If I was stuck on an island for months on end and could only have one exercise with one tool . . . it would no doubt be the kettlebell hardstyle swing. It is the perfect balance of explosive athleticism, raw grip strength, and teaches you to use your entire body as one piece with each breath. It is the best exercise to expose any strength leaks that will affect even your other favorite exercises. So with the recent release of my second paperback book, The Kettlebell Awaits, I want to give you a preview showcase of what it has to offer in this article breaking down the kettlebell swing piece by piece so you get more power and strength from this exercise.
The Foundation — Kettlebell Deadlift:
A kettlebell swing, in contrast, is a fast deadlift. Start with the kettlebell in between your feet and “chop at the hips.” As you grab the handle, you can add a little more knee flexion if needed to maintain a flat back. Once set up, think you want to “break the bar” of the handle to engage your lats. They are the big wing muscles of your back and help protect your shoulders. Retract them to prevent any shoulder shrugging effect. Then to lift the kettlebell up you want to drive the feet into the ground and drive the hips forward locking into a vertical plank at the top with the glutes, lats, and abs all being rock hard. The arms should not pull the kettlebell at all with elbow flexion as the hips extend. The arms work more as a hooked pulley system for the hips.
As you descend back down, hinge the hips back with minimal knee flexion keeping the kettlebell in between your feet. Letting it shift forward away from the midline of your feet makes you round your low back to compensate. You should feel the hamstrings (the back muscle of the thighs) feel like they’re loading up like a rubber band being slightly stretched as you hip hinge back. Do not squat letting the hips go down with maximal knee flexion. Slowly rest the kettlebell back down to the floor and repeat regathering tension in the lats “breaking the bar” and driving the hips through into full extension in the vertical plank again.
Your Set Up Is Your First Rep — 2H Kettlebell Swing:
Now swinging the kettlebell, we want it less than a foot away from you to set up the pendulum it needs for the back swing. This is done by “chopping at the hips” and tilting the kettlebell. You never want to pull the kettlebell into the backswing or else it’ll result in no power each time. Once tilted, find your lats to better flatten out your spine with a solid hip hinge. Then hike it ABOVE your knees (going below flexes the low back) and explode up into the vertical plank tensing your lats, glutes, and abs just as you did at the top of the 2H deadlift.
Then as soon as your elbows connect back to your torso immediately hip hinge back and set the kettlebell down exactly as you started. Take a slight pause letting the kettlebell fully decelerate not moving at all and repeat another repetition. You do NOT want to tap the floor and quickly swing it again. The point of this drill is to teach consistent power development with each repetition. Remember the Biomechanical Breathing Match by sniffing in through the nose at the back swing and forcefully exhaling as the hips extend to better brace your abdomen muscles around your spine.
Having the proper foundations is paramount to building your kettlebell skills at a safe pace. So it’s no surprise people that deadlift and plank with bad form will show the same faults when they put their hands on a kettlebell. The major problem with social media is everyone wants to do the sexy showoff exercises and think they can do it with no experience needed.While I do not think the 2H kettlebell swing is advanced — not having a strong one will result in poorly done cleans, snatches, presses, and squats overtime.
Correcting The Kettlebell Swing:
In this video below, we’re gonna breakdown how the Deadstop Swing and Partner Spike Drill can easily improve your swing with these coaching cues:
I hope you got a lot out this article to help better your kettlebell swing with more power. For more, be sure to check out my latest paperback book, The Kettlebell Awaits, now available on Amazon — CLICK HERE to order your copy.
The Kettlebell Awaits paperback book is now available on Amazon — CLICK HERE TO GET YOUR COPY. Features 100+ pages with HD images breaking down swings, cleans, snatches, presses, squats, and get ups in full detail with a downloadable kettlebell workout program:
Clubs are finally starting to become more mainstream in the strength world. However, many are confusing Indian and Steel clubs . . . as the same thing? One is built for speed and the other is meant for raw grip strength. Watch this video breaking down the differences between the two:
As soon as I posted this video, I knew I was going to get inevitably bashed by Club Traditionalist linking videos of their origin (which is exactly what happened). I’m very aware of Traditional Indian Club Training methods with larger clubs/gadas in all shapes & sizes. This video explains the MODERN use of light Indian & heavy steel clubs for those in western culture who have no idea how or even what clubs are because it’s not a common tool in the west. Hence, why I constantly reference American sports like baseball & football in this video to help relate the common movement patterns with them.
Modern steel & wooden clubs of this sort are getting popular because they can be shipped easier with less cost. Very few will spend the money to ship out (or even make) a giant wooden sized Gada, Jori, Karela, or Meel from another country (let alone make space or train someone with it). So if you want to train traditional…do so (and I’m not saying it’s wrong by any degree). However, this is how clubs are becoming modernized in the west thanks to researchers like Dr. Ed Thomas and Gray Cook (FMS).
If you’d like to know more about Indian & Steel Clubs — I have more articles linked below:
Then if you want more guidance how to integrate BOTH — be sure to checkout my ebook, GADA Club: Guide For Indian & Steel Club Strength Training. Has a full amount of in-depth coaching tutorials in each chapter and beginner, intermediate, and advanced program workouts all featured in one source. Be sure to sure to use code: GOINGCLUBBING10 at check out to save HERE:
With the popularity of garage gyms becoming apart of the new normal it’s no surprise steel mace training are interesting more people to a popular level. The steel mace is a simple tool, but that doesn’t mean you should confuse simple with easy. The steel mace gives you instant feedback and this is what throws off many because they didn’t expect 10-15lb weight to be challenging. This reigns true especially when trying 360s for the first time because that supposed “little weight” accelerates into the pendulum and now feel feels 5x heavier. While this exercise is great for grip strength, shoulder resilience, and keeping your posture strong . . . it will do damage if you don’t have any guidance.
