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July 10, 2020 1 Comment
We have been receiving A LOT of requests lately about “how to flow with a steel mace.”
You’ve probably seen Esik, Leo Savage or Rocks Fitness Training, and a few other guys and gals on Instagram who move with the mace so flawlessly. A steel mace flow is like a form of art…like a beautiful martial arts dance, fitness, choreography mashup.
You may have wondered, what’s the purpose of a steel mace flow? Is it just because it looks cool or is there some functionality and benefit to this? So, we decided to create this post and video tutorials below to break it all down for you. The when, why, and how of steel mace flows.
Note: These are the basics of flowing and we are in the process of developing a steel mace flow program with Rock for those mace movers who want to take their mace flow skills to the next level.
What is a steel mace flow?
Put simply, a steel mace flow combines three or more movements into one seamless sequence.
If you are familiar with Steel Mace Flows you’ve probably seen people on social media flowing with what seems to be no structure, just feeling in the moment; we dig that.
However, at SET FOR SET, we create and teach flows that require direct thought and purpose (is it a push movement? Well then, we need a pull as well, etc.). We know exactly what moves we will perform in sequence and we make sure that we are targeting the body completely and evenly.
Steel Mace Flow by ROCKS FITNESS TRAINING:
Instead of ‘stiff and strong’ static movements, like a lot of traditional training requires, steel mace flows allow you to unwind and find a greater sense of movement and mobility.
The purpose of a steel mace flow is to smoothly transition from one movement to the next in a continuous sequence of movements through multiple planes of motion. Your intention should be to link breath to movement. Acceleration and deceleration should be performed during concentric and eccentric movements, respectively.
When flowing, you are in a condition of steady, mindful engagement. Rather than letting gravity do all the work, you can decide how you want to move and in which plane of motion and direction.
The practice is intense. If you hate routine and love to test your physical limits and train dynamically, steel mace flows may be perfect for you.
Steel mace flows can have a lot of sport specific purpose as well.
If you are a fighter (MMA or BJJ), you may incorporate a lot of movements in your flow that correlate to fighting. Moving from one movement to the next like you do in a flow is the closest thing to a fight that you can mimic in regards to training and preparation.
If you are a football player, being able to move through various movements and positions with complete stability and control can help you build the stability, balance, and coordination needed for breaking tackles and getting through an O-line or D-line.
Steel mace flows target multiple muscles simultaneously (compound movements) in multiple planes of motion; challenging your focus and your timing while your body is under stress.
Flows provide a plethora of benefits. Steel Mace Flows Enhance Your..
Like an MMA match
If you have ever trained BJJ or MMA, you know that after a match, your whole body is completely obliterated - especially your forearms, which are filled with lactic acid because of all of the grabbing/grappling. If your steel mace flows are structured properly, this is how you should feel after a flow workout.
Now, you might be wondering…
What’s the difference between a flow and a complex?
Steel Mace Flow Structure:
Squat x 1
Lunge x 1
360 x 1
Shoulder press x 1
Repeat continuously for desired time or X-amount of large reps (one rep being all 4 exercises completed on both sides).
Squat x 5
Lunge x 5
360 x 5
Shoulder press x 5
Repeat for recommended rounds
Besides the obvious structural difference, how do a steel mace flow and a complex differ in effectiveness?
We believe a steel mace flow demands more motor control and coordination due to the constant change in movement plus the dynamics of the exercise sequencing.
Essentially, it takes a more coordinated, mindful effort to move through the sequence one rep at a time, compared to a complex in which you are staying with a movement for 5 reps before moving on to the next.
Think about the complexity of a movement pattern if you have a 5-exercise flow (and you need to hit both sides of your body). Stringing all 5 exercises together seamlessly is a challenge, especially with a steel mace due to its design (compared to say, a kettlebell flow).
Related: 6 Steel Mace Complex Workouts
Why does the design of the mace make for the most challenging flow?
You must understand how to switch and place the mace into the proper position while simultaneously moving your foot stance into the correct position as well (more on this below). There are a few basic switches that you’ll need to know to get into certain positions. More advanced hand switches can make for some really awesome flows.
However, if you are looking for muscle building benefits, it’s our understanding that a complex is a better option due to increased time under tension for each of the exercises/muscle groups (5 reps for a complex vs. 1 rep for a flow which would be every 15-60 seconds depending on the flow).
Why is a steel mace the best tool to use for flowing?
We believe, the steel mace is the best tool to use to flow because of its design.
The long handle and uneven weight distribution are ideal for creating momentum and working through multiple planes of motion, which is really what you want when flowing - multi-planar movement.
