macebell squats

14 Challenging Steel Mace Squat Variations You Need To Try

September 11, 2019

In this article, we present 14 different types of steel mace squats that will challenge you in a completely new way...forever changing how you think about "leg day". 

We recently put together a post on 10 Animal & Ancient Inspired Squat Variations, and today, we decided to niche down even further into our love for squats by featuring more squat variations using our favorite unconventional training tool, the Steel Mace.

steel mace squats

Steel Mace Squats come in many variations, with all of them being full-body compound exercises, and most being multiplanar. Although there are some special benefits for each of the steel mace squat variations (which we will go into detail about), all of them will incorporate your lower body, upper body, core, and grip in one coordinated movement pattern. You will be training muscular strength, endurance, balance and flexibility! Due to the nature of the mace, your stabilizer complexes in your shoulders, hips and trunk will also be worked too, which will lead to remarkable improvement in your joint stability.

These Steel Mace Squat Variations are the perfect way to invigorate your next workout, allowing you to explore your physical capabilities and put yourself to the test.

For trainers, these different types of steel mace squats are great for steel mace classes and group training, as they will surely galvanize your class by challenging them in new and interesting ways.

14 Steel Mace Squat Variations That Will Change The Way You Think About Leg Day.

Let’s start with the easier squat variations and then move into the more difficult exercises. We will label the movement's difficulty level from beginner to advanced.

1. Switch Squat


How to do Switch Squats:

Hold your hands in an over-under position with the mace held horizontally at your navel.

Feet shoulder-width apart; neutral spine, glutes and abs tight. Squat down to parallel, then explode up. Towards the top of the squat, switch the head of the mace from one hand to the other using the Front Switch.

Note: When doing the squatting portion of the movement, pull both hands away from each other to keep tension (like you are trying to pull the mace head off!). It makes the exercise more effective as you will be keeping both sides fully engaged.

Difficulty Level: Beginner

What are switch squats good for?

Steel Mace Switch Squats can be done ballistically/dynamically - exploding through the movement on the way up while controlling tension and force on the way down. They can also be done slowly, in a more static manner, to maximize time under tension. Switch Squats will train you to be explosive, and they will build muscular endurance as they should be done in high reps. This exercise is a real fat burner. Additionally, if you are doing a “flow” or a complex, Switch Squats fit in nicely with almost any sequence. Steel Mace Switch Squats are a full body compound exercise that incorporates your lower body, upper body and core strength into one coordinated movement.

2. Isometric Squat Hold 


How to do an Isometric Squat Hold:

Hold your hands in an over-under position with the mace held horizontally at your navel.

Feet shoulder-width apart; neutral spine, glutes and abs tight. Squat down to parallel and hold this position for 30-60 seconds. Make sure your entire body is fully engaged by remaining at parallel with your hips and knees, AND by pulling both hands away from each other to keep upper body tension (like you are trying to pull the mace head off).

Note: You can also do these holds at different joint angles. For example, you squat halfway to parallel, hold for 15 seconds, the move lower, into parallel, and hold for 15-30 seconds, then back up halfway to hold for 15 seconds, finally moving into a standing position to rest before doing another set.

Difficulty Level: Beginner. Start by holding the position as long as you can, even if that’s only 15 seconds. Work up to longer holds.

What are Isometric Squat Holds good for?

Steel Mace Isometric Squat Holds are a muscular strength exercise that targets your lower body, core, arms, and lower back. It will also train your muscles for maximum-tension-endurance and stability. Moreover, Isometric Squat Holds do not add a lot of stress to your joints. They are good for rehabilitation and increasing your strength.

3. 360 Squat

How to do 360 Squats:

Hold your hands stacked at the bottom of the handle with the mace held vertically at your center.

Feet shoulder width apart; neutral spine, glutes and abs tight. Perform a 360 and as soon as the mace is at your vertical center again, squat down (parallel or ass to grass), controlling the mace so that it remains vertical and straight. Press up from the squat and then perform another 360 and repeat this pattern for a set number of reps.