So after years of coaching steel mace 360s to others I came up with a mental cue system to make each rep of pure quality and call them the Four P’s of The Steel Mace 360s: Push, Pendulum, Pull, and Pause. Every one of these positions has something that can be worked on to enforce proper strength techniques. All too often I see many online rushing 360s to the point they look robotic (when it’s meant to be smooth and fluid). I believe in this coaching concept so much I made it into an entire chapter in my new book, Enter The Steel Mace: Beginner Guide For Steel Mace Training. So the high definition photos you’re seeing breaking down these four phases are one of hundreds featured in this book that go beyond two handed 360s.
PUSH: Set up in the vertical stack position and point with the base hand signaling the direction you’re going in. From here you want to push the mace AROUND your shoulders to set up the pendulum phase. Pushing it over the shoulders enforces you to shrug and lose space in your neck.
PENDULUM: Practicing this alone can help build the thoracic extension and fluid like grip needed to make your 360s smoother and not jagged looking. Since you can’t see the mace once it’s behind you many fear of it hitting their butt and death grip thinking this will prevent it. First, if it hits your butt (it really doesn’t hurt) this means your hyperextending your low back. So view it as tactical feedback from the steel mace saying “STOP using your low back to swing me!” The pendulum needs uninterrupted acceleration to build a smooth arc and the trick is to grip with your index & thumb. Just like with kettlebell cleans — your hands need to relax for a split second so the bell can rotate around the wrist or else it slams against your forearm from death gripping.
PULL: This is where the lats need to take over the accelerated force from the pendulum. With that said, I’ve never been a fan of shouldering the mace handle because it puts more emphasis on loading your spine with excessively rounded torso rotation. For classic Gada training, this shouldering technique works better because smooth handled wood/bamboo is more forgiving than the knurled steel gliding across your clavicle’s skin. To enforce this needed lat contraction and to challenge your vertical plank I came up with the Banded 10 & 2:
PAUSE: The biggest mistake beginners make with 360s is going too fast and this, in turn, causes shoulder impingement and elbow pain for doing too many reps this fast. This also takes away the centrifugal force needed to maintain the 360 degree motion smoothly and sends it into more jagged directions (bottom). All you have to do is PAUSE in the vertical stack position for a slight second before you repeat the process. This gets your grip stronger and resets your shoulders to make sure they’re not elevating up toward the neck. As Bruce Lee famously states: “if you can’t do it slow . . . then you can’t do it fast.”
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER: Watch this video tutorial breaking all Four P’s in detail
So what you just got was a preview of only 6 pages from Enter The Steel Mace — out the 100+ pages with loads of experienced tips. The book also has 40 more exercises far beyond typical 2 handed 360s and a special QR code to download the steel mace beginner workout program in PDF file format (with all the exercises hyperlinked to video demos). You can get the book in paperback or ebook format on Amazon linked HERE:
Excited to release my first paperback book publication — Enter The Steel Mace: Beginner Guide for Steel Mace Strength Training (click here). This book has 100+ pages featuring over 300 high resolution images breaking down 40 exercises in detail so you get everything in one source.
Then as a special bonus, this book also features scannable QR codes where you can view tutorials and download the PDF file beginner steel mace workout program with all the exercises hyperlinked on your mobile device. The book is available on Amazon and is sold internationally (select your country of origin). You can get your copy CLICKING HERE:
In the last month, my YouTube channel has exploded with hundreds of new subscribers interested in steel maces (with the recent events of course). So with this came a lot of good questions that many beginners have. So I put together this Steel Mace Training FAQ video together in detail to help bring a better understanding to this great fitness tool — answering these most commonly asked questions:
1. “Where Did You Get The Steel Mace Rack?”
2. “This is Stupid…Just Use A SledgeHammer?”
3. “Where Do I Buy Steel Maces?”
4. “How Heavy Should I Go?”
5. “Why Do My Shoulders Hurt With 360s?”
6. “Which Hand Pushes& Pulls For 360s?”
EVERYTHING LISTED IN THIS VIDEO IS HYPERLINKED BELOW
Article Link: Differences Between Steel Maces & Sledgehammers
Onnit is usually sold out on steel maces, but you can check here (NOT AFFILIATED WITH THEM). For those that don’t know…I’m really not a fan of Onnit’s “Educational content” (if you want to call it that) and they ripped off the my sledgehammer & steel mace difference article in their bullshit “free steel mace ebook” last year not crediting me. They make good equipment, but their content is all based on being a show off for Instagram.
Article Link – Steel Mace Weight Recommendations
Steel Mace Workouts- Coach Vaughn’s Steel Mace YouTube Playlist
For more tips on how to workout with steel maces be sure to check out my ebooks full of educational chapters, tutorials breaking down essential techniques to attain strength with them, and program workouts for all beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels. Use the codes below at checkout, bundle saving 25%, or buy 3-4 ebook and get one FREE below linked here.
Isn’t it funny how many associate grip strength with our hands and not our feet? Whenever I assess someone’s kettlebell swing or steel mace 360…the first I look at are the feet. About 75% of the time, the technique issue is related to one’s constant rocking (back & forth) in cushy soled shoes. Many of today’s “performance shoes” have slightly elevated heels, thick soles, and closed toe boxes (not allowing the toes to naturally splay). This causes constantly instability and misalignment for the entire body from the ground up (possibly causing low back & knee pain).
This is why at Viking Valhalla I encourage many to train WITHOUT shoes and learn how to truly root their feet properly to feel the difference. And the balance beam has a great tool I’ve utilizing to help demonstrate this with other simple tools like the steel mace. This is why I’ve put together this workout video below how to integrate it and get your feet stronger. If you don’t have a balance beam, you lay down some thick tape or use a wooden 2×4. If you would like to get the same foldable 9ft balance beam I have in this workout click here to get it on Amazon. The exercises, reps and sets are also listed below:
If you’d like to see more steel mace balance beam exercises like these — be sure to check out my latest ebook, GADA Swing Volume 2: Guide for Kettlebell Doubles & Heavy Mace Training. These balance beam drills make your medium sized mace feel heavy all over again and in turn make your heavy maces better stabilized once off the beam knowing how to properly root. If you’d to know more I have related another article: How To Go Heavier With Steel Maces. You also get both GADA Swing Volumes at 25% HERE.
