Differences Between Steel Maces & Clubs

This has become a very popular question for those with a exciting interest in steel maces & clubs. So as a result, many debate and ask these common questions:

  • “What are the similarities and differences between the two?”

  • “Which one is better?”

  • “Should I buy a steel mace or a pair of steel clubs first…or both?”

  • “How do I use them and which weight is best for each?”

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These are all valid questions to those looking for the right information and to best suit your personal fitness needs.  In the last 4-5 years, clubs and maces have gained massive popularity lately being featured more often in social media and popular magazines. However, trends blind instruction and proper education on how to effectively utilize these unconventional tools. It is why they’re uncommon in corporate gyms, and rare to find a fitness instructor with mace/club experience. So I’m going to not only answer these questions, but the give you the right information on HOW to properly workout with these two great strength tools.

So let’s breakdown the two side by side with the various weight sizes they typically are used in. What they both have in common is they’re both asymtrically loaded to one side away from the main handle (unlike conventional tools like dumbbells and barbells being evenly loaded on both sides) and will therefore make them feel heavier than listed when first picking up. Most rookies assume a 15lb mace or club is “too light” when first selecting a weight and then when it comes in the mail — they get an instant dose of reality it actually feels TOO heavy with all the weight distribution away from the handle. This is what makes these two so unique…hundreds of pounds are NOT needed. In fact, you should start no heavier than 10-15lbs when first beginning and no more 40lbs even being experienced with both. Now the obvious difference is the handle length (as seen in the picture). The mace’s weight is all in the mace head — with no less than a pound of weight in the long handle. While also most of the club’s weight is also at the head; it more so elongates it’s weight toward the end of the short handle. It is why if you select a heavier club, the length will be longer (as pictured on the far left). However if you select a heavier mace, the handle length stays the same and only the mace head is larger (far right). 

Setting Up Your Grip Between the Two

Next is the grip position, and this is where many get confused with maces and clubs (poor setup leads to poor performance). What both require is a vertical stacked position with the hands gripped under to balance the offset weight. However, the major difference is mace needs to be stacked over the midline (the spine) of your body and clubs should be stacked to side of your body. This is critical for safety standard to understand. Since the club has a shorter handle, it has a greater chance hitting you in the face/head if you perform pullovers or mills from midline of the body. So ALWAYS vertically stack clubs off to your SIDE and packed into the lat with a horizontal forearm with the base hand. The only time clubs should be in the midline is if it’s pressed out or pulled over behind you.   

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Maces can be stacked in the midline because (once again) all the weight is in the head; so it’s more likely to shift and fall to the side far away as you see in the picture above. Another common question is, “do I switch hands?” Yes for both, always switch your grip to perform both sides by switching your hands (which I constantly state in all my videos with maces & clubs for all exercises). 

So which one and what can you do with them?

To make this clear, one is not better than the other. It more so depends on YOUR fitness goal and what can best suit your needs. Personally as a example, I started out with the steel mace first and glad I did because I had a separated shoulder injury when playing football years ago. What was interesting about the mace when I first got into them was I could press a 106lb/48KG kettlebell, but could barely perform a 360 with a 10lb/4KG mace at the time. This made me realize I had a huge shoulder imbalance going on. The mace favors fluidity and control all at the same time. This is why I constantly state the 360 is at the center of the steel mace universe (just as the hardstyle swing is at the center of the kettlebell universe). The mace 360 is where you vertically stack the mace by grabbing the base with both hands at a stable 12 o’clock position. Once set, you push the mace around you’re shoulders letting it swing into a pendulum behind you and then pull mace back in toward you’re belly back at the 12 o’clock position. This simple movement grooves the shoulder girdle, strengthens the upper back, and is essence of control. So warming up with 360s made a huge difference in performing kettlebell snatches, pull-ups, and presses with my shoulders feeling less ratchety. So if you feel you're moving more and more like the tin man before your workouts — the mace is the oil to bring smoother movement patterns:

Once your 360 becomes solid, you can start adding more foundational movements like lunges. Demoing is Rebecca, an avid weekend warrior that loves cycling and is a dog agility athlete:

So the club would not have been a great fit for me during that rehab time because it requires more stability and grip strength to maintain the vertically stacked weight above the short handle. So in relation to my rehab needs, the club works perfect for my student, Carlos, who suffered a stroke couple years ago. This unfortunate life changing event resulted in Carlos losing complete control of his right side. Over the years, we have trained consistently to connect new neropathways for his brain to get stability back into his right side. Here, Carlos performs a two handed steel club pressout with a grip glove to secure his right arm to track with his left. The goal of this exercise is to get more elbow external rotation/extension (elbow pit up) to better engage his lat as he pushes and pulls it back into the side stack position with a horizontal forearm:

So the club has a lot of the same effects as kettlebell bottoms up position; but the major difference is the club’s small baseball bat like shape favors (when a kettlebell isn’t dominant in these planes and favors more of a back & forth motion). So the club would ALSO be a great fit for someone like a golfer, baseball player, or even a strongman (just to name a few) looking to increase grip strength as demoed below. Notice how it looks like the same athletic rotational qualities as throwing a ball or striking a blow from pivoting my feet to better gain more power from the ground up. To see this in full effect watch this quick video on side swing variations. 

Another one of my favorite strength moves with the clubs is the Double Steel Cross and this also brings up another major difference with maces and clubs. Doubles work incredibly well with clubs, but NOT with maces. So it is recommended to buy a pair of the same weighted steel clubs so you can do more with them down the line. The reason I love this movement is because it flips the script on a common conventional strength exercise like a dumbbell lateral raise. While lateral raises are good, many compensate jerking the hips to get them up to shoulder level. But when you have two clubs stacked vertically in both hands pull them over your shoulders and then extend them out laterally…every muscle in your back gets engaged and truly works your grip strength as well to keep them stacked over your wrists as your arms are fully extended in the cross position.

So as you can see, while both tools can increase performance — it really depends on what is best for your body. While I recommend both of these tools, remember it takes a lot of time and effort to master BOTH. So it is more so recommended picking one and spending 4- 5 times training with it a week to truly get your FULL use of it and then after a couple of months or so…get the next one. If you were a warrior, would you stick with a long sword (mace) or a battle axe (club)? That’s a question only you can answer. What I can answer is the best weight you start out with you decide to get a mace or pair of clubs:

Steel Mace Recommendations:

MEN: Beginner: 15lb - Advanced: 20-25lb

WOMEN: Beginner: 10lb - Advanced: 15-20lb

Steel Club Recommendations:

MEN: Beginner: 10-15lb pair - Advanced: 20lb pair

WOMEN: Beginner: 5-10lb pair - Advanced: 15lb pair

Steel Mace Education 101 YouTube Playlist - HERE

Steel Club Education 101 YouTube Playlist - HERE

I hope I gave some clarity on how these two unconventional tools can be very similar, and yet very different at the same time. If you wish to know more, I have plenty of free workouts featured on my YouTube channel for both the steel mace and steel club. I also have an entire strength ebook program (GADA Swing) with the kettlebell and steel mace training for sale HERE. I've also recently released a new program, GADA Club: Guide for Indian & Steel Club Strength Training as well.

- For special 25% off BOTH programs - GO HERE

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Ian Vaughn