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Onnit Academy Workout Plan of the Week

Onnit Academy Workout Plan Week #11

March 11, 2015
Updated April 11, 2018

The workout plan for the Onnit Academy Gym this week includes the Steel Mace Paddle Swing, the Low Plank Half Range Push Up and the 360 to Squat.

Just as a recap, this week’s Rite of the Week is built off of last week’s Skill of the Week. Last week’s Skill of the Week was the Kettlebell Staggered Stance Push Press, the reason for using this particular drill was to help participants and coaches see and refine the alignment necessary to maximize the positive training effects of the drill. Ideally, this positive training effect will increase performance carry over into this week’s Rite of Passage which is the Steel Mace Paddle Swing Test.

Rite of the Week: Steel Mace Paddle Swing

Onnit Academy Gym Skill of the Week

We will start with the Rite of the Week. If you are looking to blast your shoulders, lower back, waist, and grip, the Steel Mace Staggered Paddle Swing exercise is for you. Moving the Steel Mace in this motion requires core strength, endurance, strong shoulders, a tight grip, good balance, and overall stability. The Steel Mace Staggered Paddle Swing exercise will work your core and upper body, but it will also provide a lung-searing challenge to help you build your endurance.

The goal of the Steel Mace Paddle Swing is to use the leg and hip driving action to initiate the movement and create near weightlessness of the steel mace head through the full range of motion. You still have to drive that front arm, the weighted arm into full extension,  the rear arm could be slightly bent at the top. I usually use the cue “soft” which means not bent or not completely locked out and that keeps the steel mace handle horizontal, directly over the middle of your head.

The cue I like to use for people is if you had a super high mohawk, the steel mace handle and head would be in line with that mohawk along the crown of your head. This drill is really great because it mimics the power generation that you would want to create in any type of uppercut drill or uppercut action. You really learn how to push off the rear leg foot in a split stance and use as much leg and hip drive as possible to generate force since this is a strength endurance test.

What is going to happen is if you use your arms you’ll find that you burn out really quickly and your time is going to be much slower than you want. The goal is to drive as much force with the legs to drive the steel mace head up and use an active pulling motion from the top to get the steel mace to rotate back into the starting position with the steel mace head back in line with your spine. You are really working on a lot of explosiveness in the bottom and then timing the pull at the top so you can stay in balance even though you’re in the split stance. This is going to be a great way to train that rear foot hip.

Exercise Steps

  1. Start with your feet hip width apart, with a slightly extended staggered stance on the big toe of your rear foot. We want to have that width really start loading up the rear hip.
  2. Place your hands in a double overhand grip with the head of the steel mace on the hand that’s actually commensurate with the leg that is a step back.
  3. As you prepare for the drill you’re going to take the steel mace from in front of your body to the side with the rear foot back.
  4. Hinge back as deep as possible. Keeping the chest proud and projecting your chest and eyes forward, ideally not craning your neck up looking up through your eyebrows to avoid overextending.
  5. You are going to initiate the movement by driving through the rear leg toe to press the knee straight, hip extending to generate one continuous line of force.
  6. Start pulling the forward hand of the steel mace back over the opposite side shoulder and drive the weighted end of the steel mace up in one continuous motion. It should resemble a snatching motion.  so if you’re looking at swings. is similar to a snatch going from that from that backswing position all the way into an overhead position in one continuous motion.

Rules of the Rite

The Paddle Swing is a rotational Steel Mace exercise involving an explosive hip movement to blast the weight from the side of your lower body to a locked-out position overhead. During the 100 repetitions that you are required to do for this test, you’ll engage your obliques and serratas in a way that few other exercises can. Efficiency in this exercise requires a well-timed and coordinated full body movement.

Women’s Standard

 Duration Reps Alpha Weight Amateur Weight Alpha Standard Amateur Standard
Max 100 15 lbs 10 lbs 3:00 minutes 3:00 minutes

Other Details: Switch as many times as you want.

Men’s Standard

 Duration Reps Alpha Weight Amateur Weight Alpha Standard Amateur Standard
Max 100 25 lbs 20 lbs 3:00 minutes 3:00 minutes

Other Details: Switch as many times as you want.

Rite of the Week: Steel Mace Paddle Swing


Skill of the Week: Low Plank Half Range Push Up

Skill of the Week: The Low Plank Half Range Push-Up

Steel Mace BannerThe skill of the week is going to be preparing you for next week’s Rite of the Week, which is going to be the Max Push Up Test. The big thing about a Push Up is that you will see a lot of people do “Push Ups” and you will hear a lot of people say they can do x number of them (100, 150, 200, etc) but the truth of the matter is that not all Push Ups are built the same. They are not equal and where you find that most people are going to fail is in creating and maintaining alignment through the full range of motion.

A lot of people will do a lot of Push Ups but their hips will stay in one place as everything else rocks up and down. You are basically just mobilizing the lower back and moving the shoulders from close to the ground to the height of the arms as they are extended. I don’t really consider that a very good Push Up.

The other thing that you see is a lot of big variance in terms of shoulder and neck position, especially towards the bottom of the range of motion where the lower back can sag. The head sags over the base of stabilization on the upper body which is the hands and the shoulders, so the hands and the shoulders are loaded and the head hangs forward. The low back hangs between the hands and the feet, creating a lack of stability in this variation of a Push Up. In our system, we always want to train people to be strong in their position and then secondarily we will look at how many repetitions they can do. Ultimately, strength in terms of the way we like to define it is:

Controlling your positions and controlling all of those variables.

  • Is the head is hanging down?
  • Is your head rotating forward?
  • Is your low back hanging down?

We want to control all these elements of rotation and bring them back in line with the rest of our structure, and in doing so you are going to engage new muscles. For example, many people have forward translated head posture. This contributes to a lot of unnecessary neck pain. This strain on the neck puts a lot of stress on muscles and tissues that become disengaged and lengthened, which causes a loss of strength to support the head sufficiently.

So, if we train facedown in the configuration of a Push Up and we engage the upper back muscles in the rear of the neck to stabilize the head, you are going to find a ton of new new benefits to the drill. These new benefits will create a healthy neck and it will apply a lot less tension, which will translate to removing tension headaches, just as one example.

Once this is addressed we can bring our attention to the lower back and a lot of what we want to see is a neutral pelvis. Most people have to consciously tuck the pelvis under to shorten the distance between the ribs and the front of the pelvis. This is what I call “maintaining the integrity of the frontline” (the frontline being the abdomen between the ribs and the pelvis). By controlling the frontline you stabilize the back from sagging. Low Plank Holds, commonly referred to as chadaranga position in yoga, are a great way to address these problems.

Exercise Steps

  1. Elbows in to the ribs or no more than 45° from the ribs long spine, so the chest does not close over. You don’t want to create rounded shoulders; you want the shoulders retracted, neck elongated.
  2. Project your head passed your hands, chest towards your hands.
  3. Tuck the pelvis under, and press back through your heels in a long lever push up. If you are having a hard time engaging the pelvis and getting into position than I suggest using a short lever so that would be going to the knees and then driving your knees forward into the ground to really engage the pelvis and get that to activate engaging the core as well.
  4. In either case once you get the low plank into your training and you are able to maintain that posture then the next step would be Half Range Push Ups.

Skill of the Week: Low Plank Half Range Push-Up


Advanced Move of the Week: Steel Mace 360 to Squat

Advanced Move of the Week: the 360° to Squat.

The Advanced Move of the Week is a combination of the Steel Mace 360 exercise with the steel mace and then the Lap Squat. This is a really great dynamic drill that works on timing. Obviously, it requires a lot of strength and range of motion on the frontline to maintain integrity.

This is the same frontline that we integrated with the Push Up so you see this same situation recurring theme here. You don’t want to arch your back, you want to open up the shoulders and chest while maintaining that same proud chest posture in the squat. This is going to be a great drill to work on timing and don’t be surprised if your grip burns out a little bit quicker than you might expect.

Exercise Steps

  1. It is basically the parallel squat, chest up, knees forward and you are holding the steel mace in an over under configuration.
  2. Your elbows are actively retracted rather than letting the steel mace fall down, you are keeping it in a horizontal configuration aiming it towards your lap, behind your knees pulling your elbows back as far as you can.
  3. Keep your chest extended in that parallel squat so you literally transition from the steel mace being in front of you in line with your spine swinging it back behind one shoulder all the way out to the side let it rotate all the way around to the opposite side.
  4. As you do, release one hand and catch it in front of you into this lap squat.

Advanced Move of the Week: Steel Mace 360 to Squat

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