As unconventional fitness continues to rise in popularity, many questions are popping up about steel clubs, steel maces, and kettlebells.
Some of the questions we are hearing from the community and noticing in forums are:
Which is better, kettlebells, steel maces, or steel clubs?
What should I buy first a kettlebell or steel mace? clubbell or kettlebell? steel mace or clubbell?
What are the differences and similarities between the three?
Which size should I buy?
How do I use them and what are the benefits?
There aren’t exactly clear and concise answers for these above questions, at least not all in one place. So, that will be the focus of this article, to provide those answer as best as we can.
Here is how we are going to attack this comparison. First, we are going to break down each piece of equipment, then we will go over, in a quick summary, which one is the best depending on your goals.
A kettlebell is made from cast iron or steel and shaped into a ball with a handle attached at the top. It closely resembles a cannonball that has a handle on top or a teapot without the sprout.
The kettlebell can be used for exercises in many ways. One of the most effective ways is through ballistic exercises, which integrates cardio, flexibility, and strength training. They are one of the most popular exercise equipment in weight lifting, and they even have their own sport called kettlebell lifting.
The Kettlebell Swing is a great exercise to strengthen the body and burn a lot of fat. The Kettlebell Snatch and Turkish Get Ups are also very popular exercises. All of these exercises will develop serious power in your hamstrings, glutes, core, and shoulders, and will build muscle in those areas as well.
Kettlebells can range in sizes from 5-10 pounds all the way up to 200+ pounds. A quick Google search will tell you which size you should start with depending on your gender and conditioning level and needs.
A steel mace, or macebell as it is also known, is derived from an ancient weapon. It is a ball with a long straight handle (a.k.a. lever) welded to it. A good steel mace will have knurled gripping on the handle for extra grip support. The steel mace has an uneven weight distribution, with most of the weight being in the ball (or head) of the mace.
The steel mace is used in many different ways for full body conditioning, and it is especially useful for upper body strength. However, it’s main and best use is for kinesthetic training (balance, coordination, stability and body awareness) and multiplanar movements (especially core rotational movements) thanks to its uneven weight distribution, which makes for an awkward, offset weight load. Many athletes are using the mace nowadays, especially NFL and MMA fighters.
The main exercises are 360s and 10 to 2s, which are great exercises for core strength & stability, powerful & mobile shoulders, and crushing grip strength. There are literally countless ways the mace can be used to target all areas of the body through compound movements, which is truly the beauty of this fantastic unconventional training tool.
Steel maces range from 5 or 7-pounds to 40+ pounds. Most steel mace companies only sell macebells up to 25LB, as that is really the top weight needed for experienced steel mace users. If you are wondering which size you would start with, you can read this article on "what steel mace size is right for me?"
A steel club, or clubbell as it is known and trademarked, is another ancient weapon turned powerful fitness tool. It takes shape in what closely resembles a bowling pin or juggling club. It was first used as a conditioning tool by soldiers and wrestlers in ancient Persia. These original clubs were very heavy and extremely useful for increasing grip and shoulder strength and core rotational force, which is especially beneficial for wrestlers - think grappling and throwing people over your shoulders.
Steel clubs were designed for pullover and swing movements. Depending on the weight, they can be used for rehabilitation and prehabilitation (lighter steel clubs) or rotational and shoulder power (heavier steel clubs). Many people train with steel clubs by using two steel clubs at a time, either in unison or alternating patterns. It is a great tool for MMA fighters as it develops powerful grip and forearm strength, which comes in handy when grappling (pun intended).
Again, lighter steel clubs are mainly used for rehab or for people who are just starting out with steel clubs and wanting to learn the movements safely AND heavier steel clubs offer other benefits to well-conditioned athletes. However, the movements are somewhat similar. Two and one-handed pullovers (front-back-front & back-to-outward), front and back swings, or lateral swings.
Steel clubs range in sizes from 5 to 45 pounds. They are usually sold in pairs as well. A quick Google search will tell you which size you should start with depending on your gender and conditioning level and needs.
As you can see, there are many similarities of benefits between the three tools, even if they are used in different ways.
The kettlebell is the best option if you are looking for a training tool with the main focus of:
A kettlebell is a great option for those who are seeking the above. However, you would need a range of kettlebell sizes to challenge yourself and accomplish the above effectively. You need heavier and lighter kettlebells depending on the exercise and muscles you are targetting.
Therefore, if you had a range of sizes, the kettlebell can seriously help you pack on muscle. But, if you only had one kettlebell, you’d be limited to how you can challenge yourself...i.e. if you wanted leg development, you’d need a heavier kettlebell, but then you wouldn't be able to use it for shoulder development to great effect.
If you are just looking to burn fat, metabolic conditioning that is, you could get away with one mid-to-heavy size kettlebell for exercises like the kettlebell swings, which is excellent for keeping that heart rate up.
The steel mace is the best option if you are looking for a training tool with the main focus of:
As all three options have their advantage for athletic performance, it hard to say which one is "best".
However, if you are looking to improve your athletic performance in terms of balance and coordination, the steel mace is the best option, as performing unilateral exercises with an offset weight and a long lever will seriously challenge your balance and coordination over time. It's basically athletic based training on steroids (unilateral + offset).
The steel mace is also amazing in that you can increase or decrease difficulty with just one steel mace. The long level (or handle) allows you to decrease or increase difficulty by simply choking up or down on the mace, respectively. This allows you to challenge yourself at different difficulty levels for any exercise you perform all with one tool. It's especially useful for increased difficulty in terms how much the weight is offset.
If we could only choose one tool, it would be the steel mace because of its versatility and ability to alter difficulty. You could keep yourself very busy and challenge yourself consistently, week after week, with just one steel mace (such as a 10 or 15 pounder).
Lastly, we believe a steel mace is the most versatile in terms of exercises. You can train through all three planes of motion with countless different exercises. The exercise potential is really limitless. It's a fantastic tool for rehab and prehab as well as full body conditioning and HIIT. Additionally, it’s also great in that you can use it as a sledgehammer too - slam your heart away and reap the benefits of serious metabolic conditioning training.
Already have a mace? Be sure to pick up our extensive steel mace training e-guide to take your (or your clients) mace training to the next level.
The steel club has a lot of similar benefits to the steel mace, albeit it’s not as versatile in terms of altering difficulty and the number of exercises out there to follow.
The steel club would be the best option if you are looking for a training tool with the main focus of:
We believe that the steel club is truly the best when it comes down to rehab and prehab time.
All in all, the choice really comes down to personal preference. They are all effective tools.
If we only could buy one of these tools in just one size, it would be the steel mace. If money wasn’t an issue, we’d get all of them without question, and the kettlebell would the one we’d get the widest range of sizes for.
This is honestly an unbiased view on these three unconventional training tools. We are more than open to discussion. Let us know what you think in the comments below.
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