With the recent release of my latest ebook, GADA Swing Volume 2: Guide For Kettlebell Doubles & Heavy Mace Training — I wanted to showcase how I add in bonus steel club subs for each exercise in over 40 workouts into this special ebook program. While kettlebells and steel clubs are vastly different in shape…they are very similar how to properly execute them with swings, squats, get ups, and snatch variations. So I made a three part series with Kettlebell Double Workouts with Bonus Steel Club Subs to give a solid detailed look on how to integrate them listed below:
If you’d like to see more of GADA Swing Volume 2 has to offer watch this video below as well — fully breaking down all of it’s features. You can also get both GADA Swing Volumes at 25% off linked here as well
With fitness coaching, you always have to be educating yourself on the latest methods that are proven to work. However, there’s so much over produced technology…it blinds simplicity. You do not need fancy technological tools that claim to cure pain (like overrated massage guns that cost hundreds). From someone who has had a dislocated shoulder and torn pec (from my early days in football) — rehabbing a chronic injury takes actual thought. Physical Therapist Grey Cook states, “are you moving poorly because you are in pain, or are you in pain because you are moving poorly?” My personal injures believe it or not teach me what my body is supposed to doing throughout the ENTIRE day. I will never believe an injury will absolve itself by sitting on my butt and taking prescription painkillers…all because an idiotic doctor told me too.
Shoulder pain is something that always comes up when coaching any athlete or average Joe. So it’s my job to constantly to learn and demonstrate the best methods. It is the very reason why I want to use Stick Mobility as prime example of how simple and yet genius these drills are to improve shoulder function in your daily life. Stick Mobility doesn’t just sell these sticks that can bend and root into the ground better than any other typical dowel, but offer an incredible source of educated content with them. I attended their coaching certification last year, and was blown away how their system applied exactly to kettlebells, steel maces and clubs. Don’t let the word “mobility” fool you; there’s more so a revelation of how much stability is needed for these drills to attain full range of motion. So here are FOUR drills you can easily integrate into your warm up routine whether you’re a power lifter doing bench press, or a martial artist grappling for the day.
Stick Mobility Pendulums & Kayaking
What I love about this complex is we’re truly utilizing the shoulder’s ball & socket joint in a 3-D motion with pendulum motions going left to right, diagonally (chopping), and rotationally with the kayak (in BOTH directions). You will need a stick that fits best to your wing span so you can grab both ends and then actively press into so the shoulders get down & back with a long neck to prevent any shoulder impingement. Perform each one for 30 seconds at medium pace.
Stick Mobility Shoulder Dislocates
I usually cringe when I see most do these because the arms should NOT bend to compensate for the range of motion. This also causes the shoulders to dump forward with the neck (creating an opposite effect of impingement). The key is to keep your arms locked out like you’re “breaking the stick half” with both palms down (externally rotating the elbow pits out). Once creating stability in the shoulder girdle, slowly raise the stick overhead and let the index & thumb naturally stay connected to it as the other fingers release going further back (death gripping will only restrict this range). Perform a range of motion best suited for you…don’t force it. I can go back & forth in full range in this demo because I practiced it with consistency.
Stick Mobility Arm Bar
This is inspired from the kettlebell arm bar and yet is completely opposite biomechanically. When performing the kettlebell arm bar, the goal is to keep it in alignment with your lat (creating tactical feedback) as your thoracic spine and iliac crest of your hip rotates toward the floor lying down. The stick arm bar however, creates a prying effect as you press it into the the wall and gives a great stretch across your pectoral area. Before a workout, I like to roll back & forth into this position so my hip and lumbar also get the prying effect as well. If you hold this position…do it after your workout.
Stick Mobility Ninja Flow
The Ninja Flow position is what really interested me about Stick Mobility when I first saw it online over a year ago. As stated in the intro, what makes these sticks better is their rubber ends root with solid friction against any typical gym flooring or concrete. Doing this Ninja Flow drill with PVC pipe or a wooden dowel will more so dangerously slip off the ground when shifting side to side as you see in the demo. Creating stability and pressing the stick into the ground makes your body feel like it’s a sail because it’s properly anchored to a solid base of support. To get properly set up in this Ninja Flow position — take notice where I place and grab the stick as I smoothly side lunge in alignment with it:
If you’d like to see more Stick Mobility drills (or get a bundle of sticks) — go to StickMobility.com. I love their content so much, I added them into my warm up and flexibility ebook routine with GADA SWING Volume 2: Guide For Kettlebell Doubles & Heavy Mace Training. You can also get it with the first volume taking 25% off HERE.
The kettlebell clean is the easiest to do, but the hardest to learn. Beginners show frustration with this as the kettlebell slams onto their forearm in the front rack position. I wasn’t perfect when first learning either, but when I finally got it I thought “why didn’t someone tell me this all along?” So I want to get straight to the point what issues need to be fixed for a SMOOTH kettlebell clean and why a solid front rack matters.
Issue #1: It’s Slamming Because You’re Death Gripping
What draws a beginner away from the kettlebell clean is the slamming effect caused from over gripping the handle. The kettlebell NEEDS to rotate around the wrist — so therefore your grip need to relax for a split mili-second to do so. This is easily taught with a light kettlebell and performing a simple curl (with no hip hinge). When performing your hands & fingers will require smooth dexterity so it can rotate. You want to think, “zip up the jacket” to keep your elbow connected to your torso as well. Once you have a understanding of this, you can perform a Deadstop Clean — all featured in the tutorial below:
Issue #2: Front Rack Position is Weak
No good comes to kettlebells with flexed wrists and a weak grip. As you see below, you want the forearms vertical (with singles or doubles) with a SECURE grip. The most common compensation many make is “chicken winging” the kettlebells onto the forearms like a shelf with the wrists flexed (cutting off any engagement from the lats) as you see pictured below.