Difficulty Level: Beginner to Intermediate

What are 360 Squats good for?

Steel Mace 360 Squats are a full body compound movement that will train your lower body, core strength, and upper body, with emphasis on your quads, glutes, forearms, shoulders and upper back. Your grip strength will be challenged on this one as you must control the mace with its long lever so that it remains vertical during the squat, plus the 360 portion of the movement works grip too. Because of this, your core will also be fully engaged as you need to remain stable as the mace is balanced in front of you, not to mention your core is engaged during the 360 which requires anti-rotation. All in all, this is muscular endurance, muscular strength, balance and mobility (shoulders & hips) exercise all in one.

4. Ballistic Curl to 360 Squat 

How to do Ballistic Curl to 360 Squats:

This is a combination of the first two exercises (Switch Squat & 360 Squat).

Hold your hands in an over-under position with the mace held horizontally at your navel.

Make a Front Switch. However, once the switch is past vertical, bring it into a 360 swing. Once you complete the 360, slide your top hand up and bring the mace into a Horizontal Bottom position while performing a squat. When you are pressing up from the squat, smoothly switch the mace head to the other side and repeat.

Note: Each time you squat the mace head should be on the opposite side. Use a ballistic curl motion when performing the switch. You can get a stretch in your bicep by extending the mace down before switching.

Difficulty Level: Beginner to Intermediate

What are Ballistic Curl to 360 Squats good for?

This exercise is the perfect example of how the mace is designed for movement patterns. By combining the squat, the switch, and the 360 into one movement, you will be training through multiple planes of motion, engaging your entire body while kicking up your heart rate full throttle. When it comes to steel mace exercises, harder doesn't necessarily mean heavier. Making exercises harder can be done by simply adding different movements and switches into the exercise.

Ballistic Curl to 360 Squats will test your flow skills. The switch from the mace held horizontally to a 360 will target your biceps and forearms, the 360 will hit your entire upper body and core, and then controlling the mace back into the horizontal position while simultaneously squatting down requires arm and leg strength. By moving slowly on the eccentric portion of the squat you will be testing your leg strength. This movement is fantastic as it is multiplanar and it involves four of the main aspects of fitness: strength, endurance, balance and flexibility.

5. Thruster Squat

How to do Thruster Squats:

Hold your hands stacked at the bottom of the handle with the mace held vertically at your center. Hands gripping mace at your navel.

Neutral spine; feet hip-to-shoulder width apart - squat ready. Squat, then press yourself up while simultaneously raising the mace vertically above your head.

Note: You can use one hand on this exercise if you are able. The mace should be in control at all times, remaining straight and vertical as best as you can. Balance is key.

Difficulty Level: Intermediate

What are Thruster Squats good for?

This is one of the most beneficial exercises in the game. Steel Mace Thruster Squats are full body, compound movements that will help you gain both upper and lower body strength by working your quads, glutes, and shoulders. Moreover, Thruster Squats will help you develop a strong core and grip as balancing and controlling the mace will have both engaged fully throughout the entire movement. This is an exercise that you must remain focused at all time as you don’t want the mace to lean in and whack you on the head. Your wrist strength will also be put to the test here as holding the mace vertically and pushing up straight above will demand that your wrists are stable and strong.

6. Staggered Stance Uppercut Swing Squat


How to do Staggered Stance Uppercut Swing Squats:

Hold the mace with both hand facing in and the mace to your side (side load), parallel with the floor, mace head facing to your back.

Get into a staggered stance. Squat down in your staggered stance, as you press up from the squat, press the mace head up so that the arm with your hand near the mace head is straight up overhead (bicep close to your ear) and your hand on the end of the handle is on the opposite side at ear level and arm at around 90 degrees. Using that same motion in reverse to return back to the bottom position and repeat.

Note: This is a dynamic movement. Be explosive.

Difficulty Level: Intermediate. This exercise will take time to get used to the motion. The hardest part to get down is the form of the uppercut. You can practice this without the staggered stance squat until you learn to do it correctly.

What are Staggered Stance Uppercut Swing Squats good for?

