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June 12, 2021 10 min read
The steel mace, or macebell, is a steel rod with a steel mace ball welded on at one end. Swinging and moving the mace builds core and rotational strength and targets your stabilizer muscles because of the uneven weight distribution of the device.
Steel maces are based on the gada, a weapon wielded by several Hindu gods and still in use in martial arts on the Indian subcontinent today. Steel mace workouts might look fairly simplistic and maces with lower weights might appear unable to lead to much strength gains, but they’re a fantastic method for building functional strength.
There are many exercises you can do with the steel mace, but form is absolutely essential. The momentum generated from the weight on the end of the mace can easily cause strains in your shoulder joint so it’s wisest to start low and slow to learn how to perform mace moves safely and effectively.
Read on for the 16 best steel mace exercises so you can include this unique tool in your regular workout routine.
If you need a visual representation for any of the workouts featured in the list below, you can check out this trainer running through all 16 exercises:
This is a great full-body workout for your lower body, upper body, and core. It’s easy enough to do, just make sure you practice the movement to prevent serious shoulder joint injuries.
Stand with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart. Get down into a sumo squat or barbarian squat position by sitting your butt back and lowering yourself by bending at the knees. Hold the position when your legs are about halfway toward being parallel with the ground.
Hold the mace near the bottom with both hands so that it’s in front of your chest. Swing it behind you by putting the weighted end over your left shoulder and swinging it to clear your right shoulder and return to the starting position.
One of the more functional exercises used in steel mace training, the row with rotation also puts the least amount of strain on your shoulders. You can use this muscle to target your arm muscles in a new way.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hinge forward at the hips and bend your knees slightly, kind of like you’re picking up a barbell for a deadlift.
Hold onto the lower end of the mace with your left hand and right hand a fair distance apart.
Your elbows should be at 90° angles in the starting position. Extend your arms fully to push the mace away from you and then return to the starting position. Turn your trunk to either side and extend the arm on the opposite side until the mace is perpendicular to the ground, then return and repeat everything with the mace on the other side of your body for the next rep.
Target muscles in your lower body as well as work the rotational muscles in your core with this combination of the classic bodyweight exercise and a standard steel club rotation.
To do a reverse lunge, you need to begin from a standing position with your feet hip-width apart. Take a big step back, larger than your standard stride would be, and bend your rear knee until it almost touches the ground. Your front knee should bend as well.
Before you begin the reverse lunge motion, hold the mace right in front of your face by lifting it with both elbows bent to 90 degrees. Rotate your trunk so that the mace is to either side of your head. As you go through the reverse lunge, move the weighted end of the mace in an arc that ends near your opposite hip.
A terrific warm-up as well as a fine addition to your regular routine, adding the weight of the mace to this exercise is a good way to work your pecs, glutes, and muscle groups throughout your core and upper body.
To get into the starting position, lie flat on your back with the soles of your feet on the ground. Hold the mace aloft with both hands as if you were going to bench press it. Lift your hips so that a straight line runs from your neck to your knees.
Lower the mace to your chest and then raise it back to the starting position. If you can’t hold the plank position for long enough to complete the press motion as many times as you want, try push-ups and planks to build core strength.
Kneeling exercises will help improve the capabilities of your stabilizer muscles, especially with the momentum in this move.
Both knees should be at 90° angles in a kneeling position before you start. Get a wide grip on the handle of the mace and hold it in front of your face and then rotate your trunk to hold it to one side of your face.
The goal is to rotate your trunk in the other direction while turning the mace so the opposite end is facing forward. Do this by lowering the back end of the mace and then raising it in a kind of uppercut motion once the rotation is completed. It will feel a little bit like rowing in a canoe.
This is a simple variation on the classic squat that’s just complicated to make the exercise exciting again.To perform a squat, you should start by standing with your feet a bit more than hip-width apart.
Sit your butt back as if you were about to take a seat in a chair and bend your knees until your thighs are parallel with the floor. Your knees should be at a 90° angle.
Hold a mace horizontally in front of you when you’re in the starting position. As you go through the squat, turn the mace end over end so the weighted end moves from the left to the right and vice versa. This end-over-end mace movement is called a ballistic curl.
The side row is one of the steel mace exercises that looks significantly more mechanical than regular weightlifting or strength training exercises.
But itimproves the range of motion of your core muscles nonetheless.
You need to get into a kind of forward half-lunge to start this move. Take a step forward and get halfway into a kneeling lunge position, then hinge forward at the hips so your torso is diagonally oriented.
Hold the mace at hip level with the hand on the same side of your body. With the opposite hand, cover the end of the mace with the palm of your hand. Use the opposite hand and bring the mace in front of your waist, then return it to the starting position.
Push it down by extending both arms fully, then return to the starting position again. Repeat and remember to do this exercise with the mace on the other side of your body as well.
If you’re just getting into steel mace training, the standing overhead swing is a move you have to master. It helps get acclimated to the full range of motion of the mace and also improves grip strength steadily while also adding a slight amount of cardio to your routine.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and the mace held in front of you with both hands like a broad sword. Swing it behind your back by moving the head of the mace over your left shoulder - your elbows should be at 90° angles when the mace is directly behind you.
