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Macebell exercises like the 360 swing provide balance to all of the front to back ballistic exercises (ex: kettlebell swings). Technique, mechanics and work capacity (and fear of smoking yourself with a steel ball traveling at a high velocity) take time refine and improve. This is no different than any other exercise or piece of gym equipment. Great tool to have around. #macebell #swing #health #gym #exercise
The Macebell 360 swing is a high velocity, total body circular strength exercise that makes an “around-the-world” path of motion traveling in front and behind the body.
Macebell 360 swings are a fundamental exercise in the macebell training catalog.
Beginners, novice all the way up to elite macebell trainees use the 360 exercise.
“Wait… What’s a Macebell?”
Macebell (sometimes referred to steel maces) is a dense ball of mass welded onto the end of a long steel handle.
The design of the macebell makes it a fantastic tool for circular movements like swings, because of the increased length of the handle (as compared the clubbells), creating a significant amount of torque.
Benefits of Macebell 360 Swings
I’m not going to spend a ton of time rattling off benefits, because listing benefits is a tired tactic to keep the reader’s attention on fitness blogs.
And I get it. You landed here looking to learn more about Macebell training and you want to know what’s in it for you.
I read websites on various topics (most recently on how to grow a lush lawn) thinking “What’s in it for me?”.
Here are a few notable benefits of Macebell 360 swings:
- Improved grip strength
- Cardio conditioning
- Rotational core training
- Builds resilient shoulders
- Multi-planar exercises
- Pairs extremely well with other modalities
- Valid calorie-burning exercise (contributing to fat loss)
- Fresh, challenging, engaging, different fitness training
Holding onto the macebell during swings and other exercises train the grip, pretty aggressively. Especially as the weight of the macebell increases (grip strength) or the higher rep sets are used (grip endurance).
Similar to kettlebell swings, macebell 360 swings are great to use for loaded cardio conditioning.
Core training should expand beyond flexion/extension and static stability exercises. Training the core for rotational performance using a macebell is FANTASTIC. Macebell 360 swings can boost rotational power while also training the body to resist rotational forces (anti-rotation).
The obliques get blasted during 360 swings, mainly due to the cross-body nature of the exercise.
I talk a little more about using the importance of using dedicated mobility exercises down below, but the macebell does articulate the shoulders through a more robust range of motion than 90% of other exercises in the gym.
Over time, the muscles and connective tissue surrounding the shoulder will gain strength, flexibility, and mobility.
Just be careful to avoid overstress these soft tissue structures 😬 (thus the recommendation to build mobility/strength using active mobility training)
Most exercises are performed in the sagittal and frontal planes (very linear), which is fine, but 3-dimensional fitness should include moving in the transverse plane.
Taking it a step further, workouts should include exercises and sequences that integrate all 3-planes in one shot.
Macebell 360 Swing Technique
- Mace starts in a vertical position in front of the body, hands near the bottom.
- Tip the head of the mace to one side, allow the sphere to begin “falling” through an arc behind the body.
- As the head falls, raise the hands up, over and behind the head (diagonal pullover)
- After the mace passes behind the butt, “pull” it out through the remaining arc, drawing the hands back over the shoulder and in front of the body.
- Reset in step #1 position before starting the next rep.
- Less reading, more viewing… watch the slow-motion video above.
What’s funny about macebell 360 swings, is that the torque and velocity (two great features of the exercise) are also what scares the living shit out of people when it comes to the risk of injury.
You smoke yourself with a macebell and you’re going to be gun shy for a little bit.
And I get it.
When my 15lb sand 25lb macebells arrived I couldn’t wait to get into the gym and start using them.
The excitement quickly faded after I skived the head of the macebell off of hip.
Without question, there are real dangers and consequences of swinging a mace, but a person can mitigate the risk of injury by practicing introductory exercises and acclimating to the demands of the swing gradually.
Every repetition, your body must produce force to get the macebell moving, but also stabilize and control the mace throughout the path of travel.
The purpose of this article is to share benefits, technique tips/tricks, and how to use macebell 360 swings in workouts.
Macebell exercises are not more “dangerous” as compared to barbell cleans, kettlebell swings, or jumping onto a box.
Learn the technique, work to improve it, you’ll be good.
Correcting Shoulder Mobility Problems with Macebell Exercises
Macebells are frequently recommended as a mobility training tool for the shoulders and thoracic spine, and this makes me cringe.
I do not endorse trying to use weighted exercises as miracle cures for improving mobility.
