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May 25, 2020
If you are over the age of 65 and you are wondering "Are Steel Maces (aka Macebells) a good training tool to use in my fitness routine?", then read this post regarding 'steel maces for seniors' by our friend Jan Libourel, a 78-year-old unconventional fitness enthusiast.
When my friends at SET FOR SET asked me to write about the benefits of macebell training, I'll have to confess to feeling some reluctance. Exercise is exercise, training is training and the virtues and benefits of macebell exercises are pretty much the same for everybody, even those of us who are not quite as strong and spry as we were 50 years ago. In any event, I have lived past my 78th birthday and have become a fervent convert to macebell training in the past couple of years, so I guess I am sufficiently "senior" to give some sort of informed commentary on this topic. (Those who would like to know a little more about my fitness history can check out my autobiographical sketch that was the February 10 entry on this blog).
Let's start by looking at the virtues of the macebell, with a special emphasis on how they apply to us senior citizens. In the first place, compared to much other fitness gear, macebells are very inexpensive. The two maces likely to be most suitable as "starter" maces for an older person would be the 7-pounder ($27.95 from SET FOR SET) or the 10-pounder ($39.95).
They are utterly simple devices. There is no programming or other techno-gimmickry to master--something quite daunting to many of us old-timers, at least this one! Many seniors have moved into less spacious housing as they age, and here the macebell comes into its own. You can store one or several macebells unobtrusively in a corner of your closet, under your bed, along a wall or otherwise out of the way. The same cannot be said for many other items of workout gear (exercise machines, squat racks, weight benches, etc.). Many people have the notion that you need a high ceiling and plenty of floor space to effectively perform mace exercises. This is simply not so. I find a normal, 8-foot high ceiling gives ample clearance, and I am still a fairly tall guy--about 6'1" (down from 6'3" in my prime). Since the macebell is essentially a leverage bell, you can vary the resistance it offers simply by adjusting the position of your hands: closer to the head of the macebell, easier; further away, more strenuous. There is an almost infinite variety of beneficial exercises you can perform with the macebell.
Finally, I don't believe any piece of workout gear is more durable than the macebell. It is all but indestructible. There is no reason why your great-great-great grandchildren cannot be exercising with your macebells.
My advice here--for seniors or really anybody else who is interested--depends largely on your present physical condition and exercise history. If you are not pursuing at this time any kind of regimen of resistance training, the standard advice is to have a consultation with your physician before undertaking such training, and I will have to second that. Be aware, however, that many physicians are frequently over-cautious about resistance training, as I know from experience. They tend to be very concerned about their patients' "hurting themselves" with weights. In regard to this, I would re-iterate this principle: Nobody ever got hurt by starting too light! If you are new to resistance exercise, a 7-pound macebell is almost certainly your best bet, and definitely nothing heavier than a 10-pounder. Pay close attention to good form in performing the recommended exercises (be guided by the demonstrations in SET FOR SET's complimentary e-book), don't use too heavy a mace, warm up in some fashion, and you shouldn't come to harm.
I suspect, though, that most people--senior or otherwise--who are drawn to macebell training already have an exercise background, whether it be bodyweight, conventional weights (dumbbells and barbells) or, most likely, other forms of "unconventional fitness" that have enjoyed a revival in recent years: kettlebells, clubbells, medicine balls, slamballs, sandbags, Indian clubs, etc. If you are already performing resistance exercises, you have more leeway in choosing a macebell. I still think seven pounds is the best starting weight for most women and 10 pounds for most men, certainly those of us who can be described as "seniors." I will add that I am glad I started macebell work with a 10-pounder. Despite lengthy experience with free weights and in recent years with kettlebells, I would have found starting with a 15-pounder altogether too challenging. However, it may not be for you if you are quite strong. I realize there are some old fellows out there in their 80s who can bench 300 pounds, deadlift 500 and perform similar feats of strength. However, such men are very, very exceptional. You're probably not one of them, and I'm certainly not either. In any event, my hat is off to them, and they can readily choose whatever weight of macebell they wish to start with!
The two "classic" macebell exercises are the 360 and the 10-2. Both are adapted from the Indian "gada" mace--a traditional exercise tool ancestral to the macebell--and involve swinging the mace over your shoulders behind your back. The leverage involved in these moves is among the most challenging of any common macebell exercises. You may find that the macebell you use for these exercises does not provide sufficient resistance for some other beneficial exercises like "grave diggers," "spear thrusts/jousts" or "uppercuts." Thus, it makes considerable sense to buy two maces when you start macebell training. For instance, I started macebell training with a 10- and 15-pounder. I found executing 360s and 10-2s with the latter very challenging at first. Nowadays, the 10-pounder has become a warm-up tool for me, and I have progressed to maces heavier than 15 pounds for many exercises (See my blog post for May 11 - The Case For The Heavier Mace), and you may very well end up doing the same.
Back in 1970, the book Future Shock by Alvin Toffler attracted a lot of attention. It was very prophetic and discussed how the coming era of rapid techno-change was going to be daunting and unsettling to many people, and this has certainly been the case for many of us in our seventh, eighth and ninth decades. (I'm not sure many nonagenarians and centenarians are going to be interested in taking up the macebell, but if you are, more power to you, and why not?) It's very possible the macebell may seem at first like an oddity compared to many more familiar forms of exercise equipment, but it is actually based on proven, age-old systems of exercise based on the Indian gada mace that has given the world mighty warriors, invincible wrestlers and other strongmen. Really, whether you are young, middle-aged or "senior," give the macebell a try. I think you'll be glad you did. I certainly was.
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