Issue #3: Pulling the Kettlebell With No Hip Power
Before learning kettlebell cleans, your skills with a two (2H) and one handed (1H) swing should be solid. This is so you can translate the same hip power to the clean. You want to think a kettlebell clean IS A SWING that’s ends in front rack position. So if you perform 1H swing to a clean…I should see the hips look exactly the same. I shouldn’t see a powerful 1H swing…then a weak clean with the kettlebell being pulled up as demoed below:
Issue #4: Over Rotating the Torso With The 1H Clean
What a lot of beginners don’t know is it’s actually easier do kettlebell double cleans because it keeps your shoulders & hips square as you ballistically hip hinge. It’s harder with singles because your free side wants to rotate toward the asymmetrically loaded side. When the torso over rotates at the back swing (or hike) position…you’re more likely to dump your shoulder forward with it and makes you go unnecessarily faster to compensate. So a the double clean’s extra load makes you slow down in the front rack by pausing — keeping the shoulders connected to your lats (not hugging toward the kettlebells). Take notice of my pace with the kettlebell double cleans demoed below:
If you feel you need more work on kettlebell doubles be sure also check out my other related article: Double Kettlebell Swings For Double The Strength. You also get more correctives like this in all my ebooks. You can use the codes below to save on any of them or checkout the bundle deals all linked HERE.
What I’ve always loved about kettlebells is all the different type of swings you can do with them. However, many beginners strictly associate kettlebell swings with the classic two handed version. This is why is my first volume of GADA Swing: Guide for Kettlebell & Steel Mace Strength Training I utilize a SINGLE kettlebell for the entire program so you learn the differences between two handed, one handed, and hand to hand swings throughout the education chapters. Then in GADA Swing Volume 2, I advance the programming into Kettlebell Doubles & Heavy Maces. I make these skills detailed and structured because all too often people rush their skills advancing into kettlebell doubles due to poor social media influence. So I’m going to show you the proper way of educating you the differences between a single & double kettlebell swing and how to execute them with good technique so you can advance them into more kettlebell double swing variations.
How to Set Up Kettlebell Doubles:
The U.S Army has a saying “same standards, different conditions” when advancing certain skills. You’re standards of keeping a neutral spine with a dominant hip hinge position in the set up will remain, but the changing condition here is we need a wider (sumo deadlift like) stance so the kettlebells can travel in between your legs without banging into your legs. It is also key to point your toes OUTWARD at a 30-45 degree angle so the knees can also push out; as the hips flex back and explode into extension with more glute contraction. With a wider stance, your hips must produce more ballistic power or else your knees will compensate caving inward (valgus) to make up the lack of power.
The devil is in the details as you also notice how my shoulders align toward the kettlebells in a tilted position (packing into my lats) so they can naturally hike up into the back swing (above the knees). If your shoulders are in a shrugged position you will more likely compensate by pulling the kettlebells versus actually naturally swinging them.
Executing with Consistent Power:
Kettlebell Double Deadstop Swings are best if someone’s reps that look great for the first couple, but absolutely suck on the last reps. This also corrects the head position by “looking 6FT ahead.” You do NOT want to look up & down as you swing kettlebells because this kinks the neck and decreases neural engagement to your lats. Slight neck extension is okay, but I shouldn’t see a major skin crease on the back of your neck at the same time.
Going FULL Swing
Once you own a proper set up and own the skills for a explosive hip hinge — you can go full swing. Notice in the demo below, my hips maximally flexed with minimal knee flexion as I look 6 feet ahead. Then as soon as your hips extend, the arms should release away from the torso as the kettlebells float as the body vertical plank.
Advancing into Cleans & Snatches
If I were to take a picture of your backswing…I shouldn’t be able to tell if you’re about to do a swing, clean, or snatch. I bring this up because commonly when I advance a student with cleans or snatches…all their hip power disappears. Think a clean is a swing that ends in the rack position and a snatch is a swing that ends overhead. This is best learned when performing each one into a kettlebell double swing complex as you see below.
Notice how my power of each swing variation in executed from everything we’ve talking about it: the set up with a wider stance, feet at 45, kettlebells tilted, and hiked above the knees into a solid hip hinge. Pause the video in each rep of the backswing and it’s the same every time I ascend into a swing, clean, or snatch. If you feel you need more work on your clean or snatch technique — check out my related articles: Why Your Kettlebell Clean Sucks or Why Your Kettlebell Snatch Sucks.
So I hope I gave you a more educated influence HOW to swing kettlebells with doubles. Remember to take your time when learning and keep the reps minimal (5-10) so you can maintain power. It also never hurts to have a set of experienced eyes give you feedback. Be sure to checkout my latest ebook: GADA Swing Volume 2: Guide For Kettlebell Doubles & Heavy Mace Training featuring Stick Mobility with Bonus Steel Club Sub Options for 40 programmed workouts. You can also bundle it with the first volume to save 25% off your purchase — CLICK HERE
One day I was re-reading Pavel’s Enter The Kettlebell, and then when I set it down…I looked at the cover with an idea: “I wonder if I could do that with a steel mace in the other hand?” So I went into the gym, gave it go, and it was ridiculously hard. Even though I was swinging & catching both the steel mace & kettlebell at the same — my hands were absolutely confused when to grip all the sudden because of their different shapes. However, the next week I was practicing it again and naturally evolved into the Snatch & Catch (demo below). So then I thought, “this is too good NOT to put in my next ebook” and is exactly what I did recently releasing GADA Swing Volume 2. However, when I create crazy movements like this I want to put into an ebook — I have to think about breaking it down piece by piece so a beginner will NOT swing a steel mace into their face and go see dentist as result. So I came up with 10 levels to build up to the Berserker Snatch & Catch (calling a steel mace & kettlebell combo exercise “Berserker” just sounds right).