This is a total body exercise that is going to engage your lower body, upper body and core. It is especially effective for your quads, glutes, and shoulders. Moreover, as this is a dynamic, explosive exercise, you will be training your explosive power and muscular endurance. And, with the mace being in a side load position, you will be working core stability too.

7. Offset Overhead Press With Squat 

How to do Offset Overhead Press With Squat:

Hold the mace in a Front Load (offset) position at your chest level with your palms facing out.

Feet hip-to-shoulder width apart; neutral spine. Squat down while keeping the mace in a Front Load position and parallel. On the concentric portion of the movement (as you go up), raise the mace overhead while keeping it parallel throughout the movement. Continue with this sequence of motion, squat then press.

Note: This movement can be done dynamically or slowly.

Difficulty Level: Intermediate

What are Offset Overhead Press With Squats good for?

This exercise combines the front squat with an overhead press. This means that you will be exercising your lower body and upper body.

As the mace will be held offset, you will be engaging your core so you can remain standing squared with your spine straight, thus, training core stability. This exercise is particularly effective for your shoulders and quads, and it will build muscular strength and endurance while also burning a lot of calories. Additionally, Offset Overhead Press with Squats improve hip mobility.

8. Front Press Squat Hold

How to do Front Press Squat Holds:

Hold the mace in a Front Load position at your chest level with your palms facing out. One hand close to the head of the mace and the other at the end of the handle. Position the mace so that your arms are even on both sides.

Get into a squat position, feet shoulder width apart, back straight. Squat down to parallel and hold this position as you press the mace forward, extending your arms, then pulling slowly back to your chest. Continue pressing the mace forward then pulling it back while maintaining a squat hold.

Difficulty Level: Intermediate

What are Front Press Squat Holds good for?

This exercise combines isometric holds with a concentric and eccentric movement. By doing Front Press Squat Holds, you will be developing lower body strength, upper body muscular endurance and core and shoulder stability. As the mace has an uneven weight distribution, the presses will strengthen your joint stability as you attempt to keep the mace horizontal and parallel with the floor. While this exercise may seem simple, it is very challenging to maintain the squat position, and we guarantee your heart rate will rise through the roof on this one.

9. Barbarian Squat 


How to do Barbarian Squats

Stack your hands on the mace like you would a barbaric weapon…or vertical center will do ;)

Stand with your feet hip-to-shoulder width apart; neutral spine. Squat ready position. Squat down to parallel (or ass-to-grass) while keeping your arms in front of you and the mace balanced vertically. When you come up towards the top of the squat, pull the mace directly over your head until the mace is centered vertically behind your back. Make sure you are keeping your ribs tucked/down on the back portion of the movement.

Note: Make sure you have complete control of the mace or club. Don’t let it control you! The club should not be hitting your back...that can happen if you are using one that is too heavy for you.

Difficulty Level: Intermediate. Start light and work your way up to a heavier weight. Ideally, a 10 or 15 is best for this exercise but if you have the strength and you want a serious challenge, try a 20-30lb mace (attempt this at your own discretion).

What are Barbarian Squats good for?

Barbarian squats are a great full body compound exercise that will target your core, lats, upper back, shoulders, grip, and of course, your quads and glutes. Due to the nature of the mace's design (long lever and uneven weight distribution), performing an exercise like this will help increase your proprioception. All in all, this is a great compound, strength and conditioning exercise to enhance your uncivilized, primitively athletic side.

10. Overhead Squat

How to do Overhead Squats:

Hold the macebell with your arms extended above and over the back of the neck, with your biceps in line with your ears. Your wrists should be slightly extended, with your elbows straight and ribs pulled in.

Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, core tight, neutral spine. As start to descend, make sure you don’t extend your lumbar spine, instead, try to keep your core braced and hips neutral, rather than anterior or posterior tilting of your pelvis.

This squat pattern is very similar to a high bar back squat.

When you reach full depth, your hip crease should be slightly lower than your knees, with your entire foot to the floor.

