The Steel Mace Shoulder Mobility Myth

One of the most common misstatements I hear is:

“Steel Mace 360’s and 10 to 2’s improve shoulder mobility.”



I would argue that it improves Flexibility which is passive, and only improves mobility at the range that you are capable of accessing actively. What do I mean by that?

Your mobility can be defined as capable of moving and actively achieving a range of motion. The key word there is “actively”. So I challenge you to actively reach overhead, pull your triceps past the ears, without flaring the rib cage and arching the back (compensations), and then bend the arms so the hands reach the base of the skull while maintaining that structure through the back and rib cage.

The range you can actively achieve is your true mobility. When you place the mace in your hands, it pulls you into this position. That is a passive stretching of the tissues. If the load is greater than your ability to access strength in that range and control that range, then you are setting yourself up for injury.

PREREQUISITES: Dr. Andreo Spina speaks about having prerequisites and the lack of use of prerequisites throughout a large portion of our industry. We have to ask ourselves if our tissues are ready to absorb the loads we’re asking them to absorb?

I personally believe that most of the time many of us do not have the prerequisite mobility and we then compensate through use of other tissues. I can speak to this from personal experience as the first time I swung a Steel Mace, I felt my shoulder give out. It was only a 15lb mace, but the prerequisite tissue load bearing capability is greater than the actual weight of the given Mace. This is due to gravity pulling that 15lb load downward with speed.

Can we neurologically control our joint in those ranges of motion (which we almost never do any activity in) as the load increases?

The answer to this is a resounding NO!

It is for this reason that I think it’s important that we assess the necessary mobility for Steel Mace 360 and 10 to 2 prior to placing a Steel Mace in someone’s hand.


How do we do that?

There are a variety of different assessment systems that I’ve learned over the years.

You could do a standing overhead test and use the FMS system. Do the arms come at least to the ears? Does the ribcage flare? Does the back arch through the thoracic? Assign a number, etc.

You could use FRC (Functional Range Conditioning) concepts like CARs (Controlled Articular Rotations). We’d be looking for similar indicators as the standing overhead test.

The cool thing about CARs is that you can use it as both an assessment and means of improving range. It’s a good starting point.

Lack of shoulder mobility is one of the reasons why I usually explicitly state that beginners should spend a lot of time with the Mace behind the head, working active contractions in these ranges. I didn’t realize it as I was doing these things or that there was a name for some of the activities I was doing, but I was essentially doing a makeshift form of PAIL’s and RAIL’s. (for deeper understanding of this, see FRC curriculum).

So the Steel Mace can improve passive flexility. The Steel Mace can also improve your mobility by training your active control at the range you’re able to access. But we have to understand that we should be improving our active range and tissue health in those ranges seperately in order to protect our shoulders as we begin to progressively load them.

We should understand that we need to work on our tissue and joint health, as well as load bearing capability in conjunction with our Steel Mace Training.

The volume training that we then do with our Steel Mace 10 to 2 and 360 gives us the integrity and strength to do that specific movement at the acquired range. We then parlay back and forth improving both aspects simultaneously, improving range, strength and decreasing likelihood of injury in the process.

Rear Pendulum Practice

Steel Mace Beginner Pendulum is a great movement to practice and hone your skills in order to become a better Mace Swinger.

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