Should you get an adjustable Steel Mace? The common issue is if an adjustable steel mace is going to be worth it in the long run. With a quick discussion on the pro's and con's of the adjustable mace against a solid Steel Mace you can make an informed decision on which mace best suits your needs. We will look at the term Steel Mace as a Macebell as all Steel Mace are Macebells but not all Macebells are Steel Mace. It's just that they are commonly referred to as Steel Mace.
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The choice of getting an adjustable mace is mainly dictated by two major factors but first we will cover the generalities. This post is not affiliated and as such is not a review on any one mace in particular, more a view on the generalities between the two variations you may be considering. Adjustable Steel Mace or fixed weight Steel Mace. Either option is good, especially if you're a Steel Mace beginner or new to strenuous physical activity. Let's get the negatives out of the way so we can focus on the positives.
What is an Adjustable Steel Mace?
An adjustable mace is any macebell that can change its weight without needing the change the main grip handle. This includes plate loaded mace, screw on weights, fillable mace and in some cases DIY adjustable macebells with weights strapped to the handle. Specifically, an adjustable Steel Mace is made of steel as opposed to any other material like the wooden counterpart being the Gada. All adjustable mace falls under the umbrella category of a Macebell. An example of an adjustable mace is pictured above.
What is a fixed weight Steel Mace?
A fixed weight steel mace is a macebell whereby the weight and the handle are permanently fused and for the most part constructed of steel. You can read more about the details of a fixed weight macebell here. A fixed weight mace can be made of any any material even ice! Though generally more natural materials likes wood and bamboo are referred to as Gadas. Likewise, any DIY mace can also be considered a macebell provided it is a weight on the end of a handle. Arguably, long shafted hammers are also Macebells.
Limitations of an adjustable Steel Mace
The biggest reason people ask if an adjustable macebell is worth it, due to the high initial cost. The Wolverson Fitness adjustable mace pictured above, an adjustable macebell in the UK, will set you back ~£275. An Adex adjustable system will put you back between £163 and £192 depending on variation. Neither mace is taking into account delivery or the cost of additional weights. The Adex add-on kit of an additional 20 lbs will set you back an extra £271. Clearly, this can be considered a high cost coming to between 6 - 11 months worth of gym membership on average. You need to be committed to Macebell training to get a return.
You'll find that plate loaded adjustable maces are generally lower cost as the outlay is usually for the bar only. This is great if you have access to weight plates already or use of them in a gym. Otherwise, you need to factor in the cost of the extra plates too. It's arguable that the plate loaded mace just don't look as nice or as neat.
We also need to mention the fillable mace (like this). Coming in at the cheaper end and rivalling the price of heavier fixed weight mace, these too, need the extra filler. Water is cheap but not as heavy as more expensive lead shot. Plus they also can look comically oversized.
Due to the size and irregularity of the mace heads for all the adjustable types, you will find your discipline choices are somewhat railroaded. The usually long handles and large size restrict ventures into Steel Mace Flow and to an extent even Steel Mace Yoga and complex work. However, if you're contemplating adjustable macebells, you're probably considering more traditional mace lifting anyway.
That being said, even for the traditional or competitive lifters, changing the weights for ladder sets, pyramid sets and drop sets can take longer than you might desire. A fillable mace could take a few minutes if you need to pour your filler in and out to find the weight you want. A screw on system won't take long but will add time of rest which you may be trying to avoid.
Availability, in the UK anyway, is sparse unless you're willing to forfeit international shipping fees of heavy objects. It may be better to speak to a fabricator like Rawform Funtional Fit to commission an adjustable mace.
Limitations of fixed weight Steel Mace
Although there is a low initial cost, if you want to progress in weight you'll find the total stacks up fairly quick. With most macebells starting with a £30+ price tag and only going up as the weight increases, you can find a lot of cash disappearing. For example the following progressions of mace:
4 kg = £49.99
6 kg = £59.99
8 kg = £69.99
12 kg = £84.99
20 kg = £149.99
The above list is a modest collection of mace rivalling the options you could achieve from an adjustable mace, although there is a jump from 12 kg to 20 kg. The total comes in at £414.95 from Wolverson Fitness (at the time of writing) not including any post and packaging fees. As a long term project perhaps not that bad but clearly a large overall expense.
Rather an overlooked disadvantage to a large collection of various macebells is the storage. One takes up no more room than an umbrella. Multiple mace either need to be laid flat taking up floor space or propped up, which has balance implications if one falls and starts a chain of heavy, hard dominoes falling. You could look at storage racks however, as the prime point above was cost, the rack adds another few digits to the project price tag.
Transportation of multiple steel mace is certainly an issue within the Steel Mace community. Sure, a hockey or lacrosse bag will help you out with one but carrying a variety for your swing patterns is a clumsy affair by hand. Golf and snowboard bags work for size but aren't designed to handle the weight. The larger bags we have used to transport multiple mace to classes have a lifespan of about 6 months. If you know of any bags for transport let us know!
Like their adjustable counterparts there are a variety of macebells available from the common forged Steel Mace, cast macebells, wooden Gadas and then the options of head attachment like welded or screwed, which the later limits use for slams. Even two forged Steel Mace have manufacturing differences like the Wolverson Vs Strength Shop Steel Mace review video here. Your pathways if you stick to one mace can plateau, especially for traditional mace swinging. You can add more reps and more sets for variability but one day you'll need to add more weight for standard 360 and 10-to-2 swings.
