Differences Between Steel Maces & Sledgehammers

“This is so stupid. Just use a sledgehammer.”

This is a common comment I get from uneducated keyboard experts (with no profile pic or video content) on my YouTube Steel Mace workout videos. While I can see why people confuse these two tools as the same thing…they’re NOT. It blows my mind in today’s generation how people will blow over $1,000 on a new updated phone, but if I say a $50-60 steel mace is a great tool to add to your fitness equipment arsenal: ”I can’t spend that much money on that!” However, in the recent years I’ve never seen so much pointless fitness garbage being produced for you to get conned into buying (proclaiming to get you a six pack or to cure pain). A great example are these massage guns running you upwards to $350-600: “Oh my, your pec hurts? Use this overpriced vibrating dildo gun to massage it.”

The steel mace is NOT one of those tools because it be can utilized for many reasons. Having bought a lot of fitness equipment over the last decade I live by the “buy nice, or buy twice” code. Anything made of steel or cast iron has been worth it long term. So I wanted to breakdown why the steel mace is not only a better choice versus a sledgehammer, but educate you on the differences. To be clear, I don’t have a problem with sledgehammers — the issue is it being confused as a replacement for steel mace training.

The Shape:

I wonder which one makes more sense….

I wonder which one makes more sense….

Obviously when looking at the two side by side — the head shapes are completely different. However, many think this won’t make a difference using a sledgehammer for mace training. Have you ever noticed the most common fitness tools have a circular shape to them? As you see in the picture above (from left to right): mace, fatbells, kettlebell, dumbbell, barbell bar & plates all have the same circular fashion. This is so these tools can be swung, snatched, cleaned & pressed better with even load across the body. Now imagine if all these tools had a rectangular/square fashion shape to them instead? Your kettlebell cleans would feel horrible, barbell cleans & presses would feel uneven symmetrically, and sledgehammer 360’s would not feel smooth with the hammer head twisting & turning.

The Handle Material:

What most people don’t know about me is I’ve trained in fire academies (fire rescue, wild land, and EMT) in my earlier years. I’ve used many forcible entry tools like sledgehammers in many fire training seminars. The handle needed to be fiber glass so it would resist hot conditions and absorb any ballistic force to not break it in half. The shape of the handle needed to be narrow for any striking, chopping, or jousting action. I’ve seriously gotten rebuttal comments to then buy a wooden handle sledgehammer — which costs the same or even more than a normal 10-15lb weighted beginner steel mace. Sledgehammers are manufactured with fiberglass handles more commonly because it’s cheaper to mold and glue into the head (some go even cheaper and use casted plastic).

The steel mace has the best of both worlds with the asymmetrical load of sledgehammer and knurling like grip of a barbell bar .

The steel mace has the best of both worlds with the asymmetrical load of sledgehammer and knurling like grip of a barbell bar.

What makes steel maces also unique is the flow movements you can put together with squats and lunges. This is done by pushing & pulling the mace from left to right with a dynamic curl. These actions become even smoother with it’s round casted knurling grip — a lot like a barbell bar (picture above). From someone who has used both sledgehammers and steel maces for their INTENDED purpose…the handle material matters. As you continue with mace training you should go up in weight. The typical sledgehammer will go no heavier than 7-15lbs. I’ve built a collection of heavier maces over the years as heavy as 55lbs/25KG to keep my shoulders and grip strength strong (video below). While heavier maces are more expensive — I’d rather pay more to lift real weight to challenge my skills than dilly around with a lightweight sledgehammer and call it a “workout.”

Good luck trying find a 25KG sledgehammer

The Handle Length:

What makes the mace so different than any other tool is it’s asymmetrical load being all in the round head with less than a pound or two in the handle. When performing a 360 or 10 & 2 with a mace you must have what I call in my ebook (GADA Swing): the vertical stack position. So the further my hands are from the mace’s head — the heavier it feels.

The average sledgehammer handle length is much shorter in comparison to longer handled steel maces (so you won’t get the same distal load effect). While shorter handled maces are good for beginners they are pretty much worthless after you’ve perfected your 360 technique. I only recommend shorter maces for fitness coach professionals teaching beginners. If your just a fitness enthusiast looking for just ONE beginner steel mace weight I would go no heavier than 10lbs for women and 15lbs for men. Trust me, the weight may not seem like a lot, but it will be.

Tire Striking is Just Better with the Steel Mace:

I don’t have a problem with sledgehammers when it comes to tire striking. However, the steel mace just flows much better with it’s longer handle and smoother knurling grip. Not only that, I’ve unfortunately seen trainers use sledgehammers and then the head came flying off during a strike and could have seriously hurt someone (if you’re a trainer, this a guaranteed lawsuit). The steel mace is one casted piece — so this eliminates any possible chance of the head flying off. Here are two of my favorite steel mace tire striking variations to show you:

Fitness MacGyver Mindset:

After fitness coaching for a decade and helping many people get out of pain and be stronger I’ve realized there’s still no cure for stupidity. A fitness MacGyver is someone who’d rather:

  • Glue an old bowling ball to a stick as a mace replacement

  • Swing a water jug with a rope wrapped around the handle and call it a kettlebell

  • Use nail hammers as indian clubs (seriously)

  • Use a cheap sledgehammer with a loose head for mace training

All these pathetic Home Depot actions to save a couple bucks. Listen, I’m very aware maces were made originally in India with a bamboo stick and concrete casted head (known originally as a Gada). BUT! You don’t see people using pay phone stations either anymore with their $1,000 phones now. What I’m getting at is there’s much better options out there to save time and money on. If you have to pay a simple price for quality to insure your safety during a workout…so be it (firefighting also taught me common sense). So even if you still want to disregard this article…at least buy quality sledgehammer. Or be logical, and just buy a damn steel mace if you want to take your training seriously.

Check…and mate, Fitness MacGyver haters.

For those of you who’d like to know more about steel maces, I still have plenty more articles on the website explaining the benefits and best beginner workouts for steel maces. I also have two ebooks out for sale: GADA Swing: Guide for Kettlebell & Steel Mace Strength Training & GADA Club: Guide for Indian & Steel Club Strength Training. You can get both now in this special bundle deal saving 25% off on the price for both (click here). I’ll be putting out more exciting steel mace content in 2019 very soon.

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Ian Vaughn