Have you ever been on social media and watched your favorite trainer swing around this metal stick with a heavy ball attached at the end, then think to yourself…what the hell is that thing?
I had the same reaction when I saw someone using a Steel Mace for the first time.
I was familiar with the same equipment most personal trainers use early in my career (barbells, dumbbells, bands, and cable machines) so seeing this medieval looking “weapon” really took me by surprise. I honestly had no clue why anyone would want to spend time using a steel mace that only weighed 15 or 20 pounds when I could pull something heavy with a barbell.
I laughed at the one trainer (a good friend of mine) for using “that metal stick thing”, until he challenged me to use it for myself and boy was I wrong! I was cooked from a 30 minute workout with the steel mace. I couldn’t believe it.
That day was the day that changed everything for me.
It was the day my eyes became open to all the different ways you can train a person.
Once I picked up the steel mace I was hooked for life, and there is no doubt in my mind, once you read this article and get a mace for yourself, you will be too!
What is a Steel Mace?
The steel mace is one of the most ancient training tools, dating back over 1000 years, when Hindu Warriors used maces, also known as gadas, to prepare for the gruelling nature of war.
In fact, gadas are still very popular among natives in India, with some athletes using tremendous weight, some over 100 lbs!
In the early days, maces were made of thick bamboo stalks with a stone attached to the end of the stalk. Today, maces are commonly made from steel, with a similar length shaft and a larger ball (also made of steel) at the very end of the shaft.
What Makes the Steel Mace so Unique?
The steel mace is unlike any other tool you will train with. While the benefits of steel mace training are endless, here are three main factors that assist you in becoming a stronger, more resilient human being.
Training with the steel mace is not an easy task. You need to be focused on how your body and the mace are moving within your environment (gym, park, or wherever you train). You must focus on the position of the mace as you perform a movement. You have to feel the offset load transition from one side of the body to the other. Your focus needs to be on point when it comes to training with the steel mace.
In order to successfully train with the steel mace, you must be in tune with the tension you are creating internally throughout your nervous system, so you can perform the movement at hand with skill and precision. The amount of tension you apply within a segment of your body will directly translate into your ability to perform the movement with quality structure and joint integrity.
Low Risk…BIG REWARD
The best thing about the steel mace is the relative light load you have to work with. Most steel maces today max out at around 30 pounds and therefore limit the amount of overall stress you place on your joints. It is always important to remember, healthy joints lead to a long and healthy life.
Steel Mace Training in the 21st Century
There are three main styles of steel mace training out there today: traditional, unconventional, and flow. All bring a variety of benefits to your own training program. I’m going to take a deeper dive into my favorite style, Unconventional Steel Mace Training, so you can go out there and be better prepared to help your clients crush their workouts using a steel mace.
Unconventional steel mace training keys in on three levels of movement competency: Anti Rotation, Counter Rotation, and Purposeful Rotation. Each level builds upon the next giving you as the coach the ability to constantly progress or regress each movement easily for your client’s needs.
Anti Rotation is also known as your body’s ability to resist unwanted motion. The focus of this level is to properly stabilize your joints and control every degree of movement throughout the entire desired range of motion. As you increase control over your range of motion, you will lay the foundation for more advanced movements to come in later weeks and months.
Counter Rotation hones in on the natural level systems within the human body to create the desired outcome you want expressed through the steel mace. The use of contralateral movement drives home the need to stabilize one area of the body in order to move another. In this level, you should be expanding your control over movement with this ancient and powerful tool.
Purposeful Rotation is the level where all your hard work comes together to paint a beautiful masterpiece. Once you have progressed enough and feel confident in your ability to move, you can purposefully use rotation to express your body’s athletic potential. Enjoy the fruits of your labor and explore the strength, stability, and mobility you have gained over time.
Take a moment to challenge yourself to find new positions and areas in need of improvement. With time, you will become more proficient at every angle, moving intentionally with strength and length.
And now on to the fun stuff…my 9 favorite steel mace movements you have to add to your training programs.
Focus: Improved Motor Control and Squat Depth
• Keep the Steel Mace Vertical and In Place
• Walk your hands down the shaft as you drop into a deep squat
• Walk your hands back up toward the mace head as you stand up
Half Kneeling Spear Press
Focus: Stability and Motor Control
• Start in Half Kneeling Position with mace shaft in front of you
• Keeping the mace shaft parallel to the floor, press upward
• Once at full extension, pull the mace back down toward your chest with the shaft maintaining parallel position to the floor
Focus: Upper Body Strength, Motor Control
• Descend into a high hinge position with the mace in line with your knees and parallel to the floor
• Slowly pull the mace into your body maintaining the horizontal alignment with the floor
• Return the mace back to the starting position while keeping shoulders and hips square
Offset Front Squat
Focus: Lower Body Push, Shoulder & Core Stability
• Start in the standing position with the mace parallel to the floor with the mace head offset to one side
• Descend into the bottom of your squat with the mace maintaining that parallel position with the floor
• Keeping your structural integrity, ascend to the standing position with the mace remaining offset and parallel to the ground
Front Switch Lateral Lunge
Focus: Frontal Plane, Lower Body Push, Coordination & Timing
• Start standing up with the steel mace in a cross body top (mace shaft crossing the torso with the mace head slightly above shoulder)
• Switch the mace in your hands from one side to the other side maintaining control
• Step sideways into a lateral lunge position while dropping the mace head between your feet
• Switch the mace back to the other side as you stand tall
Focus: Arm Strength, Core Stability, Coordination
• Start in a standing position with the steel mace in a cross body bottom (mace shaft crossing the torso with the mace head slightly to the side of the hip)
• Front switch the mace to the opposite side keeping your pillar complex rigid (shoulders, hips, core)
• Lower the mace head in line with your hip under control and repeat on the other side
Focus: Posterior Chain Strength, Shoulders, Timing & Coordination
• Begin in a hinged position with the mace in line with one hip and the mace head behind your body
• Contract your glutes to stand tall as you pull the mace into an uppercut position
• Press the mace head overhead as you keep the mace shaft locked into the uppercut position
• Return the mace back to your hip ending back in a hinge position
Focus: Lower Body Strength, Timing, Coordination
• Start in a standing position with the mace in a horizontal middle position
• Front switch the mace to the opposite side as you descend into a squat
• Ascend from the bottom of your squat as you transition back to the other side ending up again in a squat position
• Repeat for time or a specific rep scheme
The 360 Swing
Focus: Shoulder Mobility, Core Stability, Full Body Integration
• Start with the steel mace in a vertical middle position
• Tilting the mace to one shoulder slightly lift your hands to the opposite shoulder
• Warp your hands around your head (think a halo) controlling the mace at every angle
• Pull the mace back to a vertical middle position for the next rep
It’s time to break free from traditional strength methods and expand your tool box with this ancient and powerful training tool. The steel mace can be a beneficial addition to your programs when utilized correctly. Follow the guidelines outlined in this article, put intention behind your movement, and explore some new found areas for improvement.
When used properly, you can get one hell of a workout done with just the steel mace, or add it to your traditional strength training as an active recovery tool. I hope you become more comfortable using a steel mace and coaching others to use one after reading this article. One last piece of advice: Be safe. Stay focused. And most importantly…HAVE FUN!