So I wanted to give you guys of a pure example of HOW MY ebooks are formatted with hyperlinked video content. “Free ebooks” in my opinion are cheap scams to get your email address and have the depth of a small pamphlet (with no video content). Trust me, my free Youtube videos and articles provide 10x more info than any “free ebook” you’ve seen online. The Joker famously states in The Dark Knight, “if you’re good at something…NEVER do it for free.” So I’m putting my money where my mouth is and showing you I not only demo everything with solid technique, but have tutorials as well to give even more detail on essential techniques. Demo format is what you saw in the first video above. It’s quick 1 minute video with me voicing over the exercise with captions and different camera angles getting straight to the point. I currently have a (unlisted) video library of 700+ demos like that for all my ebook workout programs so you’re not confused what do. Tutorial format is me talking to the camera like I’m there with you. It’s longer than 5 to 10 minutes and I’m NOT talking like its a boring lecture. Its all hands on, and sometimes when I’m editing these tutorial videos…I have no idea myself HOW I’m talking and demoing at the same time.
This Berserker Snatch & Catch Tutorial one of the many featured in-depth coaching tutorials in GADA Swing Volume 2. It breaks down ALL ten levels needed to earn your foundations first with it. This is also how ANY exercise is broken down in ALL my ebooks. When I’m developing the workouts for the program from beginner to advanced I ask myself: “did I give the right foundations in the last workout before progressing this exercise?” It’s like a giant a puzzle and it takes me months to develop, but this is what you’re paying for…quality coaching. If I wanted to come up with a bunch of random crap in less than a month…maybe I would start making “free ebooks” — enjoy the Berserker Snatch & Tutorial below:
If you want to see more, be sure to check out GADA Swing Volume 2: Guide for Kettlebell Doubles & Heavy Mace Strength Training. It features Stick Mobility Drills with bonus Steel Club substituting in the workout programs and has over 300+ hyperlinked demos for every exercise. You also get MORE critical skills on how to properly lift heavier maces and add balance beam drills to better prime stability from the ground and up. Use code: GS210 to save at checkout — CLICK HERE to go the next level. You can ALSO bundle it with the first volume using code: GADABUNDLE25
About half the people I see online performing heavy mace swings…have no business doing so. Their shoulders shrug up into their neck, face turns red from not breathing, unstable feet rocking, and twisting the torso into their low back (rounding the thoracic spine) because they’re not bracing enough. A key training principle I’ve learned from StrongFirst is if you wouldn’t do it with a 48KG/106LB kettlebell…you shouldn’t do it with a 24KG/53LB kettlebell. The same applies swinging heavier maces (that’s a 16KG/35LB mace pictured below). Now, I’m not saying by any degree you need to go from lifting a 15LB to a 35LB mace overnight. More so, to just lift 5-10LBS heavier than your medium sized steel mace to get to the next level. So I’ve put together some solid tips I’ve learned over the years swinging heavier steel maces.
Push & Pull Heavy Maces — BEFORE Doing 360’s:
I never teach beginners steel mace 360’s right off the bat and the same goes for HEAVY mace 360’s as well. It’s completely false that you need to do hundreds of reps in order to get good at them in each workout. It’s more so what you NEED to engage and not using. Activating the lats (the big muscle wings of your back) is what stabilizes the steel mace in the vertical stack position or else you start death gripping the mace handle to the point your spine rounds and traps shrug into it. So HEAVY Mace Squat Pressouts help correct this as you see demoed below:
Root Your Feet With Good Technique
A big strength component with grip training is NOT just with your hands, but with your feet. When I assess ANY type of swing being performed…the first thing I look at is the feet. Usually the issue is wearing cushy soled shoes and it’s instantly resolved when they’re taken off. If the feet are cramped inside a small toe box or elevated in the heel of the shoe —there’s always instability from the ground up. So this is where I use a 9FT balance beam to expose any of these imbalances and makes your medium sized mace feel heavy again. Simply swing and THEN step each rep barefoot on the balance beam demoed below:
PAUSE After Each Rep
The faster you 360 a HEAVY steel mace…the more heavy it gets. To better explain this, no one but Pavel tells it best on how speed & velocity equals more load:“If I put a 16KG kettlebell on your foot you’d be annoyed. If I then dropped it from your knee height…it might break. If I dropped it from your head down…you will need a whole new foot.” So if the mace spins around you faster & faster…your ligaments and tendons are taking the beating and is why I see many steel mace enthusiasts have jacked up elbows and wear compression sleeves to avoid the issue. However, when I swing heavier…I simply take my time adding a slight PAUSE in the vertical stack position so I keep the gained velocity in check.
As you see in the demo, you can swing a solid 2 reps in 8 seconds or 4 bad reps in the same time. Progressively swinging faster looks uglier, uncoordinated, and are unsustainable in a long term program. So think of the Four P’s when performing HEAVY mace 360’s: “Push, Pendulum, Pull, Pause” each rep.
Get Flexible After With The Stick Mobility Bow & Arrow
Recently, I added Stick Mobility drills to latest ebook, GADA Swing Volume 2, because HEAVY Mace is training is apart of the progressive program. Like many, when I first heard of Stick Mobility, I instantly disregarded it because I thought you could use any other wooden stick instead of a “overrated orange stick”. Little did I know, I was thinking just like a Fitness McGuyver: thinking a sledgehammer is just the same as a steel mace (article HERE).
Why these resilient sticks work better is because they root into the ground with the rubber ends to increase surface friction. They also can greatly bend and go back to their natural straight shape as you see here in the Bow & Arrow position. If you use any other bendable material it will become more curved after each use until it breaks in half dangerously.
