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Build Barbarian Strength Wit These Macebell Exercises

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Armed with these six macebell exercises, you’ll be able to build barbarian strength and savage muscle endurance. And don’t think that’s an exaggeration to keep you from clicking off. The fitness-promoting prowess of the macebell has long been recognised.


Powerlifting proponents of old made use of the macebell to forge cast iron core muscles and crushing vice-like grip.


Boxers and combat sports practitioners past and present have applied this primitive training tool for its superior fitness conditioning properties. (Floating around YouTube somewhere is a video of the legendary mixed martial artist Fedor Emelianenko smashing ten bells out of a tractor tyre with a makeshift macebell.) The legendary undefeated wrestler Ghulam Baksh – also known as 'The Great Gama' – was a macebell fanatic.


Make no bones about it, the macebell is one of the most effective training tools for developing robust whole-body fitness. (Want to know more macebell benefits?)


You too can tap into these benefits. All you need is a steel macebell, mastery of the seven exercises below, and a few ideas of how to integrate them into your training routine.


This article will provide you with the exercises and training know-how. Getting a macebell is up to you.


Related: Get my Steel Macebell immediately >
Practice your macebell exercises with this steel mace bell.

Macebell exercises quick finder

Macebell exercises #1: Splitting wood

Macebell exercises #2: Grave digger

Macebell exercises #3: Barbarian squat

Macebell exercises #4: Spear stab

Macebell exercises #5: 360ᴼ Swing

Macebell exercises #6: Dynamic curl


 

Macebell exercises #1: Splitting wood

Macebell exercises #1: Splitting wood.

Purpose of exercise: Develop muscle endurance in the lats, upper back, and abdomen.


Fitness benefits: Of all the macebell exercises, splitting wood is by far the most physically demanding. The exercise targets all the muscles of the upper body – but primarily those listed above. However, if you split wood for long enough, your cardiovascular system will have to work overdrive to fuel output. Believe me when I say it, even a short 5-minute AMRAP will leave you physically exhausted.


Splitting wood key techniques

  • The one limitation of this exercise is that to practice it you need a tyre. You’re not splitting wood but, more accurately, pounding rubber.

  • Assuming you’ve got a tyre, stand in front of it with your macebell resting on the flat top.

  • One hand is positioned at the end of the handle. The other is about halfway down.

  • Adopt a solid, shoulder-width stance.

  • When you’re ready, explosively hoist the macebell up as you would an axe when chopping wood.

  • As you bring your bell down into the tyre, allow the hand further up the handle to slide back.

  • The object is to ‘smash’ the macebell into the tyre.

  • It’s important to keep a good grip so that you can control the recoil.

  • After the rep, you can either repeat with the same hand position or swap each time.


Macebell exercises #2: Grave digger

Macebell exercises #2: Grave digger.

Purpose of exercise: Strengthen the muscles of the lower back and core. Grave digging also engages the lats, many minor muscles of the upper back, deltoids, a bit of biceps, and a lot of forearms.


Fitness benefits: The grave digger is a great exercise for forging strong spinal erectors and a tough transverse abdominus. And as the list above shows, this simple exercise activates a wide range of muscle groups. If you incorporate it into your routine, don’t be surprised if people start complimenting your shredded musculature and wasp-like waist. When they ask how you acquired such enviable attributes, enjoy watching the look of confusion form on their face when you tell them, ‘Grave digging, of course!


Grave digger key techniques

  • Adopt a boxer’s stance: left leg leading, balls of the feet on the opposite corners of a box, weight centralised.

  • You’re holding the macebell as you would a shovel poised in the position to start digging.

  • Along the handle, the hand of that same side as your lead leg (so left) is furthest forward. The right hand is positioned back.

  • To execute the exercise, imitate the action of digging.

  • You can perform a specific number of reps before changing sides or you can change sides after each rep.


Macebell exercises #3: Barbarian squat

Macebell exercises #3: Barbarian squat.

Purpose of exercise: To activate the muscles of the legs – primarily the quads and glutes – and provide a whole-body workout.


Fitness benefits: The barbarian squat is a beast of an exercise. You may think it involves merely squatting with a macebell. If only it was so simple! The barbarian squat is in many respects similar to a thruster, where the weight is pushed vertically above the head. However, because the hands are positioned at the furthest point from the weight, the macebell variation is more challenging as it requires a great deal of effort to stabilise the mace during the exercise.


Barbarian squat key techniques

  • Adopt a neutral stance: feet a little over shoulder-width, toes pointing forward, knees slightly bent.

  • Take a firm grasp of your macebell and upend it – the lump is uppermost. You’re holding the macebell at your front; there is a 90-degree angle at the elbow joint.

  • The further your hands are from the weight, the harder the exercise will be.

  • Initiate the exercise by executing a standard squat.

  • As you power out of the squat, simultaneously thrust the macebell up and over your head.