You can alter the difficulty and change the dynamics of a movement simply by positioning your hands or mace differently (hands closer to the head and grip wider apart = easier; hands closer to the bottom of the handle and stacked = harder).
You can continually progress and challenge yourself this way, improving your stability and coordination unmatched by other tools.
Switching To Different Positions
The long handle makes it easier to transition from one movement to the next as well. Hand switches can be made from many different points along the handle, which is ideal for flowing (and altering difficulty). There are a limited number of ways to hold a dumbbell or kettlebell. However, the mace allows a wider spectrum of difficulty depending on your grip and hand positions.
Flowing - This is nothing new…
The flow is an underlying method and concept people in martial arts and yoga have been using since their inception.
A steel mace flow could be compared to a yoga sequence/workout (without the pausing when holding positions) or Tai Chi and other martial arts practices, where you move through multiple movements, smoothly and mindfully.
Even warriors flowed…
Thousands of years ago, warriors who used a mace in battle would train and prepare using a heavier mace so that when they went to battle their lighter battle-mace would be much easier to use. A flow with the mace could have been one of the training techniques that mimic battle the closest.
Creativity in mace flows
You can truly fuse your personality into a steel mace flow. It takes creativity and a thorough understanding of the fundamentals of the mace but when you have both of those things, the options for flows are endless. Freedom of expression through fitness is one reason why so many people are starting to learn how to flow with a mace.
A big advantage of training with the mace is that it forces us to act on rotational mechanisms of our body. When rotating, we find noticeable imbalances which are affecting our power and control of intensity. The steel mace allows us to intentionally engage and activate natural forces of gravity through purposeful multi-planar movement.
Firstly, before even considering a flow, let alone performing mace exercises individually, you must master your bodyweight movements. A lot of people try to jump into the steel mace without having the movement pattern aspect mastered.
If you don’t master the movement, it’ll look sloppy. If the body is incapable of moving through a certain range of motion, adding a tool will only provide negative results. When we add resistance to movements, it’s harder to maintain the proper structural integrity.
Improving movement should definitely be the first step in creating positive patterning in your body.
Once you are comfortable with your bodyweight/movement patterns, you should practice each mace exercise individually.
(note: most of us who pick up a mace have been training for years and we know how to properly perform movements like squats, lunges, deadlifts, etc. the above is more for people just starting out in fitness - remember at some point we all had to learn how to do something as simple as squat correctly.)
Let’s say you want to do a flow that requires 5 individual exercises, the first thing you should do is master those 5 movements individually. Once you are comfortable with those exercises, then you can start stringing them together for a flow.
The importance of Hand Placement, Ready positions, and HAND SWITCHES*
You must know what the hand positions and ready positions are for each exercise. Then you need to learn how to perform the correct hand switches (in the most effective manner) to get into those positions as you move from one movement to the next. If you don’t know how you should be holding the mace in a certain exercise, or what the ready position looks like, or how to switch the mace into that position, your flow will be sloppy and ineffective, and you could injure yourself.
Once you have a thorough understanding of the four - hand placements, ready positions, hand switches, and the movements in general - you can start to master a flow.
Our 84-page ebook teaches your hand placement, ready positions, and hand switches, along with over 35 exercises to get you started. This way you will have a lot of exercises to work with for your flows. You can also follow us on Youtube for a playlist of exercises ranging from beginner to advanced. All of this will teach you the basics of steel mace flows, which is more than enough to get started and keep you busy for a while…(we just added 18 pages of flow content to our training guide!).
How to implement flows into your training?
People ask us this same question quite often, when should I flow with my mace or how do I add steel mace flows to my training program?
There are multiple ways that you can implement mace flows into your training.
Warm up: Flows can be done as a warm-up before an intense workout or sport, to get your body warmed up, joints mobilized and your mind mentally prepared for the activity to come.
Recommended: 3-5 minute flow with a lighter mace.
Full body workout: Take a day off from heavy lifting and get your body back to maximum functionality by increasing mobility and stability with a steel mace flow. The best approach to this is time or rep based. - you could do 1 long mace flow or 3 rounds (this can be done with 3 unique flows, or one flow, done for 3 rounds).
Recommended: 20-30 min total workout with minimal rest in-between rounds or when needed using a mid-to-heavy size mace. If you can go the whole 20-30 minutes without putting the mace down, even better.
Finisher: A steel mace flow is a great finisher. Perform a flow at the end of your workout to really seal the deal on a great training session.
Recommended: 3-5 mins using a light-to-mid size mace.
Replace your Cardio session: Done in place of cardio. It will take up less of your time and you will receive much greater rewards.
Recommended: Use a lighter mace, 20+ mins of non-stop flowing.