So I hope you got some good tips out of this article on how to go heavier with your steel mace safely. If you want to see more, be sure to check out GADA Swing Volume 2: Guide for Kettlebell Doubles & Heavy Mace Strength Training. It features Stick Mobility Drills with bonus Steel Club substituting in the workout programs and has over 300+ hyperlinked demos for every exercise. You also get MORE critical skills on how to properly lift heavier maces and add balance beam drills to better prime stability from the ground and up. Use code: GS210 to save at checkout — CLICK HERE to go the next level. You also can bundle it with the first volume saving 25% HERE
If there’s any fitness stereotype I’m sick of hearing about it’s that women should lift pink baby weights, perform an endless amount of leg targeted exercises, and booty band bullshit workouts. Yes, you heard me…#bootybandbullshit. I’m sorry ladies, sticking a thick band around your knees as you do “pulsing squats” (or lazy half rep squats), lunges, and other trendy exercises will NOT give you a bigger butt. Man or woman, the body is one piece and is not built like frankenstien for people to judge you on a social media platform. It’s become a sad reality that both men and women treat gym environments more like a showoff model runway. I’m all for confidence, but if you don’t have a butt..why fake it? Patience is power and no one will ever learn that by being on Instagram 24/7 wanting what someone else has. The picture below depicts where women’s trendy values are at. A strong woman in my opinion could care less about these superficial attributes and focus on what can be best for their goals.
Speaking of Instagram, when I made a post stating: “Ladies, just a reminder you can pick up a steel mace to workout with, get strong, and scare insecure men with it at the same time.” To which my long time student Amanda replied: “Apparently just being a secure woman in general is enough to scare them away.” I write this because I seriously know women who are stronger than their own boyfriend (and have bigger legs) and lower their standards because of weak male insecurities. A woman can be as strong as she wants to be — especially when it comes to being a mother. I’ve always found it pointless for a fitness professional to give a mother 3lb dumbbells when training them because if their child is hurt or in danger…they pick them up no matter how much they weigh (and magically don’t get bulky either).
With that said, any woman that comes into Viking Valhalla Training Center gets treated the same as anyone else. Basing one’s programming off their sex is by far one the dumbest blind habits happening in fitness. Man or woman…everyone knows how to swing kettlebells, maces, and clubs with my coaching methods because I think they’re some of the most underrated strength tools out there. So in this women’s video workout series I’ll be featuring Kara — an aspiring stuntwoman who trains jumping off 40ft towers, wirework, fight scenes, and getting lit on fire for the movie entertainment industry (watch the intro of the first video below to see her crazy ass). I’ll also be featuring the LifeX Modular Mace in these workouts to show you how easy it is to make the handle longer or the weight heavier by switching the detachable threaded heads. There are three steel mace & club workouts below going from beginner, intermediate, and advanced.
BEGINNER Steel Mace & Club Workout:
•Long Mace: Side Step Lunge: Perform for 30-45sec / 3SETS
•Short Mace: Lap Squats: Perform for 30-45sec / 3SETS
•Club Mode: Rotational Pullover to Pressout: 6REPS each side/3SETS
•Club Mode: 1H Clean to Mill: 6REPS each side/3SETS
INTERMEDIATE Steel Mace & Club Workout:
•Mace 360 to Back Step Lunge: 5 REPS / 4 SETS
•Mace Uppercuts 10 REPS Each Side / 3 SETS
•Club Rotational Pullover Side Swing Lunge : 6REPS each side/ 3SETS
•Club 2H Swing to Side Step Lunge: 6REPS each side/3 SETS
ADVANCED Steel Mace & Club Workout:
•Mace 360 to Pressout Squat : 6 REPS Each Side / 3 SETS
•Mace Back & Forth Uppercut Lunges: 6 REPS Each Side / 3 SETS
•Club Figure 8’s: 10 REPS each side/ 3SETS
•Club 1H Side Lunge Swing: 10 REPS each side/ 3SETS
Big thanks to Kara for demoing in this video series. If you’d like to see more steel mace & club workouts check out my last article: Why The LifeX Modular mace Is A Must Have (click here) or head to LifeXAthletics.net to get one now. Also be sure use the discount codes below to save on my latest ebooks:
Anyone who has been following my online content for the past couple years knows how much I preach my knowledge not just for steel maces, but steel clubs as well. Transcending people’s enthusiasm for steel maces into steel clubs was a major task at first, but over years putting out in-depth tutorial videos, publishing an entire ebook program, and online certification for both indian & steel clubs has helped spread the word for fitness professionals and enthusiasts. However, while developing all this content I had to ask myself “why do people favor maces over clubs so fast?”
A big issue I realized it wasn’t so much people weren’t interested in steel clubs…it was investing more money into another tool they didn’t know a whole lot about. Buying a 10lb or 15lb steel mace really won’t cost that much and that weight selection will be perfect to build your strength with it for that year. Yet, steel clubs work better with heavy singles and medium sized doubles…which means more money. Not only that, many think clubs “won’t be that hard” buying online and after realizing it’s too heavy for their current skill level…they buy lighter ones (more money again). It’s why a high percentage of people who get into steel clubs already have experienced themselves with steel maces (it’s very rare I meet someone the other way around). It’s a lot like people who love kettlebells also love barbell lifting because they share the same training methodology.
So what if I told you that you could SKIP :
Weight selection guessing
Questioning if steel clubs are right for you
Wasting money on set weights for BOTH maces & clubs with tax/shipping costs
If you told me that last year, I would’ve laughed at you, but then I got a call from Dallas, TX from a guy named Josh telling me about his idea engineering a steel mace that transforms into a steel club by simply removing four threaded handle sections and has detachable weight heads. Which I thought was genius because I knew this would fit perfectly into my system for utilizing steel maces and clubs. He called it the LifeX Modular Mace, and I told him to send me one right away so I could see if this was the real deal.
After playing with it for a straight week I was amazed how easy it was to lengthen and shorten the LifeX Modular Mace with different weighted heads. It flowed smoothly with 360’s and stayed absolutely solid (not unthreading from the handle sections). So you’re still saying “no, this is too good to be true” — I made this introduction video showing you how its all transforms:
Price Comparing with Set Weight Steel Mace & Clubs
If you saw the ending of the introduction video — you have over $500+ of retail value and then after tax & shipping it will likely be over $650. So you’re saving well over $250+ in steel mace & club value. As you see on the left, the LifeX Modular Mace Kit can transform into a 25, 20, 15, 10, 7lb steel mace and 20 ,15, 10, 5lb steel club.
