
Using a Bar for Exercise
I’m emphasizing that the bar (or whatever you wish to call what you are using) must be UN-weighted purely because of the number of ‘gimmicky’ devices there are out there (check out ‘weighted aerobic bar’ results HERE). Or then again, perhaps you’re thinking of acting on a natural desire to ‘speed things up’ by using weight. The value in the bar is as an alignment tool, and in my view, something to focus and/or entertain the mind. For this reason, literally, all you really need to do exercises with a bar is a broom handle or a piece of dowel from a hardware store (which is what I use for some of the exercises, it cost me a little over $5).
Which Bar Exercise Routine is Right for Me?
There are a huge variety of exercises you can do with a bar, and while it would be impossible to cover ALL of them, even in three books, most of what you might see elsewhere are just variations of what are included in these three texts.
Regardless of your fitness goals, however, exercising with a bar is going to help! All you really need to do is decide what type of exerciser you are, and how much effort you’re prepared to put in.
Broom Handle Exercises for Strength and Fitness
If you’re new to the world of exercising with a bar, then a good book to start with would be Broom Handle Exercises for Strength and Fitness. This covers the absolute basics of exercising with a bar and explains seven basic exercises (plus some variations) that will give you a full workout using only a broom handle. Even at 6’ 2”, I can perform all of the broom handle exercises using only a normal length broom handle.
Scout Stave Exercises for Strength, Dexterity & Agility
Stave Exercises for Strength, Dexterity & Agility is also suitable for beginners but offers you a look at some different exercises you can do with a bar. This book is based around a routine from a vintage Scouting manual, and I think offers a vital extra step to keeping working out with a bar interesting: Imagination. I mention in the book how some of the movements with the bar can be improved by imagining you’re poking an enemy in the eye or fighting off some marauding Orcs, and to me at least this kind of mental imagery really makes a difference.
There are twenty-two exercises in this course (before you baulk at that, some of them are really simple, and will take only seconds to perform – they merely serve as warm-up exercises), and your whole body is going to get a good stretch! These exercises are also going to help coordination and reflex action. Again, you can just about do these exercises with a normal broom handle, certainly if you’re a few inches shorter than me. A slightly longer pole will serve you well with these exercises, however, perhaps by 12-15 inches.
Staff System of Exercises – Stavsystemet
Finally, there is the Staff System of Exercises or Stavsystemet as it was in the original Danish. In this translation of a classic Danish text, we’re going to raise the bar slightly (sorry…)! For this routine, you are going to need something more akin to a staff for exercising. I purchased a piece of dowel from a hardware store for around $5 (and had a bit leftover – they usually come in 2.4 metre lengths), and it works just fine. To judge if what you have is long enough, or to get a piece of wood cut, essentially you want something that is as long, or ever so slightly longer, than your full arm span, that is your arms stretched out to the sides as far as you can.
The staff system of exercises can be as simple or as difficult as you want to make it, as there are progressions you can follow, and some excellent motivational language despite the original text being 80+ years old. Exercising with the longer bar and your arms fully extended will certainly test your current flexibility and help you improve.
Overall, then, if you’ve decided to exercise with a bar any of these books will give you some good hints and tips. The three books are available in the Apparatus Needed section of Internal Force Fitness.
Whatever you decide – stick with it 😉
Richie Neville | Director
Internal Force Fitness