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Marko
-15th January 2011, 14:31
Hey, had my first fencing class last night and absolutely love it! Completely hooked now and already counting down to next weeks session!

My biggest observation was just how unfit I am! Worst off being my right leg is well and truely aching this morning from lunging!

Can anyone recommen some excercize I can do to help strengthen my legs to help me improve my fencing?

I was thinging practice lunges and perhaps using a dumbbell with a small weight on to simulate a foil an also help build my arm strength? Would this be advisable or is there something I could/should do that would be better?

Thanks :)

coach carson
-15th January 2011, 14:58
More fencing is probably the best fitness training for fencing. Maybe 3-4 times a week to start with will improve your fencing fitness. A good gym routine on top of that will increase your capability and capacity on the piste, but as you're just starting out, that might be some way off.

cesh_fencing
-16th January 2011, 11:56
Most of the aching is because you are using muscles you usually do not use in other sport/activities. If you too a very fit footballer for example and got them to do an hour fencing they would also have achy legs, even though they would regard themselves as fit.

Finding training 3 or 4 times a week for most people is difficult, let alone having the time to put aside with the travelling to the venue etc.

You may be better off doing some footwork sessions for yourself at home. A simple 5 or 10 minutes each day to start off with will help your legs get use to the movements.

Another thing to make sure is that you keep your body upright as leaning over the front leg when lunging will make your front leg ache a lot.

S&C Guy
-16th January 2011, 12:51
I agree with Coach Carson as far as fencing being your best bet for now. It's always difficult starting any new activity your bodies not used to, but you'll soon get used to it and be able to make a better decision of the areas of fitness your lacking.

In the mean time just focus on increasing your mobility and balance. This will help your body adapt and keep you healthy. The British Fencing Academy website has some basic exercises and stretches listed, with videos, that will help you a lot as you start out in fencing!

Good luck with it! Rhys

Marko
-16th January 2011, 17:48
Thanks guys, I think the reason my right leg is so sore is exactly as you said, I was leaning forward when lunging which laszlo pointed out very early on an I was trying to fix!

I've been doing some practice footwork and lunges at home today and whilst the upper half of my leg is very painful it seems to reside after 5 or so minutes of footwork and lunge practice so I think if I keep this up it should get much easier.

Got a few other things to work on in upcoming sessions, the big two being footwork (no leaning forward!) and stepping back when attacked as I was finding mysel stepping IN on attacks rather than away... Doh!

Mellish
-18th January 2011, 14:22
All depends on how much fencing you're doing. If a beginners class once a week, then you should do some more fitness/strength training - but build up over few months rather than overdo it when your legs aren't in top form.

Setting aside gym work - my favourites are:

1. Footwork with nicely bent knees - guess I had to say that didn't I...
2. Squats without weights - 20 - thighs just below knees but not all the way down. Feet flat on the ground, back straight and head up. As you build strength do more sets of 20 - up to 4.
3. Push ups - you have to have fast arm speed and hold an epee [??] up for quite a bit. Minimum 10. Progress to clapping push ups when you can do 20 regular. You too girls.
4. A short jog interspersed with 25 metre sprints. Say a kilometre with say 6 sprints. Add sprints when your fitness increases.
5. Rope skipping if you have the space - otherwise C.L. Beaumont's exercise of going down on the balls of your feet, then spring up as high as you can. Ten of them without undue pause - more sets as you strengthen up.
6. Sit ups. Fencing strengthens your back, but does nothing for your stomach. Some crunches and the plank are good to support the core back muscles.
7. Stretch in front of the TV. Hold 3/4 stretches for 15 minutes. E.g. with the balls of your feet up on a telephone book for calves. Also splits (all ways), butterfly, glutes and hamstrings. Holding 3/4 for a long time lets the muscle relax and lengthen naturally.

Remember - don't overdo it in the beginning. It's just like sun-tanning, well, a bit.

S&C Guy
-21st January 2011, 12:54
2. Squats without weights - 20 - thighs just below knees but not all the way down. Feet flat on the ground, back straight and head up. As you build strength do more sets of 20 - up to 4.
4. A short jog interspersed with 25 metre sprints. Say a kilometre with say 6 sprints. Add sprints when your fitness increases.
6. Sit ups. Fencing strengthens your back, but does nothing for your stomach. Some crunches and the plank are good to support the core back muscles.