Continue to swing the head of the mace over your right shoulder until it’s back in the starting position. We’d recommend a lighter 5 or 10-pound mace when you first begin with this move just to get used to the basics of mace training.
Make your standard crunch exercise more challenging by holding the weight of a steel mace aloft throughout the movement. It doesn’t get much simpler than that during a mace workout.
Lie with your back flat on the floor and the soles of your feet flat. Raise the mace above your chest like you were doing a bench press. Engage your core and lift the top half of your back off the ground. Your head should move toward your knees.
Remember that this isn’t a sit-up. You aren’t trying to get all the way up to your knees. Just get up high enough for your shoulder blades to get off the ground.
This exercise mimics the benefits of overhead exercises that typically use dumbbells. It’s a single-arm exercise, so your biceps, triceps, and shoulders will be practicing their stabilizing ability even more.
In a standing position, hold the mace over one shoulder. Use your right arm on the right side of your body or the left arm on the left side. First, do a simple overhead extension with your arm and then return to the starting position.
Next, rotate your arm out without moving your elbow. The elbow started in front of you but it should be out to the side after the move. Repeat an overhead extension. Repeat as many reps as you need and do the same amount on the other side of your body.
For this exercise, you’re going to repeat the end-over-end ballistic curl while shifting your weight from one foot to the other. You’ll accomplish this lower body movement by bending one knee to accommodate the straightening out of the other.
Keep repeating this switch while turning the mace in a ballistic curl. Aim the ends of the mace toward the foot closest to that end of the mace to create a more dynamic movement.
This is one of those mace exercises that looks much easier than it feels when you’re actually going through the motions. Practice slowly and build up weight progressively to make sure you don’t cause a knee or shoulder injury.
The movement of the mace in this exercise is pretty close to another mace classic called the gravedigger. It mimics sticking a shovel in the dirt and then throwing the dirt away but this variation doesn’t require going through the full range of motion where the end of the mace winds up behind you, which makes the lateral shift with extension more friendly for your shoulders.
The lateral shift is the same as described earlier. The extension is a kind of jab motion - before you do the ballistic curl, lift the mace and jab straight out. Don’t go too fast or you could cause a muscle strain, but do it hard enough that you feel the effects of the cardio.
The sumo squat is similar to a barbarian squat. Basically, you just squat a bit deeper than you do in a standard squat and you begin with a wider foot stance.In this variation, you’re going to use the mace as if it were a dumbbell you were using for curls.
Go through the first half of the squat with the mace close to your chest and a narrow angle in your elbows. Once you’re in the deepest part of the squat, perform one curl and rise to return to the starting position.
You can consider this exercise a variation on the crunch with overhead hold we mentioned earlier in this guide.Lie flat on your back with your soles flat on the ground and the mace held above your chest with both arms fully extended.
Lift your leg off the ground fully extended to challenge your core even more. Lift your shoulders off the ground like you would in a normal curl and then move the heavy end of the mace a short distance toward the ground.
Return the mace to its highest position and then lower your shoulders. You can then switch to the other side for the next rep or do all your reps on one side before going to the opposite side.
One of the more unique steel mace exercises by far, this move has the mace on the ground for a majority of the time. But it also requires you to move the mace’s weight with one hand, making it more challenging on your arm muscles.
Start on both knees. Lean forward and support your upper body weight with one hand. The mace should be off to one side with the heavy end outward. Grab onto the handle with the hand closest to it and then pick it up so the mace is vertical.
Next, slide the heavy end of the mace out to the other side from where it started. Then pull it back into a vertical position and extend it out on the original side. Don’t forget to switch arms and do the same number of reps on each side of your body for an even workout.
A final kneeling exercise to finish off your mace workout routine. This one only requires you to rotate the mace in a couple of different ways, rather than moving your body in a strange way.
Get down into a kneeling position and hold the mace vertical in front of your face with the heavy end above your head. Rotate the mace until it’s in a horizontal position with the heavy end out to one side to complete the flag pole phase.
Next, do a simple overhead press by fully extending your arms and then bring it back down. Rotate it back into a vertical position and then repeat the whole process over again. Try putting the heavy end of the mace on alternating sides of your body to build even functional strength on both sides.
The uneven weight of a steel mace makes it feel unbalanced, kind of like a sledgehammer. People use these maces to strike tires or they mimic kettlebell and dumbbell exercises with them.
They’re a fantastic way to challenge your body in new ways. You can build grip strength and improve your body’s core and stabilizing functions. Plus, using a steel mace helps vary your workout routine so the various approaches you use don’t get rote or boring.
Use some of the 16 steel mace exercises in this guide to build a routine that will target the muscles you’re trying to bulk up and make sure to change up the routine to keep your muscles from getting used to the pressure.
The steel mace is a surprisingly versatile workout tool once you get used to its unique use and it's also by far one of the most effective ways to get in a tough workout.