Make Your Workout Primal: Benefits of Steel Mace Training

Steel Mace Workouts Offer an Alternative Approach to Strength Training

Steel Mace

If you haven't heard of a steel mace—a type of strength training equipment also termed a macebell—you're not alone. These long metal rods capped with a weighted ball aren't often found in your standard gym or training studio. But that doesn't mean they're something new.

In fact, according to Onnit, a steel mace manufacturer and a forerunner in the realm of "primal fitness," maces have been used as weapons and training implements for thousands of years, and they were actually a favorite tool of ancient Hindu warriors.

What differentiates mace training from other "primal" forms of fitness, such as kettlebell or steel club training, is the mace's highly uneven distribution of weight. The long, narrow rod serves two purposes:

  • Variable Grip Options. The long rod makes it easy to change your grip position from exercise to exercise, altering the difficulty of each movement. For instance, moving your hands farther away from the rod's weighted ball quickly turns a beginner exercise into an advanced movement as it becomes more difficult to control the long, unevenly weighted rod.
  • Facilitates Movements that Engage the Core. The longer rod extends the distance between your body and the weighted ball, making it a great tool for swinging, twisting, and pressing exercises where core engagement and control are critical. Mace training is a great way to develop core strength for powerful, functional exercise.

Benefits of Macebell Training

If you incorporate macebell training into your regular routine, you're likely to experience the following benefits.

1. Improved Grip Strength.

Grip strength—a combination of hand, finger, and forearm strength—is an often-overlooked aspect of most fitness programs. But if you think about it, grip strength is fundamental to just about everything you do. For instance, rock climbers can't ascend a challenging route without impressive grip strength, baseball players can't effectively swing a bat without the ability to hang onto and control the bat's trajectory, and even basic weight training exercises—pull-ups, curls, deadlifts, and rows—all require grip strength to hold onto the complimentary bar.

Because of the macebell's uneven distribution of weight, swinging it requires a strong grip. Repeated swinging, especially over the course of weeks and months, can increase your grip strength to improve this aspect of functional fitness.

2. Strong and Healthy Shoulders.

The shoulder girdle is the least stable joint in the entire body, making it susceptible to injury. And anyone who's ever experienced shoulder pain can attest that it wreaks havoc on a workout routine. Even basic movements, such as pushups, dips, and pull-ups, become extremely difficult (or even impossible) with a shoulder injury.

When you swing a steel mace with the proper form through a full range of motion, you can increase the strength of the muscles and connective tissue surrounding the shoulder joint while simultaneously increasing your shoulder flexibility.

The key here is proper form. It's a good idea to work with a trainer to master the movement before starting a routine on your own. You may also want to start with a light mace to ensure you don't use it incorrectly or place too much stress on your joints.

3. Total Body Strength and Cardiovascular Conditioning.

While the obvious benefit of using a steel mace is upper body strength (including grip strength), the mace can also be used for total body conditioning.

Like a kettlebell, certain macebell exercises, such as the climber squat and alternating switch forward lunge, lend themselves to lower-body strength training. Similarly, swinging movements, such as the staggered stance tire slam, can drastically increase heart rate for an excellent cardiovascular benefit. The mace lends itself nicely to high-intensity interval training workouts.

4. Rotational Core Strength.

Many macebell exercises, such as the steel mace paddleboarding exercise, require cross-body swinging motions that require extensive core engagement, particularly of the obliques. This is further amplified by the uneven distribution of weight along the steel mace, which requires greater core engagement to control.

The result is an excellent core and oblique workout that improves overall core strength.

Altering Your Macebell Grip

A simple adjustment to how you grip the mace can make a significant difference in exercise difficulty. If you grip the metal rod with a wide grip, so one hand is close to the weighted cylinder and the other hand is close to the end of the rod, exercises are easier because the uneven weight of the mace is more evenly distributed across your body.

On the other hand, if you grip the metal rod with both hands in a close grip toward the end of the bar, so there's a significant distance between your hands and the weighted cylinder, each exercise becomes more difficult. This is because the uneven distribution of the mace's weight remains off-balance, requiring more control and overall strength than a more evenly distributed weight.