Can You Travel With Steel Maces & Clubs?
“BUT Coach Vaughn? That’s still a lot of money to spend.” Yes, but you’re getting what you pay for especially if you travel for work or train people on the road. If I had this (before Viking Valhalla Training Center) when I was training people at their homes and parks I would’ve loved this and it would’ve paid for itself easily. Look at the price comparison picture again…do you want to haul ALL that on the left? Hell no! Even today, I’ve done steel mace and club workshops and they’re a pain to throw in your car. The LifeX Modular Mace kit fits in any travel bag and will save you loads of time on the road. Among talking with Josh about the kit, he took it with him to Mexico City on vacation and had no problems with TSA at the airport.
Battle Tested Workouts:
Now you’re saying “well I still don’t know that much about steel club training.” In case you’re new with my content…believe me I got you covered and made an entire Steel Mace & Club Workout Series featuring the LifeX Modular Mace. So whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or advanced you find a workout that fits your skill level. You also get to see how easy it is to switch out the handle lengths for the specific mace & club exercises.
Where Can I Get One?
So, you if want to get yourself a LifeX Modular Mace Kit — head over to LifeXAthletics.net. This is one of the best tools you can get for your growing arsenal and to make your training methods more unique to keep things interesting for long term goals. If you have anymore questions about the LifeX Modular Mace feel free to ask by sending an email from the contact page HERE. You can also follow the LifeX Modular Mace Instagram HERE as well for more.
Since the first time I ever set hands on a kettlebell and swung it in 2006 I’ve been a constant student on mastering my techniques. Like many, I picked up one of Pavel’s books because there was really nothing else out there during that time. Then, as soon as I had the income to save up for my StrongFirst Kettlebell certification I became even more addicted to kettlebells. Fast forwarding to now, kettlebells are at an all time high popularity and it’s common to hear the title “kettlebell enthusiast.” If you’ve invested thousands on cast iron kettlebells over the years, attended courses, take pride walking around barefoot, can say “comrade!” like Pavel, have your own courage corner (because corporate gyms don’t have real kettlebells)…..congrats, you’re a kettlebell enthusiast.
Now contesting my long love for kettlebells I have to admit my short comings with them…they get boring after a decade of training with them. “It’s NOT you kettlebell…it’s me.” Seriously, it’s really not the tool or the style of training — it’s more so we need new challenges at some point to keep us going in the long run. I found steel clubs (or what some call heavy clubs) in 2015, and during that time I felt I needed something new in my workouts to challenge me. So I want to break down why a kettlebell enthusiast would find steel clubs as a possible interest to invest in. To be clear, I’m posting this article more so that you’ll appreciate kettlebells even more (not less) after utilizing steel clubs like I have.
Steel Clubs Swing Better Outside The Hips
Even before I got into steel clubs I thought performing double kettlebell “skier swings” were down right stupid and dangerous. Why? First, the kettlebell’s mass has a HIGH chance smacking the outside of your knees. Second, to avoid getting hit this causes the knees to cave in (valgus) during the back swing phase. There’s a reason why kettlebells are swung, cleaned, and snatched from inside the hips to better load up the hamstrings.
However, when the steel club’s elongated shape is swung from outside the hips it really feels like you’re loading up into a broad jump because the clubs shape can travel further in the back swing better than double kettlebells. Not only that, with the torch like grip against the handle the wrist laterally extends causing more extension along arms with more range of motion for the outside swing. This the major game changer for swings with steel clubs versus using kettlebells. Watch the tutorial to see the the true difference:
Steel Clubs Are Perfect For Your Medium Lift Days
In StrongFirst we have a saying, “if you have heavy days…you don’t need light days.” This doesn’t mean lift heavy every day, but I’m not sorry saying dancing around with a light kettlebell will not do anything for your strength at the same time (Onnit makes good equipment…not education). So having medium lift days are good days to perfect your technique. What’s great about steel clubs is you don’t need a lot of weight to have a good workout with them. While a 45lb kettlebell maybe be no problem for you…that’s a completely different story with a 45lb steel club. I recommend beginner men go no heavier than 15lb clubs and women go higher than 10lbs with doubles.
A great example for a medium lift day would be windmills. They are a major favorite among kettlebell enthusiasts to attain flexibility, t-spine mobility, and shoulder resilience for lat engagement. Among playing with the steel clubs one day I tried them with windmills and it was more challenging than I thought (especially with doubles). Once again the torch grip is what makes this so tough. With so much stability needed the index and thumb really have to work hard to crush grip the handle. Check out the video tutorial below to see what I mean:
Steel Club Swipes & Kettlebell Snatches Similarities
If there’s any steel club exercise that resembles the kettlebell snatch it’s steel club swipes. What makes the kettlebell snatch technique so hard to learn at first is NOT ripping up your hands (related article: Why Your Kettlebell Snatch Sucks). Having the same finger dexterity to bypass scratching up the meat of the palm is also required for the double swipe. What I also love about swipes is it enforces abdominal bracing from the club’s weight in the accelerated pull over position. So this means your breathing mechanics ALSO have to be on point (just like the snatch).
I hope I gave you, the kettlebell enthusiast, a different look on how to apply what we already know into steel clubs and challenge our skills. If you’d like to learn more about steel clubs and workouts for them I have plenty more articles like Beginner Guide for Steel Clubs and Steel Club Double Workouts linked here. I also have an entire ebook program, GADA Club: Guide for Indian & Steel Club Strength Training, on how to build your skills with them in the education chapters with indian clubs; having 40 workouts split into beginner, intermediate and advanced levels for singles and doubles (all included with over 150+ hyperlinked videos in the PDF file). Be sure to use promo code: GOINGCLUBBING10 to save at check out.
