A mace is a fantastic functional fitness tool. However, what is a Macebell? Similar in feeling to swinging a sledgehammer, it consists of a long levered pole attached with a heavy globe fixed at one end and can be used for functional conditioning using heavy blows and choreographed flow routines. Historically you can find uses as a weapon or as a trophy and sign of authority. The mace has its origins from a Gada used by Indian Hindu Wrestlers but is used by fitness enthusiasts worldwide today. Though that's just scratching the surface so we'll take a deeper, though brief, look at what a mace is. The training style is another topic entirely!.
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Where do Macebells come from?
The mace can be traced back to medieval periods as a weapon. From a fitness perspective we find the origins from ancient Indian Hindu warriors and wrestlers. Back then they used large wooden clubs and/or Gadas (more on them in a moment). It was recognised that these tools helped with the dynamic positions used in wrestling and aided strength in those positions. Probably the most famous individual to popularise the Gada was the Great Gama. You can read more about him here. The modern variant has evolved the training styles from those wrestlers and so too have the materials used in their construction.
What are the parts of a macebell?
Above is a typical example of your average Macebell component parts consisting of:
Tail - Referring to the end of the mace opposite the weight. These can be flat, lipped or more bulbous like a pommel.
Handle - The bar is primarily used for grip. Often these have rough 'knurling' to aid grip or patterned, though it's common to find smooth handles.
Head/Globe - The part that contains the majority of the weight. Often spherical these can be hollow. Others shapes exist from battle maces to elegant head figurines.
More varieties exist to suit particular specialities within the Macebell training modality which we will explore next.
Steel Mace vs Macebell vs Gada
The 3 names used for a mace are often used interchangeably but have subtle differences. That being said the overriding term for all modern variants of the mace is the Macebell. All 3 share the same characteristic of having an unevenly distributed load being on the end of a long handle. Any handle shorter than a ruler, say 30 cm, could be considered more of a Clubbell.
The steel Macebell variety aptly named a 'Steel Mace' is usually made of rolled steel. These are arguably the most durable variety with a welded head and also the most common you'll see. Their blend of materials and durability make them a great choice for all Macebell training requirements and can be found in a good range of lengths and weight. Generally speaking the longer the handle is the harder the mace is to manoeuvre and swing. Equally the heavier the mace is the more resistance and momentum you will need to oppose.
'Macebells' may be the umbrella description but true mace-bells are usually cast from iron much like a kettlebell. This makes the production a little cheaper and thus the purchase cost hopefully a few pennies lighter too. The casting process also allows for more intricate designs of the head compared to the standard spherical shape on a Steel Mace. The downside of casting metal is that micro fractures from the cooling process of pouring molten metal into a mould makes them a little more fragile. This prevents the use for heavy impact exercises such as tyre slams and is more at risk of breaking from dropping the mace. If you want to go down the flow route it's very likely you'll drop the mace at some point. Complex and competition mace lifting suit true Macebells better. Just be careful or stand on grass when flowing.
For traditional Macebells we have the Gada. The true originals are made from bamboo and concrete or stone. The modern versions are usually a wooden handle and cast iron head. Gadas tend to be longer, making swings harder to control. With the handle being of relatively light weight compared to the head, the Centre of Gravity (CoG) is much further up the handle if not in the head itself. With the CoG being further away from the users hands, there is the illusion of a longer levered handle on top of the already longer lever anyway. In comparison, a Steel Mace CoG is usually in the handle a few inches below the head giving it some more balanced properties. With the Gada's characteristics it lends itself primarily to mace 360's but can also be used for other mace exercises and workouts with some adaptions.
As a special mention we have adjustable Macebells. Though usually made of steel thus qualifying for the Steel Mace title they don't have the same durability. What they do however gain, is the ability to change weights with only a single tool. Most systems seem to have either screw on weights or plates that are locked on with a screw on nut. These are less common with the most seen version being the Adex mace.
Alternatives to a mace
There are alternatives to a Macebell that can be used with identical (or very similar) training methods and effects. The closest, cheapest and most accessible Macebell alternative would have to be a sledgehammer. Comparable in length and weights they are a great way to get started before investing in a proper Macebell or Steel Mace. Their issue is that the weight distribution doesn't match a Macebell making movement a little more awkward but still manageable. That being said a sledgehammer is a fantastic way to get started with Macebell exercises.
Wooden mace do exist, they are lighter than their steel and iron brethren and are a good choice for mace yoga or just lighter weight movement patterns including mace flow. They aren't common and thus come with a price tag.
You could even go as far as a unilaterally loaded barbell providing the collar or plate attachment system is strong enough to hold the plate on when momentum is applied (figure that out in an empty enviroment). The barbell may end up being a bit heavier and the balance point not the same but is a great way to get a feel for the mechanics if you have access to the equipment already. Heck, you can even try out a barbell held off centre like this.
There is even a seasonal, natural 'Ice Gada' if you're willing to make one. Simply take a thick dowel or broom handle and freeze one end in a bucket of water. Remove the frozen block from the bucket to give you a limited time mace made from water!
Now we have covered the various Macebell varieties including the iron, steel and even ice variant plus their perks and quirks, perhaps you're interest in this functional fitness tool may now want to expand your knowledge using a Macebell for fitness? It just so happens we have a beginners Macebell Flow lesson (for free) for you to have a go with. It even works with a sledgehammer if you've not got around to acquiring a mace.