Warning: Glenn will be using terms such as shaft, butt, balls, knob, flange and nipples. If you are innuendo sensitive Wild Life recommends skipping this article.
Last week we discussed some of my favourite unconventional training tools. The gada/macebell/steel mace features very highly on this list.
But what is it?
The modern macebell typically looks like a cannon ball welded to a metal shaft. The classic movements associated with the macebell are the 360 swing and the 10-2, but there is a veritable smorgasbord of movements available to us when using it.
It has a long history of use both in it’s martial form, as a weapon, and as a training tool. The mace was perhaps the very first weapon that early humans used, and we see developments from simple heavy stick to ones incorporating stone heads from potentially as far back as the late paleolithic era.
Perhaps the oldest written accounts of the gada are from Indo-Persian texts.
Hanuman, the Hindu monkey god, carries a gada as his primary weapon and has been traditionally worshipped by wrestlers in the Indian subcontinent and southeast Asia.
The gada has long been a traditional tool used in Hindu physical culture, probably originally for building strength for wielding the actual weapon, but then as a training aid for wrestlers. The boulder shoulder building capability, the immense grip strength achieved, the powerful rotational explosion, and the athletic endurance bestowed by good mace work is an obvious win for any wrestler/grappler.
Probably the greatest Indian wrestler of all time is The Great Gama. Undefeated in over 5,000 matches and for over 52 years, Gama is often seen in the classic pose with a gada over his burly shoulder. Yet again he had all the perfect elements of the classic strongman: tiny underpants and massive moustache. He is a phenomenal role model in so many ways.
Nowdays, the classic training gada in India is usually a bamboo or rattan shaft with a stone or concrete head.
If it can build the strength to lift whole mountains with a single hand, like Hanuman, or the gargantuan undefeatability of The Great Gama, then it deserves some close attention.
The ‘Holy Shit!’ effect
I bought my first macebell a few year ago from Wolverson Fitness. I erred on the side of caution and bought what I assumed was a low weight, 6kg. I’d been swinging around 24kg and 32kg kettlebells for some time at that point, so 6kg seemed puny.
Holy shit! I was the puny one when it came to mace swinging.
Because the weight is on the end of a long pole, you have a lot of leverage, effectively increasing the amount of load exhibited on the body. Even simple pressing movements become so much more difficult due to this asymmetric leverage.
I was glad I started low.
That 6kg macebell still does me well, but I wanted to increase the weight a little. But how much?
At £50-100 a pop I wanted one that was going to challenge me for some time to come but not be too heavy for me starting out with it.
And that’s when I came across the adjustable macebell. It’s the one mace to bind them all. Multiple weights all in one macebell.
The cost? Typically over £200. So that was out.
My skinflint quest then took me down the rabbit hole of DIY macebells. I’ve tried many different techniques, but the following description is the best, in my opinion.
This type of macebell is adjustable using standard barbell/dumbbell plates in conjunction with metal pipe fittings.
Is it as good as a purpose built macebell? No. If you can afford it get a decent one.
You also cannot do things like tyre hits as you would with a ball macebell or a sledge hammer.
Safety warning: DIY training equipment always come with a risk. For that matter any training equipment does. But in this case you are going to be swinging weight around and above your head. If this fails you can injure yourself or others. If you make this macebell you take ownership of that decision and take all due precautions when using it. We cannot be held responsible for any issue occuring from this DIY tutorial.
That said I have had zero issue using this macebell, and it has become a major tool in my arsenal now.
The DIY Adjustable Macebell
You will need:
- 1″ Threaded pipe for the handle (I went with a 900mm length)
- a 1″-3’4″ reducer
- at least one 3/4″ nipple (I have a short 50mm, a 100mm and a 200mm)
- a 3/4″ flange plate
- some small weight plates
- off-cuts of plastic plumbing pipe big enough to fit over the nipple
- an end cap/plug (optional)
- athletic tape (optional)
First thing’s first. I went with BSP pipe. This is a standard thread for pipes. You can get black pipe, galvanised or stainless. I went with black. This is coated in an anti-rust oil that you’ll need to clean off, but it’s the cheapest. I told you I was a skinflint.
The whole load of pipe and fittings cost less than 20 quid. I bought mine from Pipedream Fittings.
The other thing to note is the pipe size. The measurements are the internal bore diameter. A 1″ pipe (for the handle) has an external diameter of about 33mm, the same as my other mace. The 3/4″ pipe is about 26mm outside diameter the same as a non-Olympic barbell.
If you only have Olympic plates then you could in theory get a larger 1-1/2″ to 1″ reducer that should fit those plates.
I went with 900m for the handle because combined with the reducer it equalled the same length as my other mace.
When you buy pipe you have the choice to have it threaded at one or both ends. If you want a knob at the end (a swelling to stop your hand slipping off the end) you can get it threaded at both ends and attach an endcap. I didn’t but instead bought a plug that fits inside the butt end. If I decide I need the end knob I’ll just add some athletic tape to create the swelling.
Begin by screwing in the handle to the reducer. Use a vice and grips to get this nice and tight. As this will never need to be undone you could use some sort of sealant.
Next you add the nipple to the reducer.
The size of the nipple depends of the plates you use, so it’s a good idea to buy a few different sizes. Whilst some people like the sound of banging and clanging, the rattling plates make me concerned that they could loosen the joints, so I like them fixed tightly.
The weight plates go on next, and the flange goes on last to secure the plates to the mace.
If you end up with a gap between the flange and the plates, thereby ending up with rattling plates, all is not lost. Simply cut a few lengths of some plastic pipe to act as a ‘washer’ to take up the slack.
Make sure every joint is screwed up tightly before each and every use. Failure to do so could end in a total fuster-cluck.
One thing to be aware of is the fact that the shaft has no gnurling for grip. I am quite happy with it though. If I need extra grip I may just add some athletic or KT tape. Some people have also added grip-tape.
And that’s it. Pretty simple, cheap and quick to make. Go careful and don’t let your ego run amok by going too heavy. Start light and become a nerd about your form.
Now go forth and build healthy, herculean shoulders, and a grip that would make a strongman wince.