July 08, 2020
Every day, more and more people are getting into steel mace training. Its popularity is exploding. And with that, people have a lot of questions. Whether you are a coach or simply a fitness enthusiast, and you have a mace already or not, it can’t hurt to get some advice. We’ve been in the steel mace game since 2014, which sort of makes us OGs in this realm, so we are confident that we have the answers and tips for steel mace training that you are seeking.
In this post, we provide steel mace training tips based on the following categories…
With that, if you only want to know some specific tips that pertain to you, you can scroll down to the relevant section.
Many of the steel mace tips we offer in this article will have links to resources that go in-depth on the specific point we are making.
All in all, the tips below will be valuable no matter what level you are in the mace game, and they will be especially valuable for mace newbies and personal trainers who are just starting out or at the very least considering to train their clients with macebells.
We won’t talk about what a mace is, the history of the mace, or what the overall benefits are here as we’ve already done that in previous posts (follow the links if you are curious), so let’s just jump right into the wrinkles of steel mace training.
1. Don’t think of the weight of a mace as you would a dumbbell. Your ego will tell you to buy a 15lb mace, but your future self will say get a 10. The steel mace is an offset, awkward tool, so the actual poundage compared to how it feels will surprise you. Most people should start with a 10lb mace, and for some, even a 7lb. Now, of course, certain individuals can get away with a 15 pounder no problem, but they are the exception. And for those who buy a 15lb mace but lack the strength will have a more challenging (and not in a good way) experience learning the basics. Overall, a 10lb mace will help you learn the movements safely, correctly, and efficiently. Plus, a 10 will always be useful.
Still not sure? Here’s the right size steel mace for you - it also takes into consideration how you plan to use the mace.
2. Consider the handle length. You don’t want to buy a mace with a short handle. However, that is relative to the weight of the mace and your height. On the whole, if you are very short, a shorter length mace will be ok, but generally speaking, maces with a respectable handle length are the best. Some mace sellers out there have maces with short handles (the exception will always be the 7lb mace, they have to have shorter handles). All in all, you want a mace that is at least 40 inches long. Pay attention to that if you are buying a mace. If you are shopping with SET FOR SET, then you already know our 10+ pound maces have the perfect handle length (40+ inches), as we’ve perfected the size over the years.
3. Get a steel mace, the plastic maces and adjustable maces are simply not as versatile. A steel mace is virtually indestructible. That’s what you want from a mace. After all, it's a weapon turned fitness tool. You are going to beat it up just as much as it beats you up. You want to be able to use it in all the ways a mace is meant to be used - swung, slammed, jousted, etc. While we do appreciate ADEX’s adjustable maces for 360s and 10-to-2s, we think the "all-around mace" is the steel mace. It has the DNA of the mace club weapon. It's the mace of maces.
Related: What is the best macebell company?
4. Find out about the knurling (the grip pattern on the handle). Too much knurling and your hands are ripped up, too little and it’s hard to grip when your hands get sweaty, and they will get sweaty. If you are buying from SET FOR SET, we will tell you right now, ours are right in the middle. We always get compliments on the knurling. It’s a happy medium. We like to think we've perfected the design over the years. Note: 7lb maces are again the exception, most 7lb maces on the market won’t even have knurling.
5. Go for the brand that specializes in the mace. More and more mace brands are popping up. Most brands that have a huge line of fitness products just buy what the manufacturer sells. They don't put much thought into the design. A brand like SET FOR SET, who specializes in steel mace training, has taken the time to work with a manufacturer to adjust the design to get it right (i.e. good knurling, handle length, strong powder coating over glossy finishing, and so on). The small things matter. Read the reviews.
1. Learn the basics first. Don’t just jump right into the exercises you see people doing online. You need to learn the basics. And by basics, we mean the basic, basics. Like grip orientation, hand placement, ready positions and hand switches. It’s more important than you might think at first. Not only will it help you train with the mace effectively, but it will also help you progress quicker.
2. Get your shoulder mobility and stability up to par. If you are lacking shoulder mobility and/or stability, you need to work on this first and foremost. Without good shoulder mobility, you won’t be able to perform steel mace 360s and 10-to-2s correctly and without good shoulder stability (scapular and rotator cuff), you will be liable to injuries.
3. Start with simple mace exercises before you jump into steel mace swings. Get a feel for the mace with exercises like switch squats, switch lunges, offset overhead presses and so on. Here are the 16 best steel mace exercises to start with.
4. Learn how to swing the mace step by step. The 360 and 10-to-2 are the two most important exercises for steel mace training. They are to the mace what the kettlebell swing is to the kettlebell. However, you really can’t just jump right into them. After you have a good feel for the basics and you have been doing some standard, non-swinging mace exercises, start working on your swing, but don’t just try to do a 360 and 10-to-2 right off rip. Put your ego to the side and do mace 360 practice moves - those practice moves will be pendulums, metronomes, pull overs, choked up halos, etc. 360 practice moves are crucial to learning how to swing the mace correctly. Even when you finally get to do your first 360, it will likely be ugly and it will feel awkward. From there, perfect your swing. As long as you know good form and technique, you’ll make it look and feel smooth soon enough.
