I came upon the use of broomsticks by accident. I was using light cane rods in a dance for my Fitness class and wondered whether a heavier wooden stick could be useful in certain exercises. Since then I have used them for all types of exercises including warm up and aerobics. When I say broomstick I actually mean just the wooden handle part without the brush part and here in George, depending on the thickness, these replacement handles go for about R20 in our local farmer’s Co Op.
The plastic replacement handles are too light and more expensive. I also bought a rubber tip for each one and this proved quite difficult – to get the right size so they don’t fall off. Also coming from a farmer’s Co Op some of the sticks needed a bit of sanding! For me broomsticks are a very valuable piece of equipment. In the warm-up section they provide just enough weight to work the arms well, as well as increasing the need for coordination skills. More cerebral work is required because movements become more complicated when holding a stick. While they are a great way to warm up, loosen the muscles and get the brain working, they also make everything more interesting – a mere step-tap or knee lift becomes something more when you are moving a stick as well.
There are numerous different moves you can do holding a stick in two hands, including throwing it up and catching it. You can also hold it in one hand or pass it from hand to hand. My members did find it difficult in the beginning to do the sequence steps with a stick but they soon got used to it. Broomsticks are especially good for shoulder work as you can bring them behind your back, either with bent elbows, or, holding the stick at its ends, with straight arms – a very good shoulder mobility exercise. Most of my class could do this by the end of the year if they couldn’t do it before. These are also very good movements to improve posture. Certain shoulder and arm exercises with a stick can also be done on the mat in a supine position and even in a prone position. With standing abdominals, a bend of the waist to the side can be changed by holding the stick in different attitudes – above your head, behind your back or in front of you – thus making it a very different exercise from bending without a stick. With abdominal exercises on the mat the possibilities are numerous and especially helpful with things like curls, the Pilates “roll-up” and “roll like a ball” exercises where the stick can be used as an impetus if tucked behind the knees.
The rubber tip I mentioned earlier is so the stick can be used as an aid in balancing – either for difficult balance exercises or for members who have trouble with all balancing. Balance exercises can also be done holding the stick horizontal with two hands. Lastly the broomstick can be used with a great deal of success in stretching. One example is a triceps stretch behind the back – the hands can move closer to each other along the stick. Another example is hamstring stretch where the stick can be placed behind the feet or foot.
There are still many jokes in the class about witches and broomsticks but I think the members enjoy using them and appreciate how stick work extends and challenges them to a large degree.