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August 23, 2020
The other day, SET FOR SET republished a piece that had originally appeared in this blog on June 3, 2019. It was entitled 9 Steel Mace Reviews from the Steel Mace Community. Among the things the 11 respondents (trainers and other enthusiasts) were queried about was what were their favorite macebell exercises. Rather to my surprise, tire slams were not mentioned by anyone. Perhaps they omitted slams because slams can be performed fairly well with other implements. I got my start using the blunt end of an 8-pound splitting maul and graduated to 12- and 16-pound sledgehammers. One can use the latter with reasonable satisfaction, but after considerable experience with both sledgehammers and steel macebells, I have come to the conclusion that the steel mace is decidedly the superior instrument for slamming exercises--more comfortable and far less likely to twist or ricochet.
Related: Sledgehammer vs Steel Mace
Although slams can be performed on tree stumps, piles of sand and dirt, etc., by far the preferred targets for slamming exercises these days are tires. Many gyms will house huge tires from tractors or large trucks that can be pounded by several individuals at once (although I have heard some safety concerns expressed about this practice), but for a lone individual such gigantic tires are not necessary. I have been using a medium-sized SUV tire for most of my slamming with perfect satisfaction. To avoid damaging pavement or the lawns, I like to place it on a 4x4-foot plywood square. These can be had from outfits like Lowe's or Home Depot for about $30. Worn and damaged tires should be available from almost any dealer for the asking.
The benefits of slamming exercises have been set forth in many places. Much of the body's musculature is brought into play--almost the entire "posterior chain," upper thighs, shoulders, upper arms, forearms and grip--and if the slams are performed at speed, as they should be, there are also considerable cardio benefits. Slams are also a very "fun" exercise, at least to my lights. Some people claim they are great for working off frustrations. I don't know about that: I like training to be a positive, upbeat experience, focusing on building strength, health, longevity and a good-looking body. Pretending I'm bashing those who have wronged me in the past or whatever seems counter to the foregoing.
Related: More on the benefits of Tire Slams
Although there are other tire-slam movements that can be performed, I like to limit my slamming to four moves:
Since converting to macebells for tire work, I have typically used my 15-pound SET FOR SET mace, with 25 slams for each move for a total of 100, then resting, perhaps performing another macebell exercise and then going back to slams. Rarely did I perform more than an aggregate of 300 slams.
Recently, I read a piece suggesting that a lighter macebell (or hammer) would give you a more dynamic workout. This appealed to me especially because I thought a 10-pound mace would be easier on my arthritic left shoulder, and that proved to be the case. The lighter mace certainly did make the workout more dynamic: With the 15-pound mace, it was ker-chunk...ker-chunk...ker-chunk. With the 10-pounder, it was WHAP! WHAP! WHAP! In fact, I could perform 200 slams about as quickly and easily as I could 100 with the 15 pounder. Math and physics were never my long suits, but I believe I was doing more work with the 10-pounder: 10X200 equals 2000 pounds swung vs. 15X100 for 1500 pounds swung.
After working my way up to 600 slams with the 10 pounder in a recent workout, I decided to go for 1,000 slams. I wasn't sure I could make it, but I hoped I could. Conditions were somewhat less than optimal, it being a very humid afternoon with temperatures in the mid-80s. All slams would be with the 10-pound mace with other exercises being divided between the 10 and 15 pounders. The drills were as follows:
Cycle 1: 200 slams followed by 100 360s with the 10-pound mace. After each cycle I took a little break for hydration.
Cycle 2: 200 slams, 100 10-2s (10 pound mace)
Cycle 3: 200 slams, about 40 360s (15 pound mace)
Cycle 4: 200 slams, about 40 10-2s (15 pound mace)
Cycle 5: 200 slams, about 35 barbarian squats (15 pound mace)
When I got up to around 600 slams, I wasn't confident I could complete the challenge, but I determined to press on. After 800, I was pretty fatigued but I was egged on by the feeling "almost there, downhill all the way from here," and it was with a feeling of pride and relief when I completed my thousandth slam. Candor compels me to admit that I am not entirely sure I honestly completed a full thousand. When you are performing very high repetitions like this, I, at least, find it somewhat hard to maintain an exact count. However, at the end of each cycle, I tried to add a dozen or so extra slams to compensate for any sloppiness in counting.
The entire workout, including the water breaks, took about an hour and a quarter to complete. I was fatigued but by no means wiped out at the end. If you are young, fit and strong, you may wish to try this challenge using heavier maces. Bear in mind, I am an old guy (a few weeks away from the downhill side of my 79th year) nursing an arthritic shoulder, so you may well wish to complete it with, say, 20- and 25-pound maces, in which case my hat will be off to you!
Author: Jan Libourel
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