Shoulder Strength, Joint Mobility: Steel Mace

We know that rugby is physically taxing on the body. We also know that it’s important to prepare in the off-season and even during the season.  We have to take care of the body and prepare the body for the game and the long season. has identified some great statistics on rugby injuries. Close to 57% of injuries occur in the games, more injuries occur in games than training and more so in the 2nd half of games (when players are tired). So it’s really important to have your body ready.

Injuries occur for all players and most are during collisions and tackles (which all players should be partaking in). While the pack tends to experience more injuries than others, flankers, centers are also in the mix with higher levels.

The folks over at found that a good deal (40%) of the injuries are muscular strains or bruises, but the next level are sprains and then dislocations.

For this performance tip, we are looking at the shoulders. We know in the pack there is a lot of strain on the shoulders and the shoulder joints, but your shoulders are also adversely impacted in tackles (making and being), and well as the rucks. identified these as the most common shoulder injuries: AC Joint Injury, Dislocated Shoulder, Shoulder Tendinitis, Rotator Cuff Syndrome, Shoulder Impingement, and Bursitis Shoulder. 

For this reason we wanted to pass on a great tool and tip that can help strengthen the shoulders and specifically the joints and also increase mobility and range of motion.

So what is this great tool??? The Steel Mace! 

                                   The Steel Mace 

                                   The Steel Mace 

Instead of explaining what the steel mace is we’ve shown you a picture, but we want to focus on why you should use this tool. The workouts that can be performed by the steel mace will help really strengthen the shoulders. This is a non-traditional and ancient tool that was used by warriors and strongmen in Persia and India. It is also something that works with the mechanics of the human body.

The trick with this tool as with most tools is using proper technique, as with most training tools if you don’t use it properly or use proper technique you can cause more harm and injury than good. So as with all new tools start light and develop the technique, but even with the lighter weight steel mace you can get the desired results.

RUCK SCIENCE-Suppliments For Rugby! 

RUCK SCIENCE-Suppliments For Rugby! 

You can find steel maces in different sizes, we have used the Onnit Steel maces, and those come in 7lb, 10lb, 15lb, 20lb and 25lb. We strongly suggest you start with the 7lb or the 10lb until you really develop the techniques and build up. Now for most people regardless of age will think the 7 or 10lb is too light…you are mistaken. If you try and do the 360 swings with a heavy mace you’ll end up in pain or even injury.  Because of the counter balance and a thing called gravity the weight at the end when held with a close hand grip at the bottom of the mace in certain motions really create more weight. If you think this tool light we just ask you to try the short workout (video below) with a 7 or 10lb and see how you feel.

The steel mace not only allows you to work the shoulders, most the movements with the mace will improve your grip strength, force you to work your core and core stabilization (which will benefit you in other weight training and also in your game).

These movements from the spear thrusts, to chopping motions, twists, and the 360 swings all work the shoulder joints and also the core.  You are trying to really strengthen the joint, but you can also develop a great deal of functional strength.

Use videos on Onnit Academy or just the steel mace page for some basics with the steel mace. Ideally you want to practice with a mirror so you can really monitor your technique or work with a coach trained on the steel mace who can give you feedback. Since most may not have the option we suggest you check out these videos and start practicing with a light mace. The best part is the maces, for what they do are not really that expensive (especially if you start with an 7lb or 10lb).

Erik “Esik” Melland is a master of the steel mace and runs much of the steel mace workouts and training programs for Onnit.  He is featured on a number of the videos. You can check out a a great interview Onnit did on their podcast (Total Human Optimization) with Melland, where he talks about the uses and important of technique. Melland's interview breaks down the options and benefits of the mace in general. 

One of the biggest things that we can do in the off-season is to prepare for the coming season. The use of the mace can really help improve your game by simply keeping you on the field, but also just strengthen those vital joints. You ability to move your arms is very important, so improving the range of motion needs to be a part of your off season workout.

Its difficult to explain in writing how to use the steel mace (and we also aren’t the experts) but we have begun to use the steel mace, we’ve watched much of the footage, read up on it and think it a valuable tool and routine to include in training sessions for rugby players.  People suggest using the steel mace for presses, curls, etc, but we think there are other implements that are better for that (like barbels, kettlebells, etc), but for shoulder/joint development this is the best thing we’ve tried.