Availability of fixed weight mace in the UK is limited compared to the USA, though you could consider sledgehammers a fixed weight Macebell which opens up options in the beginning. The reviews you'll see are usually of 'Onnit' or 'Set for Set' which doesn't help us much in the UK.
Advantages of an adjustable Steel Mace
It's hard here not to talk about the general advantages of macebell training. Those advantages you can find in the blog post here. Let's look at the specifics of the macebells in question. Straight away there are minimal storage requirements if the plates etc are attached when stored. Boom, advantage number 1 done and dusted. Next...
With an adjustable mace you have a variety of training weights available to you. Now you may be thinking that goes without saying however, consider the benefit when (rarely if) we get an injury. You can scale back the load to better accommodate a return to training with more weights and progressions available to you. Rather than needing to buy another mace to accommodate a temporary scale back, you have the weight you need included in the kit. You can keep moving, keep swinging and aid recovery stimulus pretty quickly (dependent on injury).
Unlike a single fixed weight mace you can train with more advanced sets like pyramid sets and drop sets. For example, you could do an ascending pyramid set by adding on an increment of weight each set whilst reducing the reps to build up the strength for heavier mace swings. You have a weight to warm up on and a weight for deload schedules on hand within your set up. Variety of weight is clearly the selling point for adjustable mace.
Providing you can commit to the higher price of an adjustable steel mace, you'll be set for traditional lifts as a beginner or advanced trainer. The progressions available can be great for any beginner looking to learn the technique as the blank mace handles often don't weigh too much, for example the Adex system linked at the top of this post kicks off at 6 lbs or around 3 kg. Yet the very same tool can last years, if not a lifetime, to progress with you to heavier and more advanced swings. The often longer handles also make less weight feel heavier due to the extended leverage and centre of balance which may mean you don't need as many additional weights as you might think.
Advantages of fixed weight Steel Mace
The lighter end of fixed weight macebells are usually brilliantly balanced for the likes of Steel Mace Flow and Mace Yoga disciplines. Often the centre of balance is in the handle of the mace which allows for some smooth rotations about the wrist as with the correct hand positioning you can offset the weight of the mace head with that of the handle to varying degrees of difficulty, otherwise known as choke.
If you get a forged and welded mace you also get the option to use them for high impact exercises. Think along the lines of Tyre Slams or even wood choppers. The solid construction will allow you perform impact exercises without damage to the mace.
Lets' look at specific example of Timbersports also known as Axe Racing. We already know the mace can be used for impact. If you don't know about Timbersports, in it's basic elements, men and women compete in categories to see who can chop a log in half using an axe the fastest. This could be a log on its side, standing up or at the top of a climb. To practice, the athletes may use logs which once chopped cannot be used again. For cost saving and cleanliness the athletes can use a mace to mimic the chopping movement onto a bag or tyre. The mace will take the hit and provide the weight for conditioning without consuming practice logs.
Granted there is a consumables saving for those Timbersports trainers but it highlights the versatility of the fixed weight Steel Mace. Which leads nicely onto the next point. The fixed weight macebell can do all the disciplines, the jack of all trades. It can do the flow and yoga disciplines the best compared to adjustables but can also be used for complex work and traditional swings like a Gada can. If the cost of buying multiple mace isn't an issue, then having a range of weights is going to give you a range to work with for all disciplines.
Because the solid Steel Mace can do it all, it makes it great for beginners. The lower entry cost and versatility means a new user can have a go at all the different ways to use the mace to discover what they like. The user can learn what adaptations can be made and weights may be up for grabs next. A new mace artist can explore all the styles for a little while whilst even developing a collection of mace for each of the disciplines. With a collection a mace available, the advanced sets can still be performed with even less set up time than the adjustable counterpart.
Most people are drawn to the world of macebell swinging because it looks pretty cool or is portrayed as a viking style barbaric fitness regime. Some fixed weight mace come in a variety of shapes and sizes that can appeal to those really looking to dial up the cool factor! You can find quad face style Gada's, medieval oversized mace through to our own Mjolnir style Thor hammers! Compared to adjustable mace, the fixed weight has abundantly more style options available.
Though technically not a Macebell, sledgehammers can be a great way to get entry into the discipline. They are usually found in similar weights and lengths to the lighter mace and are usually far more readily available at DIY/Hardware shops; Sometimes at a similar or lower price point too. If you don't get on with the mace disciplines you at least have a tool to use or to sell on. Maybe a friend or relative has one you can borrow to see if mace training is the way forward for you (it's how I started out which you can read about here).
Your style of training
Both types of mace can be difficult to get hold of and awkward to transport. There's a good share of pro's and con's for getting your hands on a fixed weight macebell or an adjustable macebell. The difference in cost for one mace vs many mace is easily measurable. If storage space is a concern to you then you'll likely be better off with and adjustable mace. With impact based exercises you are much better off getting your hands on a fixed weight mace that is forged and welded. Likewise, if you're getting into mace training for the style then fixed weight mace will give you more options.
Ultimately it all comes down to the style of steel mace training you want to develop. You may have picked it up from the article so far. Assuming you only want the one mace or a limited collection, for traditional and competitive swings you'd be better off financially and in terms of training systems to go for an adjustable mace. If flow / complex / yoga are what draws you to mace training then a decent weight fixed mace will serve you best.