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March 09, 2020
Wondering whether you should use a sledgehammer or macebell for your tire slam efforts and unconventional workouts? Not sure which one to buy, a sledgehammer or steel mace? Jan Libourel matches up the two in various ways and gives you his verdict on "Sledgehammer vs Macebell, which is better?"
It is not too uncommon to hear claims in discussions on steel maces to the effect: "You don't need a costly macebell. You can get a sledgehammer from your local hardware store at a fraction of the price and perform all the macebell exercises just as well." There are any number of sledgehammer workout videos in which macebell exercises are duplicated. Being of an inquisitive nature, I decided to run some experiments pitting three sledgehammers in my tool shed against my four SET FOR SET macebells. The three sledgehammers consisted of an 8-pound splitting maul (not really a sledgehammer, I know, but close enough) and 12-and 16-pound sledgehammers. My macebells are 10-, 15-, 20- and 25-pounders.
My first drill was to do sequences of the classic mace exercises (as many reps as possible), 360s followed by 10-2s, starting with the 8-pound maul, followed by the 10-pound mace, the 12-pound hammer, the 15-pound mace and the 16-pound hammer. The 8-pound maul was easy to swing, thanks to its light weight, and doing the mace moves in good form was no problem. "Hey, maybe these sledgehammer advocates have their points," thought I. I repeated the drills with the slightly heavier 10-pound mace. It immediately became apparent that the better balance and thicker handle of the mace worked in its favor. Despite its heavier weight, it still felt more comfortable and dynamic in my hands.
The superior dynamic balance of the mace became even more apparent when I bracketed the 15-pound mace with exercises with the 12 and 16-pound sledgehammers. The spherical head and the thicker steel handle of mace give you a much more balanced instrument. Sledgehammers typically have wooden or synthetic handles and are much more top- or front-heavy, depending on how they are held. When the sledgehammers were held upright, the heads were constantly trying to teeter to the right or left, and the skinny handles twisted uncomfortably in my hands. In the same position, the maces stood as rigidly upright as obedient soldiers at attention. When being swung, the sledgehammer heads also twisted about. I even gave myself a kidney punch while swinging the 16-pounder. Fortunately, the blow was a light one.
I then turned to alternative mace exercises like gravediggers, uppercuts and spear thrusts, pitting the 16-pound sledgehammer against the 15- and 20-pound maces. Again, the poor balance of the sledgehammer worked against it. It was actually considerably easier to perform these exercises with good form with the 20-pound mace and even the 25-pounder than the 16-pound sledge.
Clearly, then, for mace exercises, the mace decisively outclasses the sledgehammer. Yes, you can perform mace exercises with the latter, but it's rather like using a pair of pliers to tighten and loosen nuts and bolts instead of a properly fitting wrench.
Now let's look at tire slams. Slamming and smashing things is supposed to be the sledgehammer's metier, and the differences were less pronounced here. I have been using sledgehammers to pound tires for over four years now, maces much more recently. I'll admit to a certain sympathy for the sledgehammer--the tool of men who built railroads, excavated mines and did so much more to build our country. As an American, I find it much easier to identify with the mighty American folk-hero John Henry who died with his hammer in his hand, than with the mace-wielding Hanuman the Monkey God!
I had been using hammers on a medium-sized SUV tire with reasonable satisfaction. The sledgehammer would sometimes twist and glance off, gouging divots in our lawn, but it was not a great problem. When I first got maces, I tried using them on the tire. I found there was little difference between the hammer and the mace for diagonal (over the shoulder) blows, but for overhead slams the longer handle of the mace seemed to be trying to punch me in the groin! More recently, I have resumed using the maces, either in 15- or even 20-pound weights, I seem to have made some subconscious adjustments to my stance , as the problem of the mace handles' coming too close for comfort seems to have disappeared. The mace handle seems more comfortable, and the mace head doesn't torque like the hammer's. Some of the safety concerns raised in favor of the mace, like the possibility of the hammer's head coming off, strike me as rather remote with a well made modern hammer. I am not sure what dedicated exercise hammers offer that the hardware store variety don't, but never having tried the former, I am not in a position to comment intelligently. In all, I am left with a slight preference for the mace for slams.
Related: Benefits of Tire Slams
Now let's look at costs. Where the notion that sledgehammers are a great bargain compared to maces came from, I have no idea! Two of the leading hardware chains offer 10-pound sledgehammers for $34.98 and $38.99. A SET FOR SET Mace in the same weight is $37.95. My 16-pound Urrea sledgehammer goes for $51.46, my SET FOR SET 15-pound mace $49.95. Twenty-pound sledgehammers start around $62, but some cost as much $275 or thereabouts (I'm not sure why some are so pricey). SET FOR SET's macebell is $67.95. No further comment seems necessary. The only way a sledgehammer will be much less expensive than a macebell is if you already have one in your tool shed!
In brief, if you want to do mace exercises, get a mace, period! If you want to slam tires, you can use either, but I think the mace may be a little better. You will not save money by buying a sledgehammer in preference to a macebell, and that's about it.
Author: Jan Libourel
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