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August 13, 2020
If you want an effective upper body macebell workout optimized for muscle growth, then you need to read this article and follow along to our 40-minute steel mace workout below.
Below we will be discussing how to build a stronger, more powerful upper body using a macebell. After we run through everything you need to know about training your upper body, we have a 40 minute upper body macebell workout, which includes a 6 minute dynamic warm up, presented by SET FOR SET ambassador Scott Viala. The upper body workout is full length, so you can follow along to it at home or anywhere you’d like. Scott does a fantastic job of teaching the movements while also providing some tips on how to improve the effectiveness of your mace training.
If you aren’t familiar with an upper/lower split, it involves splitting up your workouts into upper and lower body days. You will target the muscles in your upper body on an upper body day, and lower body muscles on the lower body day. Typically, if you do an upper/lower split, you will train your upper body and lower body twice a week.
MONDAY – UPPER BODY #1
TUESDAY – LOWER BODY #1
WEDNESDAY – REST
THURSDAY – UPPER BODY #2
FRIDAY – LOWER BODY #2
SATURDAY/SUNDAY – REST
While you can target all the same muscles on the first upper and lower body workout as the second, the exercises should be different. So, you are doing two different upper body and two different lower body workouts each week.
Then, at the beginning of the following week, you go back to your Upper Body #1 workout. For an upper and lower split, you should keep this routine consistent for at least 6 weeks if you want to see results and employ progressive overload correctly. This is how you can build muscle and strength.
Other kinds of splits:
Although there are other splits, the above are the most popular. Our personal favorite is the Upper Lower Split as you can get more volume in each week. Upper Lower Splits are great for building muscle and strength.
Upper lower splits involve workouts that are high volume, as you are training multiple muscle groups each day. The goal should be to target each muscle group with at least 4 sets per workout. With that, you may be doing as many as 6-8 exercises for 4 sets.
The beauty of macebell (aka steel mace) upper body workouts is that you can target multiple muscle groups with one movement.
Mace exercises involve compound, multiplanar motions and movement patterns. This means a single exercise can hit all of the muscles in your upper body, including and especially your core. Because of that, you can have a more efficient workout. Doing 4 sets of 4 mace exercises should be sufficient for muscle growth and building strength. This equates to about half the time of your typical conventional training upper body workout.
But understand, that due to the nature of mace movements, the sets in a mace workout will be a lot longer duration. While your average barbell lift can last up to 30 seconds, a macebell set can be 2-3 minutes long. This provides a lot of time under tension in a short time. In fact, with steel mace training, your time under tension may be more than a typical conventional bodybuilding workout, but in half the time.
Do the math...
Conventional Body Building Type Training:
8 exercises x 4 set
30 second sets, 1 minute rest between sets
Total workout: 48 minutes
Total time under tension: 16 minutes
4 exercises x 4 sets
2 minute sets, 1 minute rest time
Total workout time: 48 minutes
Total time under tension: 32 minutes
This should give you an idea of how mace training is effective for building muscle. Rather than using heavier weight to build muscle (although you can use heavy maces for double the effect, and Scott Viala does in his upper body workout), you are increasing time under tension to build muscle. Both are equally effective ways for building muscle. In fact, the latter is more effective for building muscle along with muscular endurance, while the former is better for serious strength and mass.
One benefit of building muscle by increased time under tension over increasing weights is that it is less taxing on the joints. Another win for steel mace training.
All in all, if you want to build upper (and lower) body strength, a macebell can surely be the tool to achieve that.
The primary muscle groups of your upper body are the chest, back, shoulders, biceps, triceps, forearms, and core. Of course, this is very general, as each of those muscle groups or body parts have several (and even numerous) muscles.
In unscientific terms, upper body workouts should target the following muscles:
If you hit all of these areas, you will build a well-rounded upper body.
This may seem like a lot to target, however, you have two upper body workouts per week right? So you can split it up between the two.
Moreover, with steel mace training, one movement may very well hit almost all of these muscles. This is especially true because of the offset weight load. Muscles that would normally not be working very hard for a particular movement with even loading become stabilizer muscles with the steel mace's offset loading and are activated throughout the workout. For example, a shoulder press with a mace will activate your lats far more than it will with an even loaded barbell.
Separating Upper Body Muscle Groups Into Two Days
Since you will be hitting upper body at least twice per week with an upper/lower split, you can emphasize certain muscle groups on day one and others on day two.
Here’s an example:
Day 1: Chest, Triceps, Core
Day 2: Back, Biceps, Shoulder
In the end, the total weekly volume for each muscle group should be the same.
For lower body, if you split it up, you could do anterior (quads) on day one and posterior (calves and hamstrings) on day two.
If you want to build upper body muscle and strength with a steel mace, you need to focus on time under tension. Increase the intensity of your upper body mace workout by really moving slowly and contracting your muscles. Do high volume training, meaning if you are working out for 45 mins, you are actually working for 2/3rd or 3/4th of the workout. Your muscles will surely break down, and then with proper rest and diet, they have no choice but to grow.
