Macebells are modern cousins to the original gadas and clubs from India. In this blog post, I am interviewing one of the leaders of macelifting competitions and world record holder, Gaston Jeronimo Giorlando.
We’re going to talk about macebell training, his training methods and all things macelifting related.
HS: Tell us more about yourself, Gastón.
GG: I was born in Argentina 45 years ago. In 2002 I emigrated to the USA and I came to Spain, where I currently live, in 2008.
HS: What do you do for a living?
GG: I teach kettlebell training, macebell training and macelifting instructor courses with my wife and partner, Sandra Carbonell. Under the current situation, it’s done online.
Most of the people who attend our courses are trainers, owners of Crossfit gyms, athletes, firefighters, police, military, martial artists, etc …
HS: How, when and why did you start training with macebells?
GG: I had two beginnings. In 2010, I saw a video of Karl Gotch, who was a professional wrestler. In that video, he taught macebell swings to some Japanese wrestlers and as I had practiced Brazilian jiu jitsu for some years, the macebell caught my attention and I made a 9 kg one.
At that time there was very little information about it, I lost motivation and left the macebells for a few years without using it.
The second time was in 2013. I had done a few kettlebell marathons and as a result of watching a video of Ken Theissen performing 400 two-handed swings, I decided to attempt one-handed macebell marathons.
For sixteen months I specialized only in 360º swings with one hand to develop a solid, fluid and very efficient technique that allowed me to train in high repetitions and with very heavy maces.
I trained both 360º swings with multiple hand changes and with a single hand change.
The next step was to perform 300º swings as well, in order to equalize the level of both swings.
My macebell workouts were part of my warm-up before I working out with kettlebells, which back then was my priority.
HS: Macebell or bulava? Which one do you like the most?
For those who do not know, bulavas are shorter maces, also called Hanuman gadas, as it was the weapon of choice of ancient Hindu deities.
GG: I like both tools, but my favorite is the macebell. I think there are exercises that are perfect to perform with macebells, and others with the bulava.
For example, with macebell I like to do 300º swings, 360º swings and double 360º swings. However, I do not like to perform the mill with a macebell, it can be done but I do not think it is the ideal tool to perform this exercise, it distorts the movement.
With the bulava I like to perform mills, double low swings and double high swings. I personally don’t like the 300º swing with bulava, it forces you to make insufficient extension of your arms and reinforces a bad gesture. I don’t like the 360º swing with bulava very much either.
Benefits of swinging maces
HS: In your opinion, what are the benefits of swinging a macebell?
GG: Training with a macebell builds functional strength, strengthens core, shoulders, grip, etc. Performing swings requires coordination and concentration, which is why it is perfect for reducing the stress of modern life.
By practicing macelifting we will achieve a high technical mastery of the macebell and a good physical conditioning and we will develop mental strength, focus, reaching another level.
HS: How easy or difficult is it for your fitness regular clients to start lifting macebell ?
GG: I noticed that people who come from kettlebell training and kettlebell lifting come motivated and trust the tool. People who do not know that much about this type of training usually like to perform macebell swings because for them it is a challenge to master them.
HS: Where can people find to learn more about you?
Instagram: @ggiorlando https://www.instagram.com/ggiorlando/
HS: Let’s talk about the competition sport of macelifting. When was the IMF (International Macelifting Federation) founded?
GG: We officially founded the IMF together with Pascal Delente and Pablo Ramos Artacho in 2019, although it all goes back to 2015, including the production of standardized competition equipment.
The first NHR maces we manufactured were 7,5 kg, but now we have a whole range from 5-30 kg.
Like standardized competition style kettlebells, these maces are all 120 cm in length, and the size of the head remains the same regardless of weight.
Competition macebells are different from steel maces due to their weight distribution. The handles are hollow, so all the weight is at the end of the mace. They swing differently and are used mostly for the classical exercises.
Once you have the groove in place, the NHR maces always swings the same no matter the weight.
HS: Tell us more about Macelifting and the IMF
GG: I have seen the evolution of training with macebells over the last decade, and macelifting has helped pave the way. Macelifting has promoted and normalized swinging macebells with one hand and for high repetitions.As a result, good macelifters emerged. Those of us who are part of IMF like to lead by example, we have the mission of spreading Macelifting sport with the highest possible standards throughout the world.
HS: What countries are part of the IMF?
GG: The most involved countries with Macelifting are Poland, France and Spain. Belgium and Chile are about to join the IMF too.
There are many more countries that want to be part of the IMF but do not have the official NHR macebells required for IMF competitions.
Here are some highlights from an IMF competition from 2019.
Macelifting sport events
HS: What types of events does the IMF offer?
GG: Right now we are offering virtual competitions with the IMF every month, so that macelifters keep up their motivation and desire to improve results.
In December of this year we will hold a course for macelifting judges in France. This is an important step for the development of the sport.
In February 2022, the European Macelifting Championship will take place in France, with the help of the FFForce (Federation Francaise de Force), thanks to Pascal Delente.
We have also planned for later that year the first Macelifting World Championship in Malaga – Spain, thanks to Pablo Ramos Artacho and partners. And we will also teach training courses.
HS: How many competitive athletes does the IMF have?
GG: Around 100 macelifters have participated in our competitions. We are attracting many athletes from kettlebell lifting, powerlifting, Brazilian jiu jitsu and other sports.
HS: Is there any way to know the level of the macelifters in Macelifting?
GG: In this sport we have a macebell category system that bears a resemblance to belts in martial arts. Seeing in which category of macebell a person is in the classic biathlon, strong biathlon and double swing 360º, we can get an idea of what their real abilities are with the macebell.
Lik in Kettlebell sport, we have similar rankings: CMM (Candidate Master of Mace), MM (Master of Mace), IMM (International Master of Mace), WCMM (World Class Master of Mace).
HS: How do you see the current level of the macelifters?
GG: In the female category the level is high, the problem is that we only have two female macelifters, both are in the professional category. With the arrival of new competitors the level will rise much more, so I invite all ladies to join the macelifting community!
In the male category the level is very high. The time has come to move the professional category from 15 kg to 20 kg. This sport is progressing very fast and we have to keep it up to date.
HS: What’s your best record one-handed with a heavy macebell?
GG: My best record is 37 reps of 360º swing no limit with a 32.5 kg macebell.
HS: What’s your best one-handed macebell marathon record? What weight did you use and how long did the test last?
GG: On December 29, 2019 I did a 12 hour 360º swing extreme marathon with a 10 kg macebell, with a result of 8,470 reps without placing the macebell on the ground.
HS: What about your physical conditioning, what can you tell us about that?
GG: I train with weights, pulleys, kettlebells and do weighted calisthenics as well.
I mainly train basics. With kettlebell I like to perform 360º swing flip and snatch. With the macebell I train swings 300º and 360º.
I keep focus on my goal, which is improving my results in Macelifting sport.
HS: Do you do other exercises with the macebell?
GG: Sometimes to finish my training I like to perform bazooka squats with macebells in triathlon format. For example, if I do a classic biathlon, which consists in 10 ‘of swing 300º and 10′ of swing 360º, I add 10 ‘ of bazooka squats with the same weight. If I do a strong biathlon that is 4 ‘ of swing 300º and 4′ of swing 360º, I add 4 ‘of bazooka squats. I also like to do marathons of this exercise. In my opinion, after the 300º and 360º swings, the bazooka squat is the most productive exercise to strengthen my body with macebell.
HS: Do you mainly do 30 minute series of swings?
GG: For those of you who don’t know, a half marathon lasts 30 minutes, and a marathon can last 1 or several hours.
I started with Macelifting marathons and the sport grew out of it. For many years, long timed sets were the basis of my macebell training.
In January 1, 2018 I set a goal of doing 1,000 Macelifting marathons. I have completed 412 marathons of this challenge so far.
HS: Do you have any tips for recovery?
GG: To recover properly you have to listen to the body, each person has their times. Beginners and all those who are not yet adapted or have a good technique yet, will have to pay attention to the discomfort that may arise in the wrists, elbows, shoulders … This is an indication that the technique should be improved, use lighter macebells and decrease the frequency of workouts. In my case, I don’t get tired when I train with macebell, quite the opposite, it relaxes me.
HS: What advice would you give to people who are just starting to use macebells or bulavas?
GG: The advice I can give you is to train the basic swings, to focus on developing good technique with not a lot of weight and one-handed. If they can attend some training courses or classes it would be the best, there are many options today. They can also look for an instructor who specializes in these tools.
HS: How do you imagine macelifting ten years from now?
GG: I see a strong community, with respected macelifters as endurance strength athletes. I also see regular macelifting competitions in many countries.
HS: Thank you for your time Gaston, and we wish you all the best with future records and development of the IMF!