When you’re strength training, there’s something inherently satisfying about moving heavy weights. The adrenaline rush of lifting a massive deadlift or bench pressing a new PR keeps us hungry for more and more progress. Functional strength equipment, like kettlebells, can also provide that warrior boost as you swing and press these primitive instruments for set after heart-pounding set.
Steel maces – or macebells – are another fantastic fitness accessory, providing an asymmetrical load that can target multiple muscle groups for a truly dynamic routine. With a look reminiscent of the caveman days, these elongated clubs can be the perfect ingredient for a full body workout. However, not all macebells strike with the same enthusiasm. Here are our picks for the best steel maces to add to your fitness routine.
The benefits of training with steel masses
Much like the aforementioned kettlebells, the benefits of training with steel sledgehammers lie in the unbalanced structure of the equipment. Weight is concentrated at the rounded end of the shaft, while you grip the functional fitness accessory along the knurled handle. Controlling this imbalanced weight requires multiple muscle groups to work cohesively, which makes macebells optimal for dynamic training.
Additionally, macebell exercises can help you improve grip strength as you hold on to the knurled handle throughout the prescribed exercises. Your forearm flexors and extensors are constantly challenged as you work in different modalities, and the overall thickness of the steel mass lends itself to better grip training.
Finally, due to the dynamic composition of the macebell exercises, training with these fitness accessories can also double as a form of cardio. As you perform moves, your core increases, giving your workouts a double-edged sword.
What to look for when choosing a steel sledgehammer
When looking for a steel mace to add to your exercise routine, the first factor to consider is the weight of the equipment. Macebells typically weigh between 5 and 30 pounds, but don’t think you need a heavier weight to speed up your training progress. The unbalanced nature of the macebells puts a different strain on your body, and if you’re new to the discipline, a lightweight model might be more than a challenge. A good starting weight is around 10 pounds.
Next, you want to look at the handle featured on your steel mace. Most macebells feature diamond knurling, similar to a standard barbell. This is designed to dig into your palms for better weight security.
Finally, the most durable macebells are made of steel and cast iron, but there are rubber and plastic options available. While these options may be cheaper, we recommend opting for the more durable metallic silhouettes.
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How we tested
To see which steel masses hit the mark for premium functional fitness, we replaced our traditional kettlebell exercises with macebell training. As we worked through the different modalities targeting our core, shoulders, and other muscle groups, we noted how good each steely mass felt in our hands. Features like knurling, coating, and overall aesthetics have played a role in keeping this list alive. Now let’s dive in and see which masses landed with the most impact.
Editor’s Note: Unless otherwise stated, prices listed are for steel sledgehammers weighing 10 pounds. A 10-pound macebell is a great starting weight for anyone looking to add this form of functional fitness to their repertoire.
BEST OVERALL STEEL MASS
Set for Set Steel Mace
- Slotted knurling for a variety of hand placements
- Powder coating may chip slightly over time
If you’re looking to re-energize your functional training, the Set for Set Steel Mace is our go-to pick. We liked the split knurling system that allowed for easier hand placement, and the matte black powdercoat gives it that aggressive, out-of-the-box aesthetic. The handle is slightly thicker than other macebells, which might be a problem for those with smaller appendages.
BETTER IMPROVED STEEL MASS
Onnit Steel Mace
- Accessible knurling that’s secure yet comfortable
- No 30-pound option available
Onnit makes fitness equipment with attitude – just look at their Primal Kettlebells. The brand’s range of steel maces continues this aesthetic with a fully knurled handle that provides excellent grip. The knurling is aggressive enough for ample security, but won’t tear your hands apart. Additionally, Onnit offers a plethora of workout tutorials through the Onnit Academy to help you get started with mass training.
BEST BUDGET STEEL MASS
Yes4All Steel Mace Bell
- Shorter stack height, ideal for shorter athletes
- Welds can be suspect of cracking which limits durability
If you don’t want to break the bank with your first steel sledgehammer, this 10-pound option from Yes4All can provide plenty of functional training opportunities, all with less of an impact on your wallet. The split knurled grip gives you multiple hand placement options, and the one-year warranty ensures confidence if your workout gets a bit too intense for the device itself.
BEST STEEL MASS WITH FULL KNURLING
Retrospec steel macebell
- Full knurling provides superior grip wherever you place your hands
- Powder coating may be too aggressive for some users
Don’t worry about losing your grip with this effective steel mace. The diamond pattern is present on the majority of the handle, which allows you to vary your grip without fear of less security. The all-steel design of this Retrospec sledgehammer also indicates exceptional durability, so plan to keep this practice tool in your arsenal for a while.
BEST STEEL MACE FOR BEGINNERS
Synergee Steel Mace
- White labeling is easy to read for easy weight identification
- Knurling could provide more grip
With a highly visible white label and split wheel design, the Synergee Steel Sledgehammer can be a great introductory tool for this functional training discipline. While we’d like to see more aggressive knurling for our taste, this macebell offers the widest weight range from 5 to 40 pounds, giving you a variety of resistances to choose from for your personal training needs.
Editor’s note: At the time of publication, the 10-pound macebell is sold out. Price shown is for the 15-pound model.
BEST THIN HANDLE STEEL MACE
CAP Barbell Steel Mace Series
- 1.25 inch handle is easy to grip
- The highest weight available is 25 pounds
For athletes with smaller hands, we recommend the CAP Barbell series of steel maces. As makers of some of the most trusted fitness equipment, we appreciate CAP’s attention to detail in the dry powder finish and diamond knurling. Additionally, the thermal fusion coupling method used in manufacturing promotes exceptional durability.
Editor’s note: At the time of publication, only the 15-pound macebell is available.
BEST STEEL CLUBS
Onnit Steel Clubs
- Available in single or twin packages ranging from 5 to 45 pounds
- Not as versatile as other steel maces
Steel clubs can add even more versatility to your mass training, and we really appreciated the hammered quality in this paired set from Onnit. With a different center of gravity than other steel masses, we were able to mix our training effectively without any fear of losing grip or safety. The powder coated finish ensures durability and the high contrast lettering makes it easy to identify the club weight before use.
BEST MACEBELL HAMMER
Hammer Tribe WOD
- Rubber head can be used on hard surfaces as well as tires
Sometimes you just need to hammer your drive in, and what better tool than a sledgehammer? This fitness accessory from Tribe WOD bolsters typical construction equipment with a rubberized head that can take a beating without the need for a tire. The standard model weighs 25 pounds, but for more intensity, Tribe WOD also offers additional weights so you can tailor your resistance to your liking.
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