Five Steel Mace Squat Variations for Stronger Legs

When many think of squats, utilizing ONLY the lower body seems to come to mind. While this is true that it does work the glutes, quads, and hamstrings to build more muscle in this movement pattern — many forget we’re NOT built like Frankenstien and the body works as one piece. Split routines and machines like leg presses, smith machines, and leg extensions have bastardized what real strength is. Many are surprised to know I’ve personally never used any of those archaic machines to build the muscle I have today. Strength should not include sitting, because the average american already sits on their butt 7-8 hours per day. Why add more sitting in your fitness regimen?

Being mobile and strong is completely attainable. This is why the steel mace can change the way you view “leg day.” Many have accustomed the steel mace a great tool for the upper back, building shoulder resilience with the 360, and grip strength. With all the weight inside the mace head molded to a long handle; it feels twice as heavy than expected. It’s why it’s become one of my favorite tools to not just condition my legs, but my ENTIRE body. So I wanted showcase for you five squat variations you can add with this simple piece of equipment (no gym or bulky machines needed).

Steel Mace Squat Pressouts

This is perfect exercise to demonstrate how the steel mace truly works. This also where I first coach many about the vertical stack position and how to use your lats. The lats are the big muscle wings of your back and what many don’t how use. Pick up the mace and stack both hands at the bottom. Automatically, you’re going to feel the need to shrug into the mace thinking it will make it more stable. It won’t, you need to retract the shoulders down and back with a long neck. Then think you have a $100 bill between your armpit, and if I tried snatching it, you’d be crushing the crap out it with your lats so I wouldn’t take it. Once you have the mace in solid vertical stack position, press it out and squat at the same time. While this sounds simple, never confuse simple with easy. The real challenge is keeping the mace vertical as you perform the squat pressout. You will notice the mace head’s weight will begin to shift and tilt in toward your body. Resist by fully extending the elbows, punching them out, and externally rotating them (showing the elbow pits) at the bottom of the squat. Keep the spine as straight as possible; going no further than knee to hip with the squat depth (there’s no need to go ass to grass). Notice in the demo, I pull the mace back in toward my belly to KEEP my lats engaged and squeeze my glutes with them as I come back up from the squat. Get no more than 6-8 reps with one:

Steel Mace Dynamic Lap Squat

With this squat variation we’re going to be adding more flow and rhythm. Learning and mastering the dynamic curl is of the essence to flowing with the mace. Many compensate with death gripping to the point where they look like a constipated tin man. Notice in the demo below as I perform the the dynamic curl, my hands go into a “prayer position” in the middle; my fingers are completely relaxed and extended as the heel of my palms presses into the handle. Then the hand that goes closest to the mace head (mace hand) will go palm up — as the other hand (base hand) goes palm down. As you squat down, keep the bar near your sternum and engage your lats by “breaking the bar in half.” This will once again, retract the shoulders down and back with a straight spine (just we did with the squat pressout). Do not speed through this movement switching the mace left to right. Think smooth and controlled. As physical therapist Gray Cook states, “speed hides dysfunction.”

Steel Mace Dynamic Front Squat

You’ll notice in this third variation there’s a common theme that all I have to do is switch the mace into a different position to make the squat more challenging (versus just adding on more and more weight to a pathetic sitting machine). The front rack position is a very common position for barbells and kettlebells, but what makes the steel mace unique in this position is it’s offset load trying to pull you out of proper spinal alignment. So to resist, the oblique from the opposite side has to work overtime to contract with all the other core muscles, lats, and glutes. This is a prime example of how the body works as one piece. With the oblique firing now, it’s also very key to keep the forearms vertical with neutral wrists. To engage the lats, think you’re at the top of a pull up bar position and you’re pulling the bar down near the top the chest. Squat down, maintaining the front rack position with the mace head far from your body. Once the hips fully extend back up, bring the mace into a vertical stack position, and gently slide your mace hand down (both palms up) and repeat back into the squat:

Steel Mace Dynamic Goblet Squat

This is where your flow skills with the steel mace will be tested. What I love about this variation is the push and pull effect we’ve been doing with the dynamic curl now gets literally flipped upside down. Set up the mace vertically, but now have one hand on top of the mace head and the other still on the base handle. Once set, reverse the mace head down toward the ground as you squat. At the bottom, pull your base hand in and push your mace hand tossing it into the vertical stack position and repeating on the next side. Notice how the mace is still vertical as the top and bottom position of the squat, but only reversed up and down.

Steel Mace Thor Cossack

Cossacks are more so lateral squats and can greatly improve you’re mobility and strength in your squat pattern. While this is the most challenging squat variation, it also can reap major strength gains. Grab the handle with one hand near the mace head in a wide stance. Once set, the side the mace head is on is the leg that will squat down — as the other leg extends and the heel rolls up. At the bottom of the cossack, try to contour mace aligning with the extending leg. Then explode up driving the rooted flexed leg down into the ground and switches the mace to the other hand as it presses it out. Notice in the demo, as soon as the steel mace transitions to the other hand — my leg also steps in and then back out with the mace going back into the cossack. Be sure to do no more than 3-5 reps each leg with this one. Remember quality over quantity.

I hope you enjoyed how steel mace training can add a different dynamic into your regimen. I recommend a 10lb steel mace for women and 15lb steel mace for men with all the variations we just covered. If you’d like more exercises like these, check out my new program GADA Swing: Guide for Kettlebell & Steel Mace Strength Training. For more info about it — CLICK HERE

 

Ian Vaughn