5. Follow people on Instagram who are further in the mace game than you. Many steel mace trainers provide valuable information and knowledge on steel mace training on IG. For example, if you want to flow with a mace, someone like Leo Savage or The Crazy Trainer is a must-follow. If you want steel mace exercises, follow the hastag #steelmaceexercises. Here are 20 steel mace enthusiasts to follow on IG. They will help improve your game.
6. Don’t start “flowing” until you have quite a bit of experience with mace training under your belt. If you just jump into mace flows after learning a few exercises, you will not be doing your fitness any justice. Not only that, but you will also get frustrated as flowing requires a very solid mace skill foundation. Start by learning exercises and piecing together a few movements. Do steel mace complexes before you do random flows. You must walk before you run, Grasshopper.
7. Understand the benefits of the mace. It will help you understand the purpose of this modality. While it’s not the end all be all tool for most, it can be. But generally speaking, it should have its place within your regimen. For certain aspects of physical fitness, it is unrivaled.
If you are a beginner, we highly recommend our steel mace training guide. It comes with the purchase of a mace, but if you already have one, you should get it. It’s highly valuable for beginners. It has all the basics, how to learn a 360 swing step by step, tons of exercises, and more.
1. Pay attention to your form like you would with conventional bodybuilding, or even more so. The mace involves multiplanar compound movement patterns rather than single-plane often-times-isolated movements like a barbell or dumbbell exercise. That said, you still need to follow the same basic principles. In fact, you need to probably pay even more attention to the mechanics as mace movements are more complex than most conventional lifts. Things like retracting your shoulder blades, keeping your shoulders down and back, standing in a neutral position and so on are important for mace training as without proper form, injuries will follow. Always think of how your joints should be stabilized and what position they should be in for every mace exercise. It will eventually become natural. Just because you are swinging around a piece of steel doesn’t mean your joints should be lax. Remember, it's solid, heavy steel! You need to know when to let momentum take over and when to contract. This is why it is best to use a light mace when starting out to minimize any risk and to really understand the mechanics. Moreover, you should focus on single movements before combining movements.
2. Start with a lightweight mace for new exercises. As we just mentioned in the previous tip, it’s important to use a light weight for new exercises. Get a hang for the mechanics of the exercise before using a very challenging weight.
3. Break the exercise down before doing it. This is especially true for exercises that combine multiple movements and move you through multiple planes of motion. So, break the exercise down into single movements, practice each movement, then piece them together. If you learn the basics first, it will be easy to understand how the full movement is pieced together.
4. Start with beginner exercises even if you are advanced in fitness. If the mace is a new modality for you, have fun being a beginner again. It’s probably been a while since you were a beginner at something in the realm of fitness, enjoy the learning experience.
5. Keep your core tight. This is a tip that applies to pretty much every aspect of fitness. It is especially true when dealing with an offset weight like a steel mace. Keep your core tight so your spine can remain stable and you don’t put extra pressure on other joints. Steel mace exercises emphasize core strength, so always keep it top of mind.
Think of your kinetic chain. Keep all links secure.
6. Have fun and create new movements. One of the best things about the steel mace is the ability to create new movements and try new things. With a multiplanar tool like this there is always a new idea popping up. Try them, but be safe. If you want some inspiration, follow someone who knows the mace well on IG and see what new stuff they come up with.
1. Start with steel mace 360 and 10-to-2 practice moves before jumping right into the actual movement. Crawl before you walk, walk before you run, run before you sprint.
2. Understand the mechanics of the movement. When the mace is swinging around your back side, let momentum take over, but make sure your joints remain stable. There are times when you need to contract too, like pulling the mace over your shoulder. It’s not all loosey goosey. The practice moves will help with this. Break down each step of the exercise and piece it together.
3. Always keep your core tight. It’s as simple as that.
4. Keep a neutral spine and your ribs tucked.
5. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and keep those glutes and legs tight as well. That is your base. It needs to be sturdy. This becomes even more apparent with heavier maces (note: a slight lean when swinging a heavy mace is ok, but you need to keep engaged, you don’t want to throw your back out).
6. Keep the mace close to you. It should be close to you on the front side and the back side. The mace is moving around your body closely.
7. Bring your hands down to neck level on the back side, don’t keep them high.
8. Keep your shoulder down and back and don’t hunch, focus on good posture.
9. Start with a light mace. Trust us. Better to learn the movement properly than develop bad habits and possibly even hurt yourself with a mace that is too heavy as a starter.
10. Don’t make huge jumps in mace weight. The difference between a 10 and 15 pound mace is quite noticeable but from 10 to 20 it’s a whole different ball game. Work up in weight, don't make big leaps.
1. Employ progressive overload. If people can build muscle with bodyweight-only movements, you can most definitely build muscle with a mace. Progressive overload can be done with a heavier mace, more time under tension, decreasing rest time, increasing volume and overall just increasing the intensity of your movements (contract more!).
2. If you want to build muscle, you will need a heavier mace, relative to your strength. We all know the basic principles for building muscle. You need a mace that is going to overload the stress you are putting on your muscles. While even lighter maces are challenging to use, they often times aren’t enough for building muscle unless you employ other progressive overload techniques, which we will get into in the next tip.
3. More time under tension. With steel mace training, you really need to increase the time under tension as the weight load is simply not enough to build muscle with just a few repetitions. Focus on time, not reps.
4. Heavily focus on contraction and tension. Make sure your muscles are fully engaged during your movements. Stay tight, contract, and “pull the mace head off” to really contract your upper body. Don’t just go through the motions, focus on keeping fully engaged.
5. Move slowly through your movements. This relates to the above tip. If you want to build muscle, you need to focus more on engagement, and the best way to do this is with slow, steady movements. Think about the muscles you are working with each repetition and try to break them down.
6. Go for higher volume workouts. Keep your workouts in the range of 40-60 minutes, with a lot of time under tension during the workout. If you are using a heavy mace, you will need more rest time, but try to push yourself a little harder each workout.
7. Eat right. Without a good high protein diet, you will never put on mass, no matter how hard you train.
8. Recover, recover, recover. Focus on giving your body the recovery it needs. This means you need to sleep and eat well, as well as take rest days when your body is too taxed. If you never let your body recover properly, you will be limiting your growth potential.
1. Use a lightweight mace that you can workout with in a way that you don’t have to put it down to rest. Limit your rest time as much as you can. If you do have to put the mace down, keep moving during your rest time.
3. Eat right and stay consistent. If you want to burn fat, you’ll need to be at a slight calorie deficit. It’s basic science. Luckily, the harder you workout the faster your metabolism will become so you shouldn’t have to limit your food intake too much if you train very hard.
1. Don’t just think about sets and reps, create workout protocols that make sense for the mace. Create workouts like AMRAPs, EMOMs, Circuit Training, Complexes, and so on. These kinds of protocols make the most sense for steel mace training. It also depends on what your goal is. If you are trying to build muscle, then you need to create a workout plan that matches that goal. 5 Steel Mace Workout Methods.
2. Warm up first. A lot of people think using a lightweight mace means they really don’t need to warm up. We highly recommend that you do a dynamic warm up before you start your workout as to prevent injuries and to really maximize your effort during the workout. Get your mind ready for the workout to come.
3. Cool down and decompress after your workout. Just the same as warming up, cooling down after a workout is equally beneficial. Treat steel mace training as you would any other athletic and fitness regimen.
1. Learn all the cues, it makes coaching your clients so much easier. You can create your own cues but the general point is to focus on cues for grip positions, ready positions, and hand switches. Teach them this before your get into the really fun stuff like exercises and workouts. It will speed up the process significantly. Our training guide goes over all of this if you want to see how we teach the basics. Help them build a solid foundation.
2. Before you start the course or training them with the mace, explain to them clearly what the mace is all about and how the course will progress. Learning the basics for a couple weeks may become discouraging or even boring for some, but once they get it down the fun starts.
3. Spend the time to perfect their swing. Don’t just get them swinging a mace. Focus on practice moves over the course, get them used to the mace in general, and then have them start swinging. Practice this at the beginning or end of a class until they get the 360 and 10-to-2 down pat, then you can incorporate swings into the actual workout.
4. Make your workouts fun, do protocols unique to the mace. Like we mentioned, AMRAPs, Complexes, EMOMs, Ladders, Circuits, etc.
5. Most importantly, master the mace yourself before you start teaching it!
1. Start with a light mace. Not only is it easier to learn with, it is safer on the joints.
2. While you don’t actually need a lot of space to train with a mace, make sure you have enough space for your workout so you don’t break anything in your house or hit anyone. Basically, just get a feel for the mace with plenty of space before you start using it in confined spaces.
3. Pay attention to your head, ankles, feet and floor. In all honestly, the floor, your feet and ankles, and your noggin are the biggest concern if you are flowing. Wear shoes and be careful of that beautiful new hardwood floor. PS. Your head is also liable for some whacks if you start swinging around the mace flowing without knowing what you are doing.
4. Make sure your joints are in stable positions. When you are pressing or moving around an offset weight, it can lead to one or both of your joints being out of the correct position for stability. Remember to keep them locked into the right position so they are safe for any given movement.
Generally speaking, the steel mace is as safe as any other fitness tool. As long as you progress through the basics and train smartly, you will be fine. If you follow the tips from our ‘choosing a mace’, ‘beginner’ and ‘exercise' sections above, you will absolutely be fine, no matter your age or fitness level.
If you have some tips that you want readers to know, leave them in the comments below. Your thoughts are more than welcome!
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