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Top 5 Recommended Steel Mace Exercises (2023)

Macebell aerial flip exercise
Macebells can do some fancy exercises but are they any better?

We are going to look at the top 5 Steel Mace exercises in my opinion based on my experience up to 2023. This top 5 will undoubtedly change and evolve but these are the best that I think every mace lifter should know about and perform. Oddly enough, my personal favourite isn't number 5! In a loose order of less important to most important let's have a look at the top macebell exercises!

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No.1 - Ballistic Curl

The ballistic curl is probably the most frequently used transition in macebell training and a burner of an exercise when used for high reps. Simply put, it's the macebell version of a bicep curl but also a really smooth way to transition from one side of the body to the other. Learning this move will really help your flows, flow. Not to mention you'll find yourself using the curl to switch sides for alternating mace complex exercises.

To perform the exercise, hold the mace with a double upward thumb grip, standing tall and holding the mace handle diagonally across your body with your lead hand down by your lead hip and opposite hand high close to your opposite shoulder (exact positions may very dependant on our arm and mace length). Bicep curl your lead hand, whilst simultaneously sliding your opposite hand up the handle of the mace as it rotates. Your hands should meet together just below the mace head in a prayer position before performing the reverse of the movement onto the alternate side.

The video below goes into much more depth and gives you drills to build your confidence working up to the Macebell Ballistic Curl.

No.2 - Cradle Switch

You don't need to look too far into the mace world before you start to see some fancy spins of the macebell more akin to baton twirling. Usually these flourishes have come from mastering the cradle switch. If you want to develop your flow work you need to spend time controlling the mace handle with your forearm. The arm control opens many pathways for its own styles and brings the mace in tighter allowing for pivots on the feet and development into directing the mace into your armpit.

In the video below I take you, step by step, how to alternate arms using the cradle position thus teaching you a nice transition and forearm control. Plus it has the added kinesthesia benefit teaching you to be aware of the mace handle as it flies past your face.

No.3 - Lunges

Coming in at position 3 of our top 5 steel mace exercises is a cheeky choice. Lunges on their own aren't explicitly a macebell exercise. However, any variation of lunge is amplified by using a macebell. Be it a forward lunge, rear lunge, curtsy lunge or even a lateral lunge (which are great exercises anyway) the mace adds a further element of balance and tension that's difficult to replicate with other training modalities. For example, holding a mace up vertically in a rack position then lunging forward gives you the offset balance element of the lunge itself and the counter movement to stabilise the mace. Your core will fire up and shoulders be active in a variation where they would largely be dormant. Plus, the balance will slow the lunge down giving you more time under tension and remove some of the elastic potential from your tendons and ligaments requiring more force to come from your legs. More force is more stimulus, more stimulus leads to more strength.

Still need convincing? Try out this 10 min leg based EMOM workout with a mace!

No.4 - Whirlwind Strike

Now this is one of my favourites even though it's not number 5. Is this the most technical? No. Will learning the Whirlwind open up more pathways? Not really. Is it fun? HELL YEAH! Part of what makes macebell work so fantastic is not the stimulus, it's the ability to keep a workout interesting enough to keep you coming back for more. All fitness endeavours fall short without consistency. If you enjoy mace work you are far more likely to keep up with it despite the benefits. Thus, I have included the Whirlwind simply because it feels barbarically badass brilliant. Picture yourself cleaving heads or knocking away evil robots, whichever imaginative image you make, your obliques and shoulders will be screaming to stop but your head will be begging you to keep going!

The action is simple in theory. Throw you mace out to your side then sweep the mace head around in a large arc to your front, loop over your head before performing a second arc that lands on the opposing side of your body. The key is commitment; bail too soon and the centrifugal force disappears causing the mace to drop to the floor. Once you start, you have to hold on and push until it lands.

No.5 - 360 Swing

The epitome of all things Steel Mace, Macebells and Gadas has to be the 360° swing aka the "three-sixty". It's the Kettlebell swing to kettlebells, the Deadlift to barbells, the Muscle Up to calisthenics, the Front Crawl to swimming. It's the go-to exercise in the macebell world and for good reason. The shoulder mobility is unmatched with other training methods, the CV demands are humbling and the core stability required is a task in itself. If there is only one exercise you ever do with the mace....make it the 360. Actually for some people that's pretty much all they do, they call themselves competitive mace lifters.

Describing how to do a 360 requires a post all to itself to do it justice. There's a lot of technique involved but it cannot be understated the advantages you'll get from learning macebell 360 swings!

There are so so many good macebell movements out there plus a bucket load of progressions, variations, alterations and combinations. Set for Set have a decent article including 16 of their top mace choices which do include some subsets of exercises to build into bigger elements. For now, in my opinion, the Ballistic Curl, Cradle Switch, all Lunge variations, the Whirlwind Strike and 360 are some good movements to start with.

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