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What’s it like to wield a steel mace during your workout? I tried it to find out

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Photo: Instagram/@fityogi_

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a creature of habit. I love to wake up at the same time every day, have the same coffee order, and my morning routine is sacred. But when it comes to fitness, I’m game to change it up. Whenever a new (slightly out-there) class is offered, I’m the first to raise my hand.

So when I heard that Barry’s Bootcamp was testing a new steel mace class—AKA one of the buzziest boutique-fitness crazes right now—I knew I had to sign up.

“The mace is a great tool because it works your entire body at once.”

Were you about to Google: What is a steel mace—and why use it at the gym? Here’s the deal: It’s basically a dumbbell, except one end of the bar has a heavy ball on it and the other doesn’t (which makes the mace an unexpected—yet effective—way to challenge yourself and step up your fitness game). “[It’s] a great tool because it works your entire body at once; You always have to fight gravity, so you have to stabilize,” says Niv Zinder, the trainer who developed the class at Barry’s. There are myriad ways to exercise with a mace, but his class uses it instead of weights for strength training.

So what’s it like to wield one? Keep reading to find out what happened when I channeled my inner Wonder Woman with the warrior-inspired tool.

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Swinging a steel mace requires more coordination than I thought

Because I tend to do a variety of fitness classes (including dance cardio) I’d like to think that my coordination skills are semi-solid. Even though I was able to survive a recent AKT session without feeling totally lost, I definitely found my balance tested with the 20-pound steel mace. This was probably due to it weighing more than what I’m used to. (Lifting heavy is still pretty new to my fitness routine.) Plus, it just takes a while to get the hang of the maneuvers.

The class felt like any other Barry’s bootcamp—alternating cardio on the treadmills with strength work on the floor—at first. I started running and watched the other group in the mirror with the mace. It seemed like they were doing pretty standard moves: lunges, squats, planks, and pushups. What I couldn’t tell (until I moved to the floor myself) is that using the mace would require me using 10 times more focus and strength because I had to stabilize my body in a different way.


A post shared by Niv Zinder (@nivzinder) on

When gravity isn’t your friend

So how can it be that difficult? As I lunged, squatted, and did push ups with the mace, I was constantly trying to counteract gravity. That’s demanding, given that I was already focusing on the moves themelves, so staying in the right form felt extra challenging.

But the fact that it requires so much concentration (and will likely push most people past their fitness breaking point) actually makes a mace a great tool for preventing injury, according to Zinder. Why? “Most injury happens in the range of motion that you don’t normally get,” he says. When extending the mace, you strengthen your joints and tissues by increasing that range of motion. And pay attention, desk jockeys: “A lot of people have rounded shoulders from sitting down at the desk all day,” Zinder says. “The mace is a great tool to open up your posture.”

So, will you find me swinging around a mace at the gym on the reg? TBD, but I wouldn’t mind wielding one again.

Part of what makes Barry’s Bootcamp classes so good are the playlists. Here’s how its CEO Joey Gonzalez picks his music—plus the one workout he says you should definitely be doing but probably aren’t.