My personal opinion… if you don’t own the range of motion (actively) without weight, you shouldn’t use weight to pull you into that range of motion.
Seems like a recipe for disaster.
Can 360 swings improve your shoulder mobility and function? Yeah, they can.
Is it a good idea to bypass mobility drills like CARs, prone swimmers, and other slow and controlled mobility drills in favor of twirling weight around your body?
In my humble opinion, no.
Take this as a word of caution.
You might be fine… but then again… you might not.
If throughout any part of the range of motion, the stress of the macebell swing (torque, velocity, acceleration and deceleration, shoulder position, etc) exceeds tissue tolerance, the risk of injury is increased.
The most vulnerable position is likely to be just before, during, and after the shoulders are extended (hands behind the neck) while the macebell is moving behind the body, this can be a compromised position.
And to be fair to macebell training, using a piece of weighted equipment in hopes of improving mobility isn’t just a macebell cautionary tale.
I give the same word of caution to every other piece of equipment, exercise, or activity.
Advice: Work to improve mobility BEFORE swinging the mace, not while swinging the mace.
MyMobilityDaily is my top choice to learn effective mobility solutions that leverage FRC principles (functional range conditioning). The program is streamed to your home and workouts are constantly being updated.
Selecting a Macebell Weight
Start with a 10lb or 15lb macebell, but over time you will need to increase the weight to continue challenging your body.
Lighter is better in the beginning. A lightweight mace will give you more control and create more space for technical errors.
Size up in weight with time and practice.
Most macebells, one-piece and adjustable options, get heavier by 2.5 or 5lb increments.
The human body adapts quickly to repetition and repeated stress.
Light/Midweight Macebells = Higher reps
Heavy Macebells = Low reps
Same as lifting weights.
Creating Workouts Using Macebell 360 Swings
Here’s a common question I get:
I don’t recommend ONLY using Macebell 360 swings as the entire workout.
You could, but there are so many other great exercises and mobility drills, why isolate yourself to just one?
As part of a workout? Yes. Just not the whole thing.
Now with that being said, you can test your cardio and strength with longer duration sets. I’ve performed Macebell 360 swings for 8+ minutes without rest, alternating 10 reps in both directions and switching my grip periodically. Tough little workout.
I prefer total body training sessions.
Throughout any given week, I’ll strength train (2-3 sessions), condition (2-3 sessions) and ALWAYS include mobility work of some kind.
When I’m working macebell drills, it’s common practice to include bodyweight movements. Bodyweight training pairs extremely well with just about any gym equipment (smooth transitions, variations, accessibility, etc)
Everywhere you go, bodyweight training is an option.
👉 Vahva Fitness “Movement20XX” is currently my top program pick for learning how to move your body against gravity.
Here’s a shortlist of great bodyweight exercises to pair up with the Macebell: push-ups, hollow body rocks, crawling variations (forward, backward, lateral, lizard, etc) ground-based movement training, dive bombers, chin-ups, pull-ups, rows, squat/lunge/hip hinge variations, etc.
Save your grip. If you are going to include exercises drain your grip (deadlifts, pull-ups, rows, etc), think it through.
Grip integrity is crucial while swinging the mace. You let go of that sucker and it’s destroying whatever it hits.
If grip fatigue is a concern, consider skipping pulling exercises like horizontal rows and vertical pull-ups while you’re swinging, or simply shuffle those exercise to the back of the workout once swing practice is finished.
Non-competing exercises. Unlike some exercises, Macebell 360 swings don’t suck away energy from other activities in a workout.
Sure, every effort in the gym is going to drain the fuel tank a little bit, but swings have more of a flow-like element to them, with less time under tension versus grinding exercises like squats, push-ups, and pulling exercises.
Here are a few 4 exercise circuits …
Macebell 360 Swings x 10 each side
Single-Leg Squat (Pistol Squat) x 5 each side
Sliding Push-Ups x 5 each side
Hollow Body Rocks x1 0
Macebell 360 Swings x 10 each side
Body Rows x 8
Single-Leg Deadlift x 5 each side
Rotational Side Planks x 8 each side
Reps. I like 8-10 reps per side for beginners and novice. After the last rep, rest for a little bit before starting the next set.
Over time, feel free to increase the reps per side (15+) and the reps per set (30, 40, 50+ reps).
I like to accumulate reps in a session.
Accumulating 100 swing reps per workout is not unreasonable and spread across several workouts per week, this is a great way to improve swing technique through volume, acclimation, and constant technique refinement.
You have to practice, practice, practice to play well.
Macebell 360 swings are good to go for higher rep work sets.
Set a timer for 10 minutes and work until it sounds, or, aim for 6-8 rounds with limited rest (:30-:45 seconds) between each round.
I’ve worked up to no rest for the entire 10-minute work set, remaining cognizant of my technique and fatigue level throughout.
*** Setting a timer and getting to work is a favorite exertion strategy of mine. It allows for all focus to be directed toward technique/mechanics, body position, and timing.
If at any point swing technique begins to unravel (fatigue kills technique) or grip integrity diminishes and compromises safety… REST!
If you’re looking for cardio combinations, well, you came to the right place.
I LOVE using macebell 360 swings inside of conditioning circuits.
This cardio circuit is a personal favorite:
Macebell 360 Swings x10 each side
Hip Thrust x15
If you don’t have access to a SkiErg, substitute wave drills with battling ropes (or next-generation reactive training tool: InertiaWave), towel snaps, or medicine ball slams.
But I’d recommend saving up for a SkiErg, it’s an incredibly unique and versatile piece of cardio equipment with a small footprint for home gyms with limited space.
Public Service Announcement: Are you hip thrusting yet? (sounds kinda kinky, “that’s what she said”) If not, add hip thrusts to your workout regimen. Hip thrusts should be categorized as a primary exercise in my book (similar to deadlifts, squats, pull-ups, etc). They’re AWESOME for building strong glutes and hamstrings.
Advanced Macebell 360 Variations
“Advanced” describes any variation beyond the basic Macebell 360 swing.
Advanced variations introduce an additional technical element or movement that increases the challenge and training stimulus, making them more difficult.
Here a few cool variations:
Macebell 360 High/Low Swings
By far, this is my favorite macebell combination.
The flowing nature, swinging high and low in front of the body and behind, makes this combination challenging and addicting.
Start with lighter weight to feel out the demands and smooth out the technique of the combo.
Over time, you can increase the weight used and get the entire body twisting and turning.
🦴 Foot Fracture Saving Tip: Choke up on the macebell or flex at the elbows to keep the head of the mace away from the feet, or you risk DESTROYING your foot bones.
Macebell 360 Swing to Bicep Catch
If you like adding bicep work into your gym sessions, you’ll love this exercise.
Slowing down a speeding macebell using an eccentric variation of a bicep curl is AGGRESSIVE.
On top of slowing it down, reverse the action and “throw” the macebell back into orbit by curling it back up.
Macebell 360 Swings vs Kettlebell Swings
Having read through this article, you’re now familiar with Macebell 360 swings. In the kettlebell training world, kettlebell swings are a close relative to the macebell 360.
Macebell and kettlebell training are both ballistic drills, which are great for power development and conditioning (among other athletic traits).
During 360 swings, the macebell crosses the midline of the body from left to right and right to left on every rep, where the kettlebell swings pass between the legs from front to back in a pendulum-like fashion.
Two different paths of travel train different muscles.
For reference, here are kettlebell swings:
One of the glaringly obvious differences between a macebell and kettlebell is in the design.
A 40lb macebell and kettlebell weigh exactly the same when placed on a weight scale, however, after lifting a 40 lb macebell, 10 out of 10 people would agree it feels 15-20lbs heavier.
It’s pretty bizarre.
The kettlebell? Pretty balanced piece of equipment.
Macebells and kettlebells have a different distribution of weight, handles and therefore each piece of equipment creates a unique training experience.
At some point, I’ll write up a “Kettlebell Training vs Macebell Training” article.
Instead of playing favorites, I suggested designating each tool to play to their respective strengths and “best” exercises and uses in the gym.
Where to find/buy Macebells
I originally purchased my 15lb and 25lb from Amazon after doing extensive research.
Most macebells are designed exactly the same, so it became a cost situation.
Eventually, I went with these Apollo Macebells.
Hindsight being 20/20, I should have purchased the adjustable Adex Macebell.
Similar to lifting weights, Macebell training requires progressive loading across time to make gains and avoid plateauing.
The Adex Macebell is brilliantly constructed and allows for incremental changes in weight from 5lbs to 50lbs.
If you were to buy individual (one-piece) macebells in all of these sizes, they’d suck up a ton of valuable gym space while spending 4-5x the money in the end.
Now, if you’re going to be working sledgehammer drills against a tire with the macebell, I recommend using a one-piece macebell for that.