Other ways to build upper muscle with a steel mace:
To build muscle, you simply need to continually increase the stress you place on your muscles. This is called progressive overload. With a mace, you can progressive overload in a variety of ways:
It’s that simple. If you understand how progressive overload works and you constantly push yourself during your workouts, so your workouts never get easier, then you will surely build muscle and strength in your upper and lower body. For the upper body, it’s even easier as the lower body can be more difficult to grow in a substantial way with lower weights. Nevertheless, it can be done too.
If you can build muscle with only bodyweight movements, which people undoubtedly do, then macebell workouts obviously can too.
This workout involves a lot of rotation and anti-rotation movements. The mace is designed to be used in this way, as the exercises are movement patterns rather than static isolation movements. You will move through all three planes of motion, and one of those planes is, of course, the transverse plane, which is where rotational and anti-rotational movements come into play.
Here are some of the benefits of rotational and anti-rotational movements:
All in all, there are tons of benefits of this kind of rotational training. It mimics movements we do in our daily life and in sports, so it’s great for both the average person and athletes alike.
You can read more about Anti-Rotational and Rotational Exercises here.
If your goal is to build muscle and strength with a steel mace, then you need to do high volume workouts. This isn’t a heavy barbell that you can lift for 5 sets of 5 reps and build muscle. You will need to do long sets and really focus on contracting your muscle.
Note: To increase muscle tension, pull at the mace head and handle, it will help you to engage your muscles by keeping everything extra tight.
Time Under Tension
For the upper body mace bell workout below, the working time for each set is long, around 2 minutes. The rest time will be around 45-60 seconds (give or take), so it’s almost a 2:1 work-rest ratio. This is ideal for building muscle and strength with a steel mace. It’s not easy, but building muscle and strength is never easy, no matter the implement.
As this is steel mace training, the exercises are based on movement patterns, which means you will move through multiple planes of motion, targeting multiple muscle groups at the same time.
With that, there are only 4 exercises, which target your entire upper body, with an emphasis on your back, shoulders, biceps, forearms and core.
1. One Handed Mace Swings L/R x 4 sets
Benefits: This exercise is going to work your core, forearms, shoulders and lats. It will also hit your upper chest a bit as you need to use it for the pullover portion of the 360s. This is an anti-rotational exercise so it is great for core stability and balance. Moreover, it’s going to help you build some powerful shoulders and forearms.
Note: Scott goes up from 10 to 25lb maces, increments of 5lbs with each set. If you don’t have a range of mace sizes, it’s ok, you can take less rest time. If you do have a range of mace sizes, great! Move up in weight accordingly with each set.
2. Ballistic Curl 360s x 4 sets
Benefits: This exercise is going to target your back, shoulders, core and biceps. You get all the benefits of the 360s, with the added benefit of bicep engagement. Make sure to really contract those biceps and you will get a fantastic pump.
For this exercise, you can also increase the weight with each set. Work up to a challenging weight like Scott does (i.e. 10 to 20-25lbs)
3. 360 to Rotational Swing to Curl x 4 sets
Benefits: This exercise is going to get your shoulders, biceps and core on fire. The rotational movement is going to give you all the benefits we mentioned above about rotational training. This is an athletic-style movement that is going to make you feel like you are training for war.
Keep it lighter on this one 10-15lbs is good. If you can go heavier, go for it, but focus on quality over quantity.
4. Row to Clean & Press x 4 sets
Benefits: This is a fantastic power control exercise that combines rotation. It is going to work your entire back, shoulders and core. It’s a really draining exercise as you are going to have to move slowly through the movement while controlling (better yet, OWNING) the mace.
Keep it light on this one, relatively speaking. Scott used a 15lb mace.
Here we have a full-length upper body steel mace workout by Scott Viala. The workout starts with a 6-minute dynamic warm up, then Scott jumps into the upper-body workout, which is around 30 minutes long.
This workout is going to get that upper body really pumped up. Scott does a fantastic job of teaching each movement, giving tips along the way and providing some serious motivation and positive energy.
If you are looking for a steel mace workout that you can follow along to, this is the one, especially if you like steel mace workouts that are based on swings and rotational movements.
EQUIPMENT: Scott has 10-30lb steel maces on hand.
WORKOUT STYLE: Sets x Time/Reps
Note: If you don’t have the luxury of having a full set, it’s ok, all you really need is one mace for this workout. If you only have one or two sizes, really focus on creating tension and this workout is going to toast you. If you have multiple mace sizes, great. You can move up in weight where it makes sense to do so. You will see how Scott does that as the workout proceeds. Although for some exercises he sticks to one or two weight sizes.
We hope you enjoy this workout. We have a lot more coming.
If you have any questions for Scott, feel free to leave a comment below or contact him on IG:
More upper lower body workouts using a steel mace:
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September 21, 2023
September 21, 2023
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