Train as unusually as possible” seems to be a fitness mantra these days. However, unusual doesn’t always also mean practical or safe and efficient, for that matter. Standing on a BOSU ball while juggling 30 lb kettlebells is a great way to end up in a very usual hospital bed, albeit because of an unusual reason. Training strength and conditioning for Jiu-Jitsu is a completely different thing, although you might, and should include odd object training into your BJJ workouts. Training with a steel mace is a great example.
Steel maces might not be the first choice of training tools for most. However, if you look back at the not so distant past, you’ll notice that kettlebells had the same reception before they blew up in the fitness industry. It doesn’t matter if something looks unusual, what matters is whether or not it can help. While being odd is not a guarantee for success (the BOSU ball example again), it will certainly provide your body with a challenge the conventional fitness tools can’t bring to BJJ workouts. In essence, why not give some steel mace workouts a try before you decide whether or not it works for you?
Steel Maces – Origins And History
The steel mace is a strange training tool, which is understandable given its historical use as a weapon, first and foremost. First of all, let’s answer the question of what a steel mace is before we go into how it turned to frоm a weapon to a fitness training tool, and ultimately, how it can improve your BJJ workouts.
Steel maces are pieces of equipment that consist of steel, much like kettlebells. The construction includes a steel handle with varying lengths, with a steel ball welded to one end. The length of the handle (or shaft) varies depending on the weight of the ball welded on its end. The heavier the ball, the longer the shaft will be. They range anywhere between 5 – 55 lbs, but they might even be heavier.
Origin-wise, the steel mace was the weapon of choice for Hindu warriors for the better part of 2.000 years. Known as the Gada, it was not only famous among Hindu warriors but also their Gods, as far as depictions go. The damage that a steel ball welded on a steel shaft could do to an opponent is needless to point out. You can see why the mace was such a popular weapon. Back in the day, though, they weren’t made of steel.
Originally, the mace was a stone tied to a bamboo stick. Warriors, either on foot or horseback would swing it around their heads to gain momentum, delivering crushing blows to enemies, regardless if they wore armor or not. Conversely, warriors spend a lot of time training with maces in order to become proficient at wielding them in combat. This gave birth to the fitness side of training with a mace, something that’s been a part of Indian wrestling culture for centuries. Lately, the mace has as a fitness tool managed to spread all around the world, although many still do not look at it as a useful conditioning tool. Hindu warriors and wrestlers would tend to disagree.
Why Train With A Steel Mace?
The structure of a steel mace means that similarly to a kettlebell, you need to use your entire body in order to maneuver it around. Moreover, the distribution of weight is highly specific, challenging more than just your muscles. Swinging a steel mace around improves balance, coordination, core strength, explosiveness as well as cardio and overall strength. Plus, it looks beyond cool when you’re training with a 50 lbs. ancient weapon in order to be a better grappler.
In fact, nowadays, the steel mace is still used by Pehlwani wrestlers in India and Pakistan. A famous Indian wrestler named the Great Gama is to blame for the popularization of the mace. He was undefeated for 50- years, and fought all across India and Europe, beating every wrestler to ever face him. His only tool for strength and conditioning was using the mace ball or steel mace.
Some of the benefits of including a steel ancient weapon in your BJJ workouts are first and foremost, the range of motion benefits you gain from training with it. The rotational movements and uneven weight distribution mean you get to work on your shoulders and upper back mobility while having to think about your posture. Tailor-made for Jiu-Jitsu, right?
Furthermore, there’s a huge grip strength component involved. Holding on to the handle can be progressively harder, depending on how long it is, and the motions you’re going through. This ties in with muscle endurance as the next great benefit. A steel mace is highly unpredictable in the way it feels when you’re manipulating it. This translates perfectly to grappling, particularly in the sense of being able to keep dealing with the motions as you move it through space for longer periods of time and at greater speeds.
Last but not least, developing a heightened sense of proprioception is always welcome for any grappler. Steel maces will help you gain kinesthetic awareness that you often see in black belts when they seem to anticipate every move before it actually happens. Well, maces will definitely help you develop this skill faster.
Steel Mace BJJ Workouts
While you might be able to find a steel mace in some gyms, it is not something that’s readily available in commercial facilities. Most likely, you’ll need to find an old school garage gym or some functional training facility that has no idea why they have it there. All the better for you. Also, you could invest in one, or a few, and workout wherever you might desire. I’ve seen them in some BJJ gyms as well, which is probably the best possible version of events.
That said, when starting off with a steel mace, go light. Like, really, really light. 10lbs I plenty if you’ve never wielded an ancient weapon before. Other than that, there aren’t many things you need to consider apart from knowing several exercises an understanding hand positioning. In other words, positioning your hand near the end of the lever will make it extremely harder to train with even the 10 lbs. mace, if you’re not used to it. Now, let’s look at several BJ workouts that implement the use of a steel mace.
- Barbarian squats – Holding the mace in front of you, like a vertical baseball bat, perform a squat.
- Romanian Deadlift – Like a regular RDL but it feels different because the weight is on one side only. Do on each side.
- Bent Rows – Similar to RDL’s like with a barbell, but expect it to feel really different. Do on each side.
- Curls – Like with a barbell. Do on each side.
- Overhead press – Really works stabilizing muscles on top of the shoulder muscles. Do on each side.
Conditioning Steel Mace BJJ Workouts
Here’s a simple routine to really get your cylinder firing. Do this work out as a circuit, going from one exercise to the next with no rest. You get to rest at the end for a minute, before repeating the circuit for a total of 4 rounds.
- Single Arm 360 – 5 rounds x 30 sec (each side)
- 360 to Squat – 5 rounds x 30 sec
- 10-2 – 5 rounds x 30 sec
- Overhead Alternating Lunge – 5 rounds x 30 sec
- Jump Squat – 5 rounds x 30 sec
- Split Jump – 5 rounds x 30 sec
BJJ workouts with a steel mace are extremely fun, completely unconventional, and more challenging than anything you’ll do outside of grappling. The benefits of such a tool for grapples are well proven, given the millennia Hindu wrestlers have spent getting into shape by using this highly unusual and even more effective fitness tool.