A few months ago I started training with the Steel Mace, a tool that has a long history and has a lot to offer the modern mountain biker.
Always being open to learn new stuff, I decided to sign up for the Steel Mace Specialist Course developed by the ONNIT Academy. I also wanted to check out their facility in Austin and meet the people behind ONNIT and the Steel Mace, so I was really looking forward to this trip.
After catching a flight to Austin and a cab ride to my hotel I took a short walk to the ONNIT Academy to attend a BJJ class. They recently put in a 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu studio and I wanted to burn off some energy and see what I could learn from their No Gi specific style.
It was a great class, everyone was friendly and I certainly picked up some good details about the swimming armbar from the back and the Spider Web position from the instructor Curtis. I also picked up a good armbar break and a nasty triangle option as well…but that’s getting off subject.
After rolling a few rounds and telling everyone goodnight I got some dinner and prepared for my first day of Steel Mace Training.
On Saturday morning I came into their exercise room with about 10 other people there for the course. It was a wide range of backgrounds and experience levels but everyone was there for one reason – to learn more about how to use the Steel Mace to help them get better results for themselves and their clients.
We started out by learning the basic hand position and bar positions. They stressed that these are the “landmarks” that you need to have dialed into be able to flow through the more complicated stuff we would be doing later.
I really appreciated this approach to drilling the basics into our heads. Just like learning a skill on the bike or on the mat in BJJ, hitting your positions is important and that starts with knowing your positions.
After learning the hand position we started to work on the basic switches. Switches are how your flow the mace from one hand position to another and again serve as the foundational basics for the fancy stuff we would be learning.
From there we started to dive into the actual movements, starting with the basic human movements of Push, Pull, Squat, Hinge and Lunge. This was also were we started to learn more about how the unique properties of the Steel Mace allowed us to create some really interesting forces on the body.
First, just holding the Steel Mace creates Anti-Rotation in the body. Since the mace is offset, keeping you hands even with the body creates these forces without you doing anything.
Next is Counter Rotation. By creating rotation with the mace around a stable body you have to counter that rotation to maintain a stable body.
And finally is Purposeful Rotation. With this you create rotation through the body, being sure to focus on creating that rotation from the right areas.
We spent the rest of the day going through different ways to apply this progression scheme to different exercises and movements. From rows to lunges, I learned a whole new universe of ways to challenge the body through this new way of looking at training.
By the end of the first day I my head was swimming and I was ready for dinner and a beer. After spending way too much money at the only restaurant in walking distance I crashed out, wondering what the next day would bring.
The next day started cold…and not just because the air was a bit nippy on the walk to the facility. I had signed up to do 2 cryo-therapy sessions while I was there and the day before the machine got set on the cleaning cycle or something, meaning that if I wanted my 2 sessions I’d have to them both on Sunday.
Showing up and hour early to get the first one in I was pretty nervous and didn’t know what to expect. The basic idea is to pump nitrogen gas into a small tank you are standing in and drop the temperature to -160 degrees.
This extreme cold freaks your body out and it sends all of the blood rushing from the limbs to the core to protect the vital organs. After 1.5-3 minutes you get out and the body relaxes, letting all the blood rush back. This is supposed to be very theraputic and help with muscle soreness and recovery…or at least that’s what I heard on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast.
Not being a huge fan of the cold I was afraid I’d wuss out in front of everyone but luckily I was able to tough it out for the 3 minutes. My finger tips were pretty pissed off at me for a few minutes after that but I certainly felt invigorated. I did my second session at the end of the day and it wasn’t as bad since I was already warmed up and has the blood flowing.
That day we started to work on some of the more complicated exercises like the Lateral Lunge and the Mace Swing/ 360. I was able to pick up some really good coaching cues and drills for helping people to learn the Mace Swing/ 360, which I know will help a lot as I move forward with teaching this exercise to clients.
The last part of the day was spent working on Mace Flows, which are where things really get fun and interesting. The design of the mace allows for some really effective switches and flows betweenen exercises that let you work on the “long strength” that we need on the bike. Plus, they challenge your mind since you can’t lose focus with a 15 pound Steel Mace moving around your body.
We ended the day with a Graduation Workout, which was an advanced flow we learned. The challenge was that we were going to do it for 20 minutes straight and try not to put the mace down if you could help it.
And while it was challenging, I was able to make it the whole 20 minutes without putting the mace down once. Unlike some graduation workouts where you fee like you might blow something out trying to survive it, though, this one was more “sane”. I think that since we had spent so much time getting the basics dialed in and the fact that the mace rewards you with moments of balance and rest if you hold it right made it possible.
At the end of the day we had a group of happy graduates, all of us tired but ready to unleash our new knowledge on the unsuspecting world. I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again – the Steel Mace is the new Kettlebell and in 5 years we’ll be seeing them everywhere.
I’m glad I was able to get in on the ground floor of the Steel Mace training revolution and that I can bring it to you. And thanks to everyone at ONNIT, especially Esik, Shane and Christian for their help during the course. I really like what they are doing with their certifications, equipment and supplements and it lines right up with what I’m trying to do with MTB Strength Training Systems.
I’ll be signing up to take their Durability Certification in a couple months so I’ll have a write up of that one as well. In the meantime keep an eye out for more Steel Mace training articles, videos and programs. And be sure to post your videos and tag #mtbstrengthtraining and #revelinrotation when you do, I’d love to see you guys in action.
Until next time…
MTB Strength Training Systems