  • Retrieve the macebell before sinking into the next squat.


Macebell exercises #4: Spear stab

Macebell exercises #4: Spear stab.

Purpose of exercise: Engage the transverse abdominus, upper back, and muscles of the arm.


Fitness benefits: The closest conventional exercise to the spear stab is probably the wood chop. But because you also extend the arms when spear stabbing, the exercise activates a wider range of muscle groups. A common error on first practising the spear stab is to use only the arms. While this is not an incorrect technique (you can just use your arms if you want), it does limit the effectiveness of the exercise. To get the most out of each stab, focus on first rotating at the hip a little. Let’s have a look at the technical breakdown in more detail.


Spear stab key techniques

  • Adopt the stance of a boxer: one leg leading, feet spaced about shoulder-width, and toes pointing 45ᴼ across the body.

  • You are holding the spear at waist height.

  • The hand on the side of the lead leg should be further up the macebell handle.

  • Your hands, like your feet, are spaced about shoulder-width.

  • Initiate the movement by rotating or twisting your torso in the direction that you plan to thrust the spear.

  • Assist the movement by thrusting the macebell out with the arms.

  • To increase the emphasis of each stab, simultaneously step forward and stamp your foot on the floor as you drive the macebell at an imaginary opponent.

  • If it helps, you can make grunting noises as you perform this action. However, I recommend not doing this in public.


Macebell exercises #5: 360ᴼ swing

Macebell exercises #5: 360ᴼ swing.

Purpose of exercise: Forge a cast iron core while promoting muscle endurance in many upper body muscles.


Fitness benefits: The 360ᴼ swing looks simple enough. Just grab the macebell, make sure you’re not near your ma’s fine China, and start whirring it around your head like a crazed barbarian. Yep, that does pretty much sum up the exercise. However, though simple, the 360ᴼ swing is a highly functional movement that activates a wide range of muscle groups. In addition, it requires considerable physical control and mental focus to execute.


360ᴼ swing key techniques

  • Adopt a neutral stance and hold the macebell as though you’re doing an impersonation of Conan.

  • Your hands are positioned at the furthest possible point from the bell. (This is important as it ensures there is plenty of ‘clearance’ when swinging.)

  • Initiate the movement by drawing the macebell up and around the body. Imagine as though you are about to deliver the coup de grace on a medieval combatant.

  • When the macebell is in motion, you are using muscle contraction to guide and control the trajectory.

  • On completion of one swing, either continue until you have completed your set or, for an added challenge, stop the momentum and repeat to the opposite side.


Macebell exercises #6: Dynamic curl

Macebell exercises #6: Dynamic curl.

Purpose of exercise: Increase forearm, bicep, and triceps muscular endurance.


Fitness benefits: As well as providing a novel alternative to conventional bicep exercises, the dynamic curl engages more muscles in the arm. Also, due to the action of the movement, dynamic curling involves the deltoids, chest, and many muscles of the core. And because you can apply an explosive plyometric push to the exercise, it can develop power.


Dynamic curl key techniques

  • Adopt a neutral: feet shoulder-width and knees bent.

  • You are holding the macebell at your front.

  • One hand is positioned at the bottom of the shaft – this is the anchor point. The other hand is positioned about halfway along the shaft – this is where the action takes place.

  • The macebell is almost parallel to the floor.

  • To initiate the exercise, curl the macebell up until the lump is level with your face.

  • You can either lower it back down and repeat or change hands and guide it over to the opposite side. The second technique is the proper action. However, for beginners, the first technique is safer.


 

Macebell workout routine

Once you’ve mastered the six macebell exercises, you’ll want to put them into action. There are loads of ways you can do this – the macebell is just that versatile.


For example, you could integrate the macebell exercises into your normal workout routine. Instead of performing boring barbell bicep curls, switch things up with the dynamic curl.


Related: Have a go at Hammer Training >

(But what if my gym doesn’t have a macebell? Am I expected to bring my own? Not unless you want to explain to a police officer why you’re walking around with what looks like a medieval weapon of war. A simple way to create a makeshift macebell at the gym is by clipping a weight plate to one end of a short barbell. However, if you do this, DO NOT start splitting wood or performing the 360ᴼ swing – otherwise, you’ll be explaining something else to a police officer.)


Another simple way of putting your macebell exercises into practice is by applying the AMRAP training method. Set a countdown timer for 2, 3, 4, or 5 minutes and aim to perform as many reps as possible. Once the time has expired, take a short rest before progressing to the next exercise.


Alternatively, try this Macebell Workout >

 

About Adam Priest –

A former Royal Marines Commando, Adam Priest is a content writer, college lecturer, and health and wellbeing practitioner. He is also a fitness author and contributor to other websites. Connect with Adam via LinkedIn or info@hungry4fitness.co.uk.


 

References

The excellent images used in the exercise plates were taken from CAP Steel Macebell Exercise Chart.

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