Be sure to maintain a tight core and actively push against the mace to keep it in the correct positioning overhead.

From here, force yourself to keep the mace overhead and your chest up as you ascend out of the squat.

Again, maintain a tight core and actively push against the mace to keep it in the correct positioning overhead as you push up from the squat.

Once you have completely extended your knees and hips, stabilize your core and shoulders, pause, then repeat for a set number of repetitions.

Note: for this exercise, your knees will move a bit past your knees during the squat so you can maintain an upright body posture.

Difficulty Level: Intermediate to Advanced. Steel Mace Overhead Squats are a difficult exercise as they require your upper body to remain upright the entire time rather than slightly leaning forward as you do on back squats. This requires good hip and shoulder mobility.

What are Overhead Squats good for?

Overhead squats are a full body exercise that challenges your lower body and your upper back, shoulders, and core. The primary muscles being targeted are your shoulders, quads, traps, and core. This is a very helpful exercise for increasing squat patterning and strength specific to the snatch. It is also very effective for developing overhead stability due to upper back strengthening and enhancement of shoulder stabilization.

11. Side Swing Squat 


Hold the mace in a vertical front position using one hand towards the bottom of the mace handle (to make it easier, hold the mace further up the handle).

Get into a shoulder-width squat position. Start by performing a squat while maintaining the mace in a perfectly vertical position. When you reach the top of the squat, swing the mace to the opposite side of the working arm (slightly slide your hand up the handle as it begins to swing to your side), allow it to make a half circle as you maintain a squared and upright position (don’t let the mace pull you out of position). As the mace reaches the end of the half circle, swing it back using the same motion in reverse and bring it back to vertical-front. This will be challenging as the momentum will make it difficult on your grip strength and core stability to be able to stop it at vertical-front using just the working hand. From here, repeat for a set number of repetitions, then switch sides and do the same amount of reps to make sure you are training both sides evenly.

Difficulty Level: Intermediate to Advanced

What are Side Swing Squats good for?

This is a multiplanar exercise that will help you develop incredible core strength and stability, grip and forearm strength, and lower body muscular endurance. If you are looking for real-world strength, this is the perfect exercise, as it combines momentum, strength & control, and explosiveness. It will train you to be resilient to outside forces that attempt to make you lose balance. For athletes, this is a very effective exercise to build body awareness, coordination and balance while also increasing muscular endurance and strength. That's sports performance enhancing at its finest.

12. Alt. Bayonet Strike Squat

How to do Alternating Bayonet Strike Squats:

Hold the mace at Cross Body Top (mace across your upper body with head of the mace on top near your shoulder). Both hands should be gripping with the palms facing in.

Get into your typical squat formation. As you squat down to parallel, move the mace head so that it is facing forward (into a bayonet position). Step the leg that is on the same side as the mace back into a low lunge position. Strike the mace forward in a controlled manner. Return in reverse, but as you reach the starting position perform a bayonet switch and then repeat on the alternating side.

Note: To make the strike more difficult, slide your top hand down the handle and hold the mace at the end of the strike..

Difficulty Level: Advanced. This is not only a difficult exercise to get the hang of, but it is also extremely taxing. Give it a try and you will see. If you can do a total of 20 reps (10 to each side), you are a beast.

What are Alt. Bayonet Strike Squats good for?

This is a complete, full body multiplanar exercise that will build strength, endurance, balance, and coordination. It’s truly one of the best conditioning exercises as it will get your heart rate up instantly, allowing you to burn fat and boost testosterone. Everything from your legs to your glutes to your core and shoulders are going to be going into overdrive on this one.

13. Dual Mace 360 Squat

How to do Dual Mace 360 Squats:

You will need two maces of the same size for this exercise.

Begin by holding both maces vertically, one in each hand. The maces should be just on the outside of your trunk on both sides. Perform a 360 on one side, and then a 360 with the other. From here, squat down while maintaining the maces in a vertical position. This is where it gets really challenging and you need to be completely focused as once one mace leans it’s hard to control both of them. Keep your eyes on the mace bells (aka mace heads) as best you can. This will help you balance them. Ascend up from the squat and repeat.

