How to Make an Exercise Wand (Health Wand)

Exercise Wands, sometimes called Health Wands or just referred to as Wands were a staple of early physical education and military training. The “Golden Age” of American Physical Education was from approximately 1880 to 1920. During this time, the “four horsemen” of exercise tools were Indian Clubs, Wands, Medicine Balls and Dumbbells. Here is a quick tutorial on how to make your own wand in a quick and cost-effective way. I was able to make 10 of them for my classes for under $100, and that included a nice set of files to add to my tool complement. 20160812_120356

The wands (a wooden dowel) had parallel origins in Eastern and Western physical cultures probably stemming from sword and martial traditions. Various military training manuals including the 1914 – Manual of Physical Training for Use in the United States Army, show that these wand exercises also became rifle exercises and could also be done with barbells.

“The object of these exercises, which may also be performed with wands or bar bells, is to develop the muscles of the arms, shoulders, and back so that the men will become accustomed to the weight of the piece and learn to wield it with that “handiness ” so essential to its successful use.”

In the 1896 book – Gymnastics : a text-book of the German-American system of gymnastics, published by the Normal School of the North America- Gymnastic Union the following description of the wand is given though no mention of its origin is discussed.

“The wand is a round stick, generally of wood or iron. Thickness, length, and weight should be in proportion to the person using it; viz., always long enough to form the hypotenuse of a right angled triangle, when the hands have grasped it at the extreme ends, and the arms are extended at right angles. When of wood the thickness varies from three-quarters of an inch to one and a quarter inches; when of iron, from five-eighths of an inch to one inch. The wand for the adult may weigh from five to eight pounds.”

The weight of the wand and the materials used to make them (wood or metal) suggest that the wand also morphed into the modern barbell as it got heavier. Many of the wand exercises, curls and overhead presses are standard barbell exercises today. Additionally, the resting and carrying position for the wand is describe as being like a gun suggesting the military origins of the wand. “when taken from its place, it should be carried like a gun, either at the right or the left side. The wand should rest on end on the first joint of the first finger, with the thumb brought around in front, pressing the wand firmly against the shoulder.”


Vintage wand exercise picture gallery.

In the video below we demonstrate the winding exercises with the wand. The following WINDING exercises are from the 1896 book – Gymnastics : a text-book of the German-American system of gymnastics, specially adapted to the use of teachers and pupils in public and private schools and gymnasiums / edited by W.A. Stecher. Though it’s likely these winding exercises were very prevalent during this time, this is the primary text with wand exercises that has these winding variations that I have been able to find so far in my research. There are two versions or types of winding, Winding with the Under Hold (reverse grip) and Winding with the Upper Hold (pronated grip.) The start position of the hands (reverse or pronated) and the start position of the wand, chest or hips (order arms) differs in addition to the ending relationship of the arm wound around the wand.

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