Come learn restorative exercise from Dr. Ed Thomas, professor and physical culture historian

This is Dr. Thomas’s only workshop in 2017, first since 2015, and likely the only time he will publicly teach some of this material.

Over two days Dr. Thomas will cover the fundamentals of restorative exercise systems he began learning at 8 years old in the Turnverein gymnasium in Davenport Iowa. Later on he researched this system further along with related physical culture systems in Britain, Sweden, and back to India.
Dr. Thomas has not previously taught some aspects publicly, but believes it is important to spread this knowledge so that we may continue passing it on for the benefit of our students and patients, and for our own use.

Schedule of events

On Saturday Sept. 30th Dr. Thomas will cover fundamentals of Indian club swinging and breath training.
Indian club practice will including technique, biomechanics, and mobility benefits of this tool that has stood the test of time. No prior experience is necessary. Indian clubs are a wonderful tool for improving upper body mobility, coordination, and motor skills. All members at Elemental Fitness Lab eventually learn club swinging patterns as we have found they are a very effective method of improving shoulder health, mobility, and a challenging and enjoyable way to practice movement skills that carry over to other restorative, sport, or martial applications.

Please bring your own clubs to the workshop. We recommend 1lbers for smaller people, 2lbs for bigger people or those with experience. Go here to buy clubs and included is an instructional DVD of Dr. Thomas.

Dr. Thomas will be bringing quite a few sets of wooden Indian clubs handcrafted in India for sale (around $50). First come first serve. This offer open to participants only. You can see many examples of Indian clubs on Dr. Thomas’ Via Militaris Youtube channel. and for further reference an article here.


The second half of Saturday will be spent learning breath training via a specific method and postures of playing harmonica (harp). This type of pulmonary therapy is beginning to be taught and used in a number of hospitals in the U.S. and abroad.
Please bring your own long foam roller, light kettlebell (1-6kg) if possible, and C Harmonica.

Sunday October 1st: Dr. Thomas will teach the history and practice of inversion table and gravity boots, and methods of assisting and teaching inversion training to others. Dr. Thomas studied directly with Dr. Robert M. Martin, inventor of the inversion table and gravity boots in the 1970’s, and is carrying on his method of postural restorative movement. Many chiropractors and other clinicians currently use inversion tables for spinal decompression effects, but there is more to it than just that, and Dr. Thomas will take us through a variety of movements and positions that utilize other areas of the body. Please see this video and others on his Via Militaris Youtube channel for examples of what will be taught.


The other half of Sunday Dr. Thomas will introduce the history and practice of mass (group) training and partner-assisted exercise. This method of instructing is how physical culture systems for centuries have imparted correct exercise technique, form, and teaching methods. From the Greeks, Persians, and Chinese up to Pehr Ling in Sweden, and Friedrich Jahn in Germany, there are common threads in these methods that have been passed down for centuries. Dr. Thomas learned as a boy in Iowa at a  local Turnverein training hall that taught the German system of Friedrich Jahn. There he learned specifics ways of using dumbbells, Indian clubs, barbells, rings, and other gymnastic equipment as shown below. Nobody else in America that we are aware of is teaching methods learned at a Turnverein gymnasium.

Turner Training hall. Milwaukee, WI circa 1900

Turner Training hall. Milwaukee, WI circa 1900

In addition to learning the movements, Dr. Thomas will teach how to instruct, so that you may teach others, whether an individual or very large groups to exercise with quality and health as a primary goal. Exercise may include calisthenics, gymnastic movements, and Indian clubs.
Dr. Thomas asks that all participants wear well-fitting, logo-less shirts and pants/shorts. No baggy shirts or shorts please, as we want the group to look sharp and so that posture and form are apparent. We will be photoing and videoing demonstrations.

Here are a few videos that give you an idea of what mass training can consist of. The first video is of a program Dr. Thomas created at Fort Benning for the U.S. Army:

The second is a historical clip of mass training, this of the Swedish system developed by physical education pioneer Pehr Ling in the 19th Century.

Please follow this link to register and pay for the workshop. Select “events” and follow directions.

  •  Date: Sept. 30-Oct 1st, 2017
  • Time 8am-5pm Saturday & 9am-5pm Sunday
  • Cost: $300 for two days. $250 for EFL members. $175 for one day ($150 for EFL members)
  • We are limiting this to 20 participants, and be aware advance price ends Sept 15th and will go up by $50 on September 16th.
  • Place: Elemental Fitness Lab. 1905 NE MLK Jr. Blvd, Portland, OR 97212.
  • Sign-in Saturday at 8am. Be ready to move at 8:15am sharp
  • This event is approved for 1.5 CEUs from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)


Dr. Ed Thomas, a brief bio:

Ed.D., Curriculum & Supervision, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, 1992, Emphasis in Health Promotion
Ed.S., Curriculum & Supervision, Northern Illinois University, 1987, Emphasis in Health Promotion
M.A., Exercise Science, The University of Iowa, Iowa City, 1975
B.S., Exercise Science, The University of Iowa, 1972

  • Iowa Department of Education Health and Physical Education Consultant for 13 years
  • 35 years at numerous schools including The U of Iowa, Emory U, Northern Illinois U, Graceland U and The US Army Physical Fitness School
  • Fulbright Scholar to Burma and Thailand, 1988
  • Fulbright Specialist to Korea, 2012
  • Army Infantry, 1967-69

“Dr. Thomas is undoubtedly the U.S. Army’s top physical readiness training expert.
He has inspired a paradigm shift that will benefit our soldiers for years to come.” – Lt. Col. William Rieger, Commandant. United States Army Physical Fitness School. Fort Benning, Georgia. 2000

To hear a discussion from April 2015 with Dr. Thomas regarding his experience and approach to training and health listen here.

For a more in-depth history of Indian clubs read this article: Treasure In The Attic.

Watch Part 1 of Dr. Thomas presenting a history of physical culture.

Sponsored by Elemental Fitness Lab.