So you got an interest in steel maces and you’re wondering now “why are the weight selections so light?” This is what throws people off whether you’re strong or just beginning your journey into fitness. So you buy a mace that’s around 20-25lbs, get it delivered, and start playing around with it and then realize…”oh crap, this is TOO heavy for me.” If you made this mistake you’re not the only one. These are a couple of comments left from my Youtube subscribers for my steel mace workouts:
So why does this tool feel so heavy at first? A steel mace is an asymmetrically (one side) loaded tool with all the weight in the mace head and no less than a pound in the handle. So we’re not talking about a dumbbell or kettlebell here. Once you get the mace into a vertical stacked position your grip, lats (big muscle wings of your back), and posture instantly get challenged to resist the steel mace’s weight distribution being over your head. This is what makes the steel mace such a unique tool because you can increase your overall strength with little weight since the steel mace exposes all the places you lack mobility or stability. To be clear, steel maces and sledgehammers are NOT the same and I wrote a whole other article on it here.
So which steel mace is best for me then? First, please be humble and take your ego out of the mix whether your experienced with other tools or not. If you want to get the MOST out of your steel mace training you need to pick a weight size that allows you to do the most quality movements. The heavier you go…the less you can do with it. Another big thing many don’t realize is steel mace training doesn’t just train your muscles, but also tendons and ligaments. So they do not recover as fast as your muscles and you need to be patient letting your tendons (especially in your elbows) get used to the weight you’re using. The best weights selections I’ve found are:
So man or woman…the 10LB mace is the best option for first time beginners. However, I do recommend to purchase more than one mace for other strength exercises once you’ve remained consistent with your steel mace. If you would like more tips on how to go heavier in the future with your steel mace training I breakdown how I did it here in this video below:
I hope these steel mace weight recommendations helped you begin your fitness journey with this awesome tool. If you need more help with education and programming your workouts with it I have plenty more steel mace articles here on the website. I also have two different ebooks for sale that have everything you need to one downloadable PDF file. They all feature 130+ different video demo exercises and hyperlinked video content to focus on correctives for your strength goals. You can check them out HERE:
With my recent release of my third ebook I wanted to give you a solid preview of what Reinventing the Steel Mace is all about. Steel mace and bodyweight training I believe go perfectly together and make your workouts much simpler (not needing any giant bulky machines). So this will be great for tactical athletes (first responders & military) and people who want to advance their training to the next level. Minimalism is what inspired this ebook (doing more with less). What can you do with a steel mace and set of rings for an hour workout?
The Steel Mace Thor Pike Cossack is on the front cover because it represents everything covered in this ebook — being strong in very mobile positions. Reinventing The Steel Mace is about changing the classic mace and bodyweight strength exercises to new uplifted levels.
What’s different about this ebook versus the others?
The big difference is having an in depth breakdown of bodyweight skills (with gymnastic rings) and all of their biggest compensations. As you see in the example below, the ebook features an entire Bodyweight 101 Education chapter focused on crawling, pushups, pull-ups, dips, squats, cossacks, kneeling positions, and plyometric dot drills (for speed & agility). You get detailed pictures on each page and everything in GREY FONT is private hyperlinked video tutorials giving you more correctives to perfect your technique.
So now you’re asking “what does steel mace training have to do with bodyweight training?” People often let their tools define their training methods (which doesn’t work at all). All the cues I teach in bodyweight training instantly connects to the positions to stabilize the steel mace. Learning what muscles to engage will not only get you stronger, but will have a long term effect keeping you injury free. Learning to pack your lats (the big muscle wings of your back), bracing your abdomen, and rooting to the floor are critical techniques in any training style to go the next level to building real strength. To get a clear example, here’s a squat tutorial building your foundations with the gymnastic rings first and then advancing them to the steel mace.
Why gymnastics rings?
Rings are one of the most versatile and easy to set up tactical tools. All you need is an anchor point at least 6-7 ft high. This can be done with a pull up bar, squat rack, or a tree. The rings will not just be utilized to build your bodyweight skills in the beginner program, but also used to differentiate how to warm up with mobility drills to unlock your joint system for better range of motion. Then following after the workouts there will also be flexibility drills with the rings for a better cool down like this ring glute stretch demo below.
Knowing the difference between mobility and flexibility will be critical to understand for the success of this program. It’s mind boggling when I see a person “stretch out” before a workout for 30-45min. Warm ups should take no more than 5-10 minutes and the focus should be on increasing range of motion with the body’s main joint systems with constant repetitive movements. When relating mobility versus flexibility think of tying your shoe. If the laces are TOO tight…your ankle loses mobility. If it’s too lose…your shoe will fall off.
Is this similar to the GADA Swing ebook?
NO, one of my main goals when making Reinventing The Steel Mace ebook was to NOT make this similar to GADA Swing. The last thing I would ever do to my loyal followers is cheat them with a cheap reproduction of the same content. While the setup, techniques, and foundational steel mace movements will be familiar — both GS and RSM program workouts are VERY different.
For those who aren’t familiar with GADA Swing, a single kettlebell is the main companion to the steel mace. For this ebook, it’s strictly steel mace and rings. So there’s no kettlebells utilized in the RSM program. In the Steel Mace Education 101 chapter, there’s a lot of new steel mace exercises with swing & catch variations, figure 8’s, burpees, balance 360s, and mace plank/pushups that are ONLY in this ebook (as seen above). Here’s one of my favorite moves for this ebook — Steel Mace Hand to Hand Rotational Swing & Catch:
How are the workouts programmed?
There are 40 workouts split up into three experience levels: beginner (12 Workouts), intermediate (12 workouts), and advanced (16 workouts). You will need to workout 4 times a week with each day focused on:
Day 1: Push / Pull
Day 2: Squat / Lunge
Day 3: Hanging / Ground
Day 4: Hinge & Agility