The Benefits of Steel Mace Training

An Alternative Approach to Strength Training

athletic older male steel mace training

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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 are gaining popularity in the functional fitness space.

Steel maces provide an asymmetrical and unbalanced weight that is unique to other forms of strength training equipment. They come in a variety of weight loads and lengths. Read on to learn more about steel mace training and its benefits.

Macebell vs. Other Weight Equipment

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:

Multiple Grip Options

The long rod of a steel mace 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.

Keeping your hands closer to the ball end of the mace will lessen the intensity of the exercise. In this way, you can use the same steel mace to progress your workouts or use the mace for a variety of exercises that require different challenges. Smaller muscle groups can be trained with a closer grip while larger muscle groups or multiple muscles (compound movements) can be performed with a farther away grip.

Facilitates Core Movements

The longer rod extends the distance between your body and the weighted ball. This makes it an excellent tool for swinging, twisting, and pressing exercises where core engagement and control are critical.

As you work to control the displaced weight, which throws off your center of gravity, you will need to use the muscles of your core to brace and stabilize yourself. With kettlebells, this occurs only when you swing or lift the kettlebell away from your body but mace training requires constant engagement.

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 a few benefits.

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 and it helps with daily living and independent aging.

Because of a 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.

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. Even basic weight training exercises—pull-ups, curls, deadlifts, and rows—all require grip strength to hold onto the bar.

Strong Shoulders

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

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.

Rotational Core Strength

Many macebell exercises use cross-body rotational swinging motions that require extensive core engagement, particularly of the obliques. The steel mace paddleboarding exercise is one.

This is further amplified by the uneven distribution of weight along the steel mace, which requires greater core activation to control. The result is an excellent core and oblique workout that improves overall core strength.

Total Body Conditioning

A steel 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 like 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.

How to Adjust Your Macebell Grip

  • Make it easier: 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.
  • Increase difficulty: Each exercise becomes more difficult 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. The mace's weight remains off-balance, requiring more control and overall strength than a more evenly distributed weight.

A Word From Verywell

Steel maces are a valuable tool for building strength, conditioning, and functional fitness at the same time. They also provide variety to prevent boredom and unique stimulus to keep your muscles challenged. Incorporate steel mace training in your next workout to see if it is right for you.

4 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Ison C. Electromyographic analysis of steel mace exercises: a descriptive study of alternative training modalities. California State University. 2019.

  3. American Council on Exercise. ACE - Certified™: May 2017 - The Latest Tools of the Trade: The Mace by Onnit. May 2017.

  4. Paoli A, Gentil P, Moro T, Marcolin G, Bianco A. Resistance training with single vs. multi-joint exercises at equal total load volume: Effects on body composition, cardiorespiratory fitness, and muscle SstrengthFront Physiol. 2017;8:1105. doi:10.3389/fphys.2017.01105

By Laura Williams, MSEd, ASCM-CEP
Laura Williams is a fitness expert and advocate with certifications from the American Council on Exercise and the American College of Sports Medicine.