November 12, 2018
Philly’s fitness scene is all about hitting up a gym with good workout that also has it’s own special sauce — we like a high-quality and unique experience. Bella Vista’s CHARGE Performance and Wellness is a gym that does just that, with offerings ranging from personal training to group training classes and steel mace training — which we tried out with CHARGE's founder, Charles Scogna, to give you the inside scoop
CHARGE is one of the only Philadelphia-area gyms to offer steel mace training, which involves the use of a barbell-like instrument with all the weight offset to one end. The mace can be used in both full-body and concentrated work out moves, such as squats, lunges and planks.
Scogna describes the workout as "a blend of classic and new moves, not just strong man moves," suggesting that this kind of training is completely accessible for anyone, no matter a person's fitness level or experience.
There are mace moves that invoke your inner warrior because maces actually are a 2,000-plus-year-old weapon used by Hindu warriors and in mythological stories, as well. While modern maces are quite sleek, sturdy and refined enough for a modern gym, Scogna mentions that he has seen maces made of a bamboo stick with a bucket of concrete on one end and many other DIY approaches.
Below, you'll see what it was like for Scogna to take us through a 45-minute mace training workout at his South Philly Gym, which is highly comparable to a fitness playground. For this workout, and most of his other classes, Scogna writes out the entire routine on a dry-erase board on the gym's wall.
We began by getting acclimated to simply holding the mace, which requires a good bit core stabilization because of the mace's offset weight. It was very surprising how engaged my core felt by just holding the mace vertically.
We then moved into some compound exercises that most everyone is familiar with — bicep curls and deadlifts — using the mace as a barbell, as a way of adding some familiarity to a new instrument. Both exercises put more strain on one side, due to the mace's heavier end causing your other side to overcompensate to stay balanced. So, instead of working both sides simultaneously in these moves, as you would if using a normal barbell, it is crucial to work both sides indivisually in mace training.
Next up was squats which, in using a mace, makes this standard fitness move a lot more dynamic because you are holding a weight out in front of you which forces you to engage you core at every stage of the squat. While trainers are always telling you to engage your core in, well, just about every move, it's easy to not actually follow through. But with maces, your abs can run, but they can't hide.
Pictured below is the top of a mace squat. Holding the mace in this way — despite using only a 10 pound mace — creates a challenging squat while adding resistance to boot.
At this point, the workout was really revving up. I was more familiar with wielding the mace in exercises I'm used to doing with "normal" weights like dumbbells and barbells, so Scogna began to build the challenge.
First up, was a one-armed plank with a mace pull-through on both sides. Now, as many of you know, planks can be tough enough on their own, so adding weight and movement to the plank — while still holding your body up on one arm and keeping good form — was strenuous, but in a way that leaves you feeling quite accomplished (and totally out of breath).
Now, well into the workout, Scogna ups the ante to show off how differently mace training is able to work your body. We get into a bent over one-armed row, in which you drive your elbow up, back and in to create that pinch between your shoulder blades — you know, the pinch that will make you sore for days because it's working muscles that we often ignore because they aren't that fun to work.
The workout continued with some combination exercises, which are both mentally and physically challenging. There are times that you will need to switch the placement of your hands, which happens mid-air by sliding and flipping your hands, and takes a decent bit of coordination to maintain the standard mace grip of one hand facing in and one facing out.
First up, was a lunge and twist combination.
Then we moved into a cossack squat — or a single-leg squat — which involved another row-type of movement. This is when the warrior vibes really start setting in.
Eventually, this move turned into a fluid motion, alternating to both sides and creating a flow from the cossack squat to the row combination and into a move called a bayonet, which involves reaching the mace forward.
By the end, Scogna pulled together many of the moves we learned during the class into one mega-flow which you can see here:
All in all, mace training is a great way to mix up your fitness routine because it certainly will workout your muscles in ways you're not used to – like when Scogna challenged me to generate momentum by swinging the mace behind myself, from shoulder to shoulder, eventually bringing the mace from behind one shoulder to the front of the opposite in a pendulum-like move, called a "360."
Scogna also pulled out clubs, which are like maces, but smaller — clocking in at only about five pounds — to do some moves best described as nunchuck-like.
CHARGE Performance and Wellness is located at 928 Christian St. in the Bella Vista/Italian Market area.