Difficulty Level: Advanced. You are going to need serious grip strength for this one.

What are Dual Mace 360 Squats good for?

Dual Mace 360 Squats will train your grip strength big time. Of course, it is a good exercise for your lower body too, but the best thing about this exercise is how it develop your arm strength and proprioception/body awareness. In life, we are constantly dealing with things that are challenging our balance, and this is the type of exercise that will prepare you for anything, building resiliency from all angles. If you want to dual wield with ronin-warrior-Miyamoto Musashi-like control, give this exercise a try.

Challenging Macebell Doubles Workout

14. Knee Jump Squat

How to do Knee Jump Squats:

Hold the mace at vertical front and center. Grip as you would with a 360.

Perform a 360 but as the mace reaches the front side, bring it into a front load position (horizontally across your chest). From here squat down (heels can be off the ground on this) and kneel on the ground with both knees. Place your shins to the ground (maintaining the mace in the front load). The tops of your feet should be flat to the ground. Now, explode up and jump into a deep squat position then ascend to the top, move the mace into the 360 starting position and repeat to the opposite side.

Difficulty Level: Advanced. Knee jumps are difficult with bodyweight alone, adding a mace definitely takes the challenge up a few notches.

What are Knee Jump Squats good for?

There are a lot of benefits that come from this full body exercise. First, it’s tremendous for building explosive power in your lower body. Secondly, it will help develop your knee, ankle and hip mobility. To top it off, it is a great conditioning exercise that will shred fat like it’s nobody’s business.

Benefits of Steel Mace Squats

steel mace legs

Most people think squats are purely a lower body exercise, and while squats will surely work your quads, hamstrings, and glutes, they are in fact a full body exercise that will have your body working as one complete unit. After all, we are not robots, we are humans!

What’s special about steel mace squats is how well they train you to use your entire body as one unit through multiplanar movements. Unlike gym machines and a lot of conventional equipment, steel maces will require you to stabilize, maintain balance, and stay focused at all times. The offset weight and the long lever completely changes the dynamics of the squat. A heavy mace (say 20lbs) will feel two times heavier than a 20lb dumbbell due to the long handle of the mace, so don’t underestimate the weight. You will need to have shoulder resilience, grip strength, upper back strength and of course, powerful, explosive legs and good hip, knee and ankle mobility. This is what real world strength is about. There aren’t many things in life that are perfectly balanced, so being trained for the awkwardness that is the world is exactly what most people need. Moreover, people definitely don’t need to be sitting on a leg press when they are already sitting down for most of the day.

Now you might be thinking, but barbell squats are what you need to gain real strength, and we won’t argue that. Barbell squats are king for building muscle mass and strength. However, how often are you lifting 300 pound objects outside of the gym? Exactly. The point is, the steel mace, and steel mace squats, will train and prepare you for normal, everyday tasks and challenges. It’s not just about strength, it’s about mobility, balance and stamina too! This is why athletes love steel maces.

different types of steel mace squats

Becoming strong and mobile with the ability to endure intense movements for a long duration of time is absolutely achievable with the steel mace.

So, give these exercises above a try and let them completely transform the way you think about leg day...

When it comes to the steel mace, it’s never “leg day” or “back day” or “shoulder day” it’s ENTIRE BODY DAY. Every part of your body working together to attain a common goal, becoming one powerful, mobile, well-balanced, high energy unit with unrivaled longevity…

Not to mention, steel mace exercises, especially these steel mace squat variations, are fun as hell.

66 Steel Mace Swing Variations

Steel Mace Targeted Exercises (Chest, Back, Legs, Arms, Core)

Where to buy a steel mace (aka macebell)?

Buy SET FOR SET Steel Maces


Want more steel mace education?

Want in-depth training and an exclusive guide to training others with a steel mace? Check out our 84 page steel mace training e-guide. It has everything you need to go from beginner to mace master. Moreover, it will make learning the exercises in this post a lot easier if you are having trouble nailing them. 

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