meet the steel mace

There’s no question that in recent years the wellness world has taken a large cue from our ancestors. From eating more primal to minimal running shoes, we have been bringing all the old ways back, including some of the most ancient tools used for physical performance.

For example, meet the steel mace. It was created around the 13th century as a deadly weapon for warriors on the battlefield. With a long handle and a weighted ball on one end, it was designed for destruction. Now, it’s used to strengthen the entire body through dynamic movement.


The mace can certainly benefit the entire body, since it can be used as a basic weight to lift and squat with. But it is exceptional at increasing mobility and building strength in the shoulders, arms, core, wrists and hands. Below is a circuit for beginners, crafted for those who have never picked up a mace before.

Five Basic Mace Progressions

1. Mace hand switch
This is the most basic movement to master before moving to more difficult maneuvers. Hold the bar parallel to the ground with both hands and the ball end in the left hand. (Grip the bar a few inches below the ball, not the actual ball.) With complete control, flip the ball end to the right hand, switching hand positions as you do, so the right hand moves a few inches from the ball. Practice switching back and forth between the two hands.

2. Mace metronome
Hold the base of the mace (not the ball side) with both hands, roughly three to four inches from the bottom. Your hands should be near your lower abdomen with the ball at or near head height, depending on how tall you are. Using complete control, with no momentum at all, tick-tock the ball roughly six to eight inches to the left and right.

3. Mace pullover
Using the same setup as the metronome, keep the core engaged as you raise your hands up over the left shoulder, allowing the mace to become parallel to your back. Your elbows should stay bent at roughly 90 degrees so as not to let the mace actually touch your back or glutes. Bring it back to the starting position. Pause. Raise your hands up over your right shoulder. Repeat 10 to 12 times on each side.

4. Mace around the world
Once you’ve mastered the Mace Pullover, you can progress to Around the World. Start the exercise in the same way as the pullover, but once you have it over the right shoulder, continue the motion behind your head to the left shoulder, and then bring it back to the starting position. Then reverse the motion and move the mace up over the right shoulder to the left and back to start.

5. Mace hand switch with lunge
Once you’re comfortable moving the mace through the space with your upper body, you can incorporate your lower body. One way to start that progression is to begin adding lunges into the mix when working on the Hand Switch. To perform this maneuver, lunge forward using the opposite foot of the hand that has the ball side. Flip the mace, and change legs simultaneously.

Its Cousin, the Club

Like the mace, the steel club is another tool that has made its way from the battlefield to the gym. Clubs are a bit smaller, but they also leverage the concept of an unevenly weighted tool to encourage more stabilization training during workouts.

Where to Buy

Maces are making their way into the mainstream. You can purchase them from brands like Onnit or Set for Set, and they range from seven pounds to 30. Be sure to start with an appropriate weight for your fitness level to avoid injury.

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