Remember, if you are going through your flow carelessly without engaging your muscles and simply just trying to get through the movements (lookin’ like Gumby), the benefits won’t be the same and you could actually produce negative results (meaning injury).
For implementation options 2 and 4 above, these types of intense flow sessions are very taxing on the body so you will need to be sure to coordinate them properly with the rest of your workouts to make sure you are getting the necessary rest and recovery. It’s recommended to only do this kind of workout twice or three times per week at max. It’s like doing HIIT, which you wouldn’t want to do every day or you will risk overtraining.
Note: for some people, a lighter mace is 7lbs for others it’s 15lbs. This all depends on your conditioning level.
How to flow with the steel mace - breakdown with examples.
Now that you understand what a flow is, the benefits of flowing, why the steel mace is a great (best*) tool to use for flowing, and how to prepare for a flow, you need to learn how to actually break down a flow and string it all together. Then, you can start performing a complicated flow for 5-10 minutes without putting the mace down while looking flawless the whole time. Be in rhythm not only with the mace and yourself but the world around you.
Criteria for a steel mace flow:
WHEN IN DOUBT throw a 360 or 10-to-2 in there. It is the STEEL MACE after all and that’s what it was meant to do. It was born to 360.
Here are some tips when creating a flow:
Tips when flowing:
Now, let’s breakdown how we create flows…
Advanced Steel Mace Flow Example (we will teach you how to get to this level so be ready):
Step 1: Break it down into individual exercises
The first thing we do is think about what exercises we are going to piece together, choosing from exercises that we’ve mastered and with careful thought of hitting as many muscles and movement patterns as possible.
Step 2: We think about how to transition from one exercise to the next in terms of foot stance, hand placement, and switches.
Key factor in flowing - How to switch the mace to the necessary position as smoothly as possible? Again we have created many hand switches to accommodate for all of this because it is important to have the most effective switch in your flow to keep things smooth and avoid whacking yourself with the mace or dropping it on the ground.
The best way to get your hand switches down for a new flow is to move statically (much slower) from exercise 1 to exercise 2, then exercise 2 to exercise 3, and so on, practicing the best hand switch for each transition.
This is all very important, and it’s basically reiterated and engrained in your brain during the next step. When doing step 3 keep hand placements and switches top of mind.
Here are the 3 most common hand switches:
Step 3: Practice stringing together two exercises, then three, then put all of them together into one seamless movement.
IF you have only 3 movements in your flow, practice in this sequence:
Master Movements Individually:
1 x 10 reps (each side)
2 x 10 reps (each side)
3 x 10 reps (each side)
1+2 x 10 reps
2+3 x 10 reps
1+2+3 x 10 reps = you are ready.
Further tips when learning and mastering a flow:
Move slowly at first, so you can ingrain the movement in your brain. This is easiest if you have a lighter mace to practice the flow with first.
Think about what you are doing carefully. When it starts feeling more natural, you can move more dynamically rather than statically.
Note: flows are dynamic yet that doesn’t mean they are fast - Slow, controlled, continuous motion.
Here are videos showing how we would practice and work our way up to the advanced 6 movement flow shown above.
Final - 6-movement flow:
Performing movements on both sides before moving on to the next makes for an easier flow. You will notice once we reach the 5-movement Flow that movements 4-6 are performed on one side then the next, instead of on both sides first.
Advanced Hand Switches:
Advanced hand switches can really add that special look and difficulty to a flow. Here are two hand switches to master and this is how they look when you add them to the flow above. We didn't use the following hand switches in the flow above, however, we did create another flow to show you how these more advanced switches can spice your flows up...
Back Switch (advanced):
Here is a video of how to transition from a Top Switch to a Back Switch to make an Around The World Switch:
Here is the same 5-movement flow as shown above but this time a Top Switch was used in place of a Front Switch during the Alternating Lateral Lunge. This is just to show you how certain hand switches can add more flair to your flow:
****Single Arm Mace Flow (with Back Switch):
We are seeing a lot of people using kettlebells to flow, and other more traditional equipment like barbells, an Olympic bar in a landmine, and dumbbells, and people are using battle ropes, Indian clubs, and more unconventional equipment to flow with now too.
For those who love yoga, programs being developed for a YOGA MACE FLOW mashup from a mace and yoga master named Furry.
A great way to start “flowing” is with your bodyweight (prerequisite*).
Some Vinyasa or Ashtanga yoga is also a great place to start to practice mind, body, breathing coordination and control in a sequential manner.
We hope this article helps you on your way to mastering steel mace flows. As mentioned above, we have a mace training e-guide which includes flow lessons that will take your mace flow game to the next level.
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