A Beginner’s Guide to Steel Mace Training

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jesse Grund

Jesse Grund’s passion is simple: coach men and women to their optimum physical potential and to places they never expected they could take their body. He is the proud owner of Unconventional Strength, an elite personal training studio in Orlando, FL where he and his fellow coaches train everyone from post-rehabilitation clients to world champion athletes. Learn more at https://unconstrength.com/. 

// Steel mace training beginner’s guide

Remember the way that the Scottish rebels got creative with their weaponry in Braveheart? William Wallace used an elk horn, a flail, and a claymore, Hamish’s dad preferred an axe, and their Irish buddy Steven liked to throw a knife. Brilliant. When you walk into a gym these days, you might not be assailed by a vengeful Scotsman wearing blue face paint, but you may well see a similar array of metal objects that can do some serious damage. There are the obligatory kettlebells, of course, and also clubs, hammers, and maces.

While I’m pretty well versed in StrongFirst’s methodology with the first item on this list, the others are a source of mystery. Which is code for saying, “I have no bloody idea how to use them.” We’ll get to clubs and hammers in future posts, but for this one, I hit up my friend Jesse Grund. In addition to being a TRX black and yellow rank (their most senior coaches) instructor, Jesse also trains athletes with all of the modalities just mentioned at Unconventional Strength in Orlando, Florida (yep, he has online courses too, so you’re covered as the COVID-19 lockdown continues). Jesse patiently answered my newbie questions and shot the videos below to walk you through your first mace workout. With the required Braveheart cry of “Freedom!” let’s begin.

Main fitness benefits of training with a Mace?

First, it’s an optimizer of the human movement system. Mace training will make you a better mover without it’s not confining you to a fixed space or predetermined range of motion. Second, it’s an offset load with 80 to 90 percent of the weight in the head. You’re also constantly having to resist rotation, which creates greater core engagement. Yes, you’re moving an object, but your body also has to maintain a certain rigidity to manage the force depending on where the mace is in space. As the mace moves away from your midline, you have to work harder to keep it under control. 

The third benefit is grip strength as most steel maces have a wide handle, One of the first things most people find when they start working with the push-pull dynamics is, “Wow, my forearms and hands are on fire.” We know that grip strength is a key predictor for physical vitality later in life. With a mace, you don’t need separate exercises to work on your grip, because it’s a component of what you’re already doing.

What weight should people start with?

I always tell everyone to start with a 10-pound mace. For women, either that or a 7-pounder, because the handle is a little narrower. I know some people might say, “I’m strong enough to handle a heavier weight.” But I’d reply that you’ve never worked with this piece of equipment or handling an offset load on a long lever. When your hands are gripping the bottom of the handle and you’re trying to swing the mace, it’s going to feel a lot heavier than 10 pounds. So learn how to manage that force, activate the right muscles to provide both motion and stability, and master the push-pull dynamics of the basic exercises. Then think about going up in weight when you’re ready.

Good mace training books and online courses?

Erik “Esik” Melland’s book [with Robinson Erhardt], Viking Ninja Elements, is a useful resource. Erik is doing for mace training what Pavel did for kettlebells – fusing science and practical applications. Mace flowing has become a thing, but to me that’s a gimmick. Esik approaches it from a strength and conditioning standpoint, which is beneficial for most people. Also check out Viking Ninja’s educational resources. They put out a lot of free information.

Mace exercises to start with?

The first exercise I teach everybody is passing. This is exactly what it sounds like – passing the mace from side to side. What I want you to do is pass the mace in front of your face from side to side, and then learn the different landmarks it has to hit when it does that. That is the basis of everything we do with the mace. 

Then it’s onto the 360 or halo. To me, it’s the equivalent of the Turkish get-up with a kettlebell. There’s a lot going on in the 360, and being able to learn that in the beginning is the most important thing you can do. Then we work on the uppercut, which is also known as the battle position, which involves mastering rotation. Each of these three exercises requires a different grip. You’re learning to rotate and resist rotation. These are the foundations of mace training.

What is next?

When they demonstrate proficiency in those, then we can add in some lower body exercises.  It’s really simple to add a squat to the switch or the pass, and to add a lunge to the uppercut or battle position. Once someone has a solid base with the three foundational movements, they can move and manage the mace as it moves through three-dimensional space with control. Now you can test their movement literacy by changing the conditions. Throwing in a lower body exercise is a good way to achieve this.

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