Make Your Workout Primal: Benefits of Steel Mace Workouts

Throw Your Weight Around

Onnit Academy

If you haven't heard of a fitness tool referred to as a steel mace or macebell, you're not alone. These long metal rods capped with a weighted ball aren't likely to be found in your average training studio. But that doesn't mean they're something new.

In fact, according to Onnit, a high-quality manufacturer of steel maces and a forerunner in the realm of primal fitness, maces have been used as a weapon and training implement for 2,000 years, a favorite of ancient Hindu warriors.

The highly uneven distribution of weight is somewhat similar to that of other "primal" training tools, such as kettlebells and clubs, but the long, narrow rod makes training variations easy to implement, as a simple change in grip position can quickly turn a beginner exercise into an extremely difficult advanced movement.

Primary Benefits of Macebell Training

1. Improved Grip Strength. Grip strength - a combination of hand, finger, and forearm strength, is an often-overlooked aspect of most fitness programs. But if you think about it, grip strength is fundamental to just about everything you do. For instance, rock climbers can't ascend a challenging route without impressive grip strength, baseball players can't effectively swing a bat without the ability to hang onto and control the bat's trajectory, and even basic weight training exercises - pullups, curls, deadlifts, and rows, all require grip strength to hold onto the complementary bar.

Because of the uneven distribution of weight, swinging a steel mace requires a strong grip, and repeated swinging, especially over the course of weeks and months, will result in an increase in grip strength and an improvement in overall functional fitness.

2. Strong and Healthy Shoulders. The shoulder girdle is the least stable joint in the entire body, leaving it open to injury.

And anyone who's active can attest that an injured shoulder wreaks havoc on a workout routine. Even basic movements, such as pushups, dips, and pullups become extremely difficult (even impossible) to perform with a shoulder injury.

When swung with proper form through a full range of motion, a steel mace workout can increase the strength of the muscles and connective tissue surrounding the shoulder joint while simultaneously increasing flexibility.

The key here is proper form. It's a good idea to work with a trainer to master the movement and start with a light weight mace to ensure you don't use the mace incorrectly or place too much stress on your shoulder.

3. Total Body Strength and Cardiovascular Conditioning. While the obvious benefit of swinging a steel mace is upper body strength (including grip strength), the mace can also be used for total body conditioning. Like a kettlebell, certain macebell exercises lend themselves to lower-body strength training, while other swinging movements performed for a set period of time drastically increase heart rate for an excellent cardiovascular benefit.

The mace lends itself nicely to high intensity interval training workouts.

4. Rotational Core Strength. Many macebell exercises require cross-body swinging motions that require extensive core engagement, particularly of the obliques. This is further amplified by the uneven distribution of the weight along the steel mace, which requires greater core engagement to control. The result is an excellent core and oblique workout and improved core strength.

Altering Your Macebell Grip

A simple alteration in how you grip the mace can make a significant difference to exercise difficulty. If you grip the metal rod with a wide grip, so one hand is close to the weighted cylinder and the other hand is close to the end of the rod, each exercise performed will be easier because the uneven weight of the mace will be more evenly distributed across your body.

On the other hand, if you grip the metal rod with both hands in a close grip toward the end of the bar, so there's significant distance between your hands and the weighted cylinder, each exercise will become more difficult. This is because the uneven distribution of the mace's weight will remain off balance, requiring more control and overall strength than a more evenly distributed weight.

Exercises and Workouts

I haven't personally tried a macebell workout, although I plan to give it a whirl in the coming weeks. If you're interested in seeing how a macebell is wielded, check out Onnit's educational learning materials to see videos of steel mace exercises and workouts.

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