Everyone is always looking for new ways to get stronger and yet still keep their mobility for their daily lives. However the problem is most get the wrong idea you have to choose one or the other. A good example is a strong barbell lifter that has zero mobility/flexibility drills in their program, and on the other side is a yoga enthusiast with zero strength training in theirs. The truth is both are needed, but don’t need to over emphasize by choosing one and ditching the other.
Enter the steel mace: a tool that cannot only strengthen your entire body, but mobilize it in flexible positions. It’s a simple tool with a long handle with a weighted mace head at the top. When you first look at it and realize the weight is only 10-15lbs - you think “Psh! That’s it? Don’t I need more weight?” However, when you grab ahold of the steel mace and stack your hands at the base of the long handle - bringing it vertical aligning to your spine, and now it no longer feels the way you’d expect (like you would from lifting a light 10-15lbs dumbbell for example). It now feels twice as heavy because the weight is all in the mace head and not the handle. Once learning how to utilize the mace into your programming you’ll reap the benefits many don’t get out of conventional training tools. So these are my Top 3 steel mace benefits I’ve embraced over the years of practicing consistently with it:
Shoulder Resiliency & Posture: The 360:
The typical american sits between 7-8 hours and checks their phone up 200 times…per day. This epidemic has gotten so severe in american culture that we now have a named condition called “text neck” from years of flexing at the neck looking down at our phones with a rounded (hunch back) posture. This causes the shoulders to impinge and the hunched thoracic spine to becomes immobile (when it’s supposed to be the most mobile part of the back). So now the lumbar spine (the most stable part), needs to become mobile - which therefore causes a large number of low back pain issues. Kelly Starrett, a physical therapist and author of the book Deskbound - refers the spine as a neural hose line and if there’s a kink...we lose strength and stability instantly.
Just like the kettlebell swing is at the center of the kettlebell universe - the steel mace 360 is at the center of the steel mace universe. Both accelerate in the pendulum phase of the swing; which equals to more force and mass making it feel heavier when you have to decelerate the kettlebell or steel mace. However, the major difference with the kettlebell swing is the hips need to be mobile and shoulders need to be stable - this is instantly switched with the steel mace having the shoulders mobile and hips now stable. The lats and thoracic spine work together to control the mace head being pushed and pulled back around the body (without compensating kipping the hips). This makes the core work hard to keep the hips stable in this great exercise. Performing 10 reps or so on each stacked grip side will take time and practice to make a smooth 360, but will instantly correct posture and strengthen your shoulders from possible injury. Watch this quick demo on the steel mace 360 is performed to get the full picture:
Ups your Strength Training with Better Grip: Offset Mace Positions
While the mace is a great ballistic tool for 360 swings - it can also be utilized as a great grind strength training tool for pushing and pulling. This is simply done by offsetting the mace head away from the center line of the body (making it feel heavier). What many don't realize with strength training is it’s about finding tension in the right places. Like in the lats & glutes, and they can dramatically increase your lifting PR’s by knowing HOW to use them better syncing to your core. Remember, the body is NOT built like Frankenstein going one “body part” at a time. So here are three simple exercises to get even more grip strength out of your mace training: The pressout, offset military press, and bent over rows:
Being Flexible & Strong: Flows
Just as we talked about in the beginning: we don’t need to choose one versus the other with strength and flexibility. Maintaining both strength and flexibility is possible - we just have to break out of the typical linear mindset of movements. Barbell bench pressing, squatting, and deadlifts are all great lifts to increase strength and I’m NOT trying to detour anyone away from them. However, they go in just one back & forth direction and when you see how an athlete moves - they shift side to side and rotate pivoting off the feet to explode into different positions. So therefore an athlete’s position is never perfectly balanced symmetrically (as you would find on a barbell). The steel mace is asymmetrically loaded as you would find in an athlete constantly side shifting and rotating the body in a specific sport (especially with throwing or striking techniques).
Steel Mace Flows are simply putting together everything we just talked about: becoming more aware of your body’s movement and alignment. Once there’s a solid understanding of strength and fluid flow this is where steel mace training gets fun and never really ends on all the movements you can combine with or without the 360 (depending on your experience level). Training in 3-D is crucial to joints and ligaments because typical conventional training is VERY linear (as in one plane of motion). Push, pull, squat, and lung patterns can go far beyond moving just back and forth. To this in full effect watch this Beginner Steel Mace Flow Workout video:
I hope I gave a clear understanding on what steel mace training can do for your fitness regimen. It has been an absolute game changer for me to stay strong in what I love doing most (which is pressing a lot of weight over head = happiness) and keeps me mobile in my work field to demo hundreds of exercises (for students and videos) without pain at the end of the day.