Although i agree with some of the points you made with regards to stretching, push ups and skipping being good options i do just have to contradict one or two of your points.

Squats are an extremely important exercise and i agree that the technique should be developed with weight but there is no need to reach a point where you are doing 80 in a session without weight. This won't replicate anything that happens in a fencing session. You should be looking to progress to more difficult variations so either weighted squats (full depth) or single leg variations (look on youtube for Rear foot elevated split squats or Pistol Squats) Fencing puts a huge load through your front leg when lunging, 80 bodyweight squats will not prepare you for this and will not lower the risk of injury.

There is no need to jog a kilometer either. The idea of including some sprints in there is good but again at no point in a fencing match will you do anything resembling jogging let alone moving over a long distance. You wouldn't ask a swimmer to jog or a cyclist and vice versa you wouldn't ask a runner to train with long bike rides, rowing or swimming. It trains different muscles in different ways and is more likely to result in injury than benefit you. Remember approximately 2/3rds of all recreational runners get an injury that prevents them from exercising for over a week, being injured and unable to train will not help your fencing.

Finally fencing will strength your stomach muscles, especially refer to my comments on training the core in a previous forum thread. However activation of these muscles may be lower than the back due to maintain an upright posture. Crunches however will result in pulling you forward and cause you to lose good posture which is undesirable and long term may result in spinal injuries (refer to the work of Stuart McGill). Planks are indeed a good option, anything which resists rotation, flexion and extension of the spine will be your friend when training for fencing. Tie this in with some glute strengthening to ensure that you maintain proper pelvic alignment and make for a more efficient fencing stance.

Please understand that I'm not trying to critisize your recomendations but provide a more fencing specifc framework. This should make your fitness training time more efficient and beneficial allowing you to have more time doing what you enjoy, fencing! Fitness training may have been done differently in the past but we now know more about the human body and how it works. Remember Englands 1966 World Cup team won the cup whilst eating pie and chips and smoking 20 cigarettes a day, they would not be so succesfull with this approach now!

Hope this helps, Rhys

Mellish
-21st January 2011, 13:54
Beg to differ - though not on the chip diet.

Fencing is asymmetrical, and evening up leg strength is important. For a beginner, squats are a good basic exercise to do this. You 4 sets of 20 because without weight, they're pretty easy. Besides, it's not unlike the three minutes you would spend low down on your knees during a bout. This is not an exercise to take you the Worlds - but it will get a beginner into shape.

I've seen a lot of people who have done a lot of situps over many many years - and it doesn't make anyone lean forward - particularly not if there is back strengthening exercises going on - such as fencing, or squats - to balance this out. Again, situps/crunches at home should be done by everyone - it's not an exercise specifically designed for performance fencing, but is excellent for a beginner starting at a lower base level of fitness.

A fartlek approach to running over a shorter distance I find is excellent for my own fencing - the sprints improve my speed and the no-rest in between gives me an edge in endurance. The time is not dissimilar what one spends in a DE and the cross-training beneficial. Over a longer distance it would likely be counter productive, but at the shorter distance it is perfect to build speed and endurance in a beginner. 2/3 of almost any sport except darts get injuries at some point, so the statistic is meaningless.

Maybe we should survey all the fencing champions around the world and see if they do exactly the same exercises, with the same intensity, over the same intervals? My money is that they don't. You only have to train in a weight room to see that different people have different strengths and weaknesses and their training will vary accordingly, each developing approaches that best suit their physiology and their game. A one size fits all workout regime will only suit the statistic mean that benefited from that regime in the first place.

Mellish
-21st January 2011, 15:28
That last bit was maybe a bit grumpy, so I'd like to add that I appreciate your suggestions - and checked them out on Youtube.

We used to do the equivalent of Pistol Squats 20 years ago in a fencing club, but would lower/raise down on the ball of the foot half way down using the wall to balance- this was pretty good for strengthening. I still do them now on occasion. The CL deBeaumont version of springing up/down on both balls of feet I find is even better because it is more explosive.

The deep pistol on Youtube looked bad for the knees to me - and you need ballet dancer quads - so that rules out beginners. Personally I wouldn't trust my knees for the full movement. I don't even know many technique focussed weightlifters who would squat down on their hocks like that. The half-split is pretty much the same as the weight room 'lunge' - and in any case pretty much like the fencing lunge for the front leg anyway - so why not just lunge?

Activating core muscles is not so easy in a bout - though OK for training. The micro-second delay and change in focus I find is unacceptable - unless you can train it to be automatic, which I haven't been able to do. As well as core, I build in back rotation exercise for range of motion - on the 'use it or lose it' principle.

So - thanks for your comments as it sounds like you know your stuff. I'd like to hear more.

Rudd
-21st January 2011, 21:22
The half-split is pretty much the same as the weight room 'lunge' - and in any case pretty much like the fencing lunge for the front leg anyway - so why not just lunge?

Because you can add weight progressively to the split squat and hence build strength. Build strength in the weight room (or with body weight exercises to a certain degree) and technique on the piste.


Activating core muscles is not so easy in a bout - though OK for training. The micro-second delay and change in focus I find is unacceptable - unless you can train it to be automatic, which I haven't been able to do. . You should not be trying to activate core muscles during a bout. By doing exercises like planks or any other exercise that recruits your stabilizers you are "reeducating" the muscles so that they working correctly. The muscles of the core are tonic muscles so pretty much should be on the whole time.

Mellish
-22nd January 2011, 11:27
True about adding weight to the lunge. However, I'm still not convinced of its effectiveness for lunging. While you do use those muscles, the recovery is assisted with a roll of the rear leg - so your front leg has to be strong but not massive. While people do talk about all the stress of the front knee, in fact I see way way more injuries to knees in weight rooms, and hardly ever any in fencing salles. Instead, squats do assist with propulsion of the back leg - which is very important, and to assist in keeping you down on the knees. While squats are at a different angle and so will stress different parts of the muscle groups - it's a bit like incline bench vs flat bench - it helps alot.

If you have back problems it helps to consciously activate core muscles. I do it all the time at comps - just not in the melee.

S&C Guy
-22nd January 2011, 12:14
Ok, some key things to consider from your last posts!


Fencing is asymmetrical, and evening up leg strength is important. For a beginner, squats are a good basic exercise to do this. You 4 sets of 20 because without weight, they're pretty easy. Besides, it's not unlike the three minutes you would spend low down on your knees during a bout. This is not an exercise to take you the Worlds - but it will get a beginner into shape.
Yes Fencing is asymetrical and yes you need bilateral lifts to help counteract this and i also agree about this being for beginners not taking you to elite, however it is very different from the 3 minutes you spend during the bout because of the load put through the body. We are currently doing studies into the amount of force that goes through your lead leg during a lunge however from looking at sports this has already been measured in i would assume this would be somewhere near 3-5 X your bodyweight, that is huge! 80 bodyweight squats in no way prepares your muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones for this. I think anyone should be able to bang out 20 bodyweight squats, sadly in todays sedentary society this is not always the case, this makes them a beginner exercise for the average joe in the street, a beginner exercise for a fencer though is a deep weighted squat.


I've seen a lot of people who have done a lot of situps over many many years - and it doesn't make anyone lean forward - particularly not if there is back strengthening exercises going on - such as fencing, or squats - to balance this out. Again, situps/crunches at home should be done by everyone - it's not an exercise specifically designed for performance fencing, but is excellent for a beginner starting at a lower base level of fitness.
Please have a read of my responses in the core exercises section to save this post becoming too long. Sit ups put the back at risk due to the sheer forces put on the spine being absolutley huge! No one should be encouraged to do a high volume of sit ups let alone fencers. Also fencing works the back in an isometric contraction anyway, so why exercise the opposing muscles in a concentric contraction. Planks and there variations utilise isometric contractions so go for it on those. Plus you start adding weight to squats, deadlifts and the olympic lifts and not only do you have a higher level of activation in the core musculature than in sit ups you also do not put the spine at risk and you teach the body to work together rather than focusing on one muscle. They also help reduce the asymmetries you mentioned earlier.


A fartlek approach to running over a shorter distance I find is excellent for my own fencing - the sprints improve my speed and the no-rest in between gives me an edge in endurance. The time is not dissimilar what one spends in a DE and the cross-training beneficial. Over a longer distance it would likely be counter productive, but at the shorter distance it is perfect to build speed and endurance in a beginner. 2/3 of almost any sport except darts get injuries at some point, so the statistic is meaningless.
Firