Updated: Sep 13, 2022
If you want all inclusive fitness for one low cost you can't go too far wrong with the Macebell aka Steel Mace! There are many methods out there for improving your health and fitness on a small budget and the mace does a good job at covering your cardio, strength endurance, mobility and weight management bases.
You may also be interested in:
If 'Steel Mace' is an unfamiliar training discipline description to you, it may be worth first reading our article: What is Steel Mace Training.
If you're short on time or equipment, the best thing to do is full body training with compound movements to cover as many bases as you can in one hit. Then repeat the full body training throughout the week, not necessarily the same workout, to get in the volume required for progress. Each style of workout will have its benefits and disadvantages to varying degrees so let's have a look at what the more unconventional full body functional fitness method of Steel Mace training is good for;
Core strength - Every moment requires a solid core. Think of holding a plank for the entire workout. Needless to say you'll get a stable core. The Steel Mace discipline mainly requires resistance to movement which helps with improvements in balance and posture.
Shoulder movement - A mace requires your shoulders to move in large ranges of motion not often done in conventional training. As such, your shoulder mobility and strength will improve in more ranges of motion including the extreme ranges.
Variety - A single Macebell can be used as a cardio workout, 'conventional' resistance workout, yoga and skill based flow work. You're limited by your imagination here. Especially for flow work, think of it more like a dance than a workout,. If you get bored with workouts easily, a Steel Mace workout might be for you.
Grip - Much like core strength. Every moment requires good grip. Not death grip but firm and fair. You should very rarely put the mace down. Your wrists therefore become active in positions, again not found in conventional training, giving you some resistant wrists.
Mechanical advantage - A mace may seem like a light weight. the standard being around 10 lbs / 5 kg. However, the weight is mainly on the end of a long lever. This lever can be used to your advantage to get the most from a workout. Ever held a weight close to you then further out, it feels so much heavier....that's mechanical advantage.
Progressions - Following on from mechanical advantage to make a light weight become harder, you can use the lever to "choke" up the mace to make a movement easier if you need to. The adjustability means you can progress to easier or harder moves as your body allows. The F.I.I.T.(E) principles go really well with Steel Mace too as it lends itself to progress in more ways than just an increase in weight.
Multiple directions - A mace can have your body opposing itself and generally working in a variety of planes at once. When your whole body gets involved this makes the movements more functional. Use taking a tin of beans off the supermarket shelf as an example; you're twisting in the transverse plane, resisting the weight in the sagittal plane and likely leaning a bit in the frontal plane. Swinging that steel around rarely only works one plane unlike say, a bench chest press for example.
Skill - A Steel Mace workout is not just a mindless pick up, put down, regime. Your brain is challenged too. The choreography of flow workouts and complexity of other forces placed on your body makes you think about the movement and in turn you focus more on the mechanics, taking your mind off the exertion you're truly feeling. The skill involved and the distraction from effort makes Steel Mace an easy discipline to enjoy. If you look forward to a workout, you'll be far more likely to keep up the all important consistency instead of dropping off 2 weeks later.
Cardiovascular - Not a fan of running or any other long distance cardio? Catch, throw, slam, swing, press, squat and hold this length of unevenly weighted steel for 5 - 10 minutes, I guarantee your heart and lungs are going to know about it. The fitness required is also very similar to that of fight based disciplines having to hold tension and awareness for periods of time.
Mental Health - Like any exercise regime there is a boost to mental health. What workout works for you would be the best boost to your brain cells and emotions. There's just something about Steel Mace though that feels a bit badass, like a connection to the inner hunter we have yet to biologically evolve out of. The calling to swing a weapon around lights that fire of confidence making you feel like you can fight back at life.
There's more to come with mace work. Posture could be a point alone but is largely related to core strength. Mobility could also be a point but again is related to the sheer range of motion in the shoulder joint used. Your balance improves, your coordination improves (despite not feeling like it at first), preconception gets better, reaction times quicken and of course, in line with a balanced diet the physical activity can aid fat loss. Nothing needs to be high impact if you don't want it to be and you can have a diverse range of workout styles with one piece of equipment.
That's a lot of good points but what about the disadvantages. Well, the mechanics don't lend themselves well to bodybuilding style hypertrophy training as getting close to failure here gets a bit unsafe with steel moving at high speed. The other is that there is a learning curve. Some would see the challenge of learning the skill to be an advantage whereas others are put off instantly. You also need a bit of room to work with, however like many training systems you can compromise with less space.
In terms of cost the Steel Mace is relatively low, requiring about £30 + P&P to get going and that thirty quid will last you a long time. The Macebell is small enough to fit in the boot of your car, stores easily at home and is light enough to travel to some tranquil locations if that's what you're into. The discipline carries over well into kettlebells, clubbells and martial arts. It's value is high but the cost compared to a gym membership, garage gym outlay and even other home equipment is cheap. You might want to use some of the money you saved for a course or some lessons but after that the mace really lends itself to self expression and imagination (more boons to mental health).
As an entry point you can get started with a sledgehammer as they are easy to get hold of from hardware stores or the back of your shed. Around 3 - 5 kg weight is a good starting point and will see you many years of use from the single purchase. So are you ready to get your confidence and fitness up with this all inclusive functional tool?
Jump in at the deep end with this Steel Mace Beginners Workout you can follow along with me rep for rep.