Most of the gym going population, especially men, are so front loaded I’m amazed they have not spent more time face down on the floor. I see guys so obsessed with the Bench Press or any other “Mirror Muscles,” their palms begin to turn backwards, creating a sort of caveman effect.
The “Mirror Muscle Epidemic”
It is an epidemic that has plagued the fitness community, including myself, for years. My obsession with everything chest in high school, particularly the Bench Press, led me to a very nonfunctional physique. Incline Barbell, Flat Barbell, Floor Presses, Lock Outs, and every other Dumbbell variation under the sun were my only concern. All I cared about were the ego flattering numbers of my bench press. Fortunately, I never neglected or skipped any other body part that left me looking like a cartoon character.
When I got to college my strength coach realized how silly my obsession with vanity muscles was and how immobile my body had become, especially for a football player. Now, years later I am still in an uphill battle to create a balanced physique. A proportionate, well-balanced physique will create a pain-free body, which in turn will send performance through the roof. Not only will loose, mobile shoulders increase performance, but it will decrease neck pain and, in extreme cases, alleviate frequent headaches caused by tight shoulders/neck. A very effective tool for loosening the shoulder girdle, as well as improving posture, and alleviating pain is the Steel Mace.
Enter the Steel Mace
The Steel Mace is one of the most effective ways to train and condition your whole body while mimicking real world movement. Originally developed by the ancient Persian warrior elite, the Gada (heavy mace) style of training was directly applicable to real world combat and wrestling applications. In modern days the mace quickly gained popularity as a distinct improvement over the well documented sledgehammer/tire training, but the applications go far beyond that important motion.
While a heavier Steel Mace has a range of benefits including rotational power, muscular endurance, and brute force. A lighter Steel Mace is great for increasing shoulder mobility, as well as an unlikely implement to include in a warmup. Here are five moves you could include in your upper body warmup routine or as a workout in itself to improve shoulder mobility.
Steel Mace Move #1: Steel Mace 360
The 360 is an excellent shoulder and core exercise. It puts the shoulder through a large range of motion. A side benefit of this is increased mobility and flexibility along with strength. This builds strength when using a heavier Steel Mace, but when using a lighter steel mace is primarily a mobility/flexibility tool. Make sure to perform this exercise in a place where dropping the Steel Mace is an option.
Steel Mace Move #2: Steel Mace Single Arm Circles
Steel Mace Single Arm Circles are a great mobility movement which you can perform in a variety of ways—from small circles to big circles, or a combination of the two. Again, this will build shoulder strength when using a heavier Steel Mace but is primarily a mobility/flexibility tool when using a lighter Steel Mace. Make sure not to skimp out on the full range of motion to reap the full benefits of this movement.
Steel Mace Move #3: Steel Mace Halos
The Halo, usually associated with a Kettlebell, can also be executed using the Steel Mace. The Halo provides a great amount of shoulder mobility and strength. It takes your shoulder through a wide range of motions while forcing you to keep tense. Halos performed correctly provide shoulder strength for swimmers as well as fighters. When performed with light enough weights, halos provide a great warmup. Halos are often overlooked because of their simplicity, but don’t let that fool you.
Steel Mace Move #4: Steel Mace Over Head Squat
The overhead squat is one, if not the best move to evaluate overall athletic ability pertaining to mobility, flexibility, and stability. This movement is a cheat since it is also forcing you to increase hip mobility, but everyone could benefit from looser hips! This could be done with a PVC pipe or a broomstick, but the unbalanced weight of the Steel Mace forces one side of the shoulder to work that much harder to prevent the Steel Mace from falling forward. Again, make sure you do an equal number of reps on each side to prevent imbalances.
Steel Mace Move #5: Steel Mace External Rotation
External rotation is usually associated with band work or dumbbells even, but the Steel Mace provides a great alternative if you do not have access to those tools or want a change of pace. The off balanced weight of the Steel Mace makes for a challenging exercise, as opposed to using more conventional methods.
Steel Mace Shoulder Mobility Workout
Below is a Steel Mace Shoulder Workout that you can perform as part of an upper body warmup or as a stand alone mobility workout. Do not use too heavy of a Steel Mace. Progress through each movement with as little rest as possible. When completed with circuit rest as needed before performing 3 more circuits for a total of 4 rounds.
A1: Steel Mace 360 – 4 rounds x 30 sec (each direction)
A2: Steel Mace Halos – 4 rounds x 30 sec (each direction)
A3: Steel Mace Overhead Squat – 4 rounds x 10 reps
A4: Steel Mace Arm Circles – 4 rounds x 10 reps (each arm)
A5: Steel Mace External Rotation – 4 rounds x 10 reps (each arm)