If you read my last article on Why Your Kettlebell Swing Sucks, you realized it’s not so much about the tool and more so HOW the body works when we set up, align, breath, and lift/swing loads using the right muscles at the right time. This is why one of the many reasons swinging exercises are great…you can’t cheat them. However, while the kettlebell optimizes swings – the steel mace flips the script on what’s stable and what’s mobile once it’s swung around the body (360).
The Four Knots
Notice in the comparison video below: when swinging a kettlebell the hips must be mobile (ballistically hip hinging) and the shoulders must be stable packed down by the lats. To the other side, is the steel mace 360. The shoulders are now mobile pushing and pulling the mace out and around as the hips remain stable. Both however, ask the core for a lot of stability, but in different tied fashions. This is what Dr. Mark Cheng (creator of Prehab-Rehab) calls, the Four Knots: finding the right amount of stability and mobility in the shoulders and hips. He states, “If your shoelaces are too tight, you can’t move your feet well. If they are too loose, your shoe can come off. The knot must be a balance of strength and mobility.” The purpose of swings is to control the load as it accelerates and decelerates (or else it controls you). So these four knots are constantly challenged with both the kettlebell swing and steel mace 360. So one is not better than the other, more so both are a perfect 1,2, punch for strength training.
Setting Up the 360: Vertical Stacked Position
Now that we have a solid understanding of the mace 360, we can talk about how to integrate it into your programming and learn how to do it effectively. First, we need to talk about the vertical stacked position to get the proper set up. Now for those who have never worked with maces, you’ll be surprised how heavy a 15lb mace feels. When you stack your hands at the base of the long handle and bring it vertical aligning to your spine; it no longer feels the way you’d expect. It now feels twice as heavy because the weight is all in the mace head (not the handle). So with this, people tend to overcompensate with facial tensing, shrugging, and death gripping the mace. To correct this, RELAX your face, and keep the shoulders down and back into the lats. Then, the real trick is have most of the weight on your index & thumb – which is crucial for the pendulum phase of the 360 (video demoed below).
Steel Mace Pendulums:
Pendulums are a great corrective to prevent death gripping and shoulder shrugging. Pick up the mace, and gently push it over your shoulders, and then let your hands naturally stack at the base of the mace. Keep your feet rooted, and the ribs hidden down bracing the core (if the mace hits your butt – this means you’re rib flaring). Start building the pendulum with SLIGHT torso rotation to help maintain the rhythm. The hands should NOT be death gripping at the base (facial tensing is the noticeable sign this is happening). Most of the weight should be on both the index & thumb with the other fingers relaxed, as the spine mobilizes with the shoulders staying tucked into the lats. Perform for no longer than 30-45 seconds:
Putting it All Together: The 360 and 10 & 2’s
Now that the vertical stacked position is in place and there’s an understanding of the pendulum – we can start adding the push/pull mechanics for more fluidity. What I love about the mace 360’s and 10&2’s is getting my mid back mobilized and relaxed; yet still strengthen my grip before a kettlebell workout. Before I got into maces, I remember before each set of heavy kettlebell swings, I would do kettlebell halos during my rest period to keep my T-spine mobile, and not to get TOO tense. Now with the mace 360, I not only get the mobility, but the insane grip strength as well to complement my kettlebell lifting techniques. So here’s a full tutorial breakdown of the differences between 360’s and 10 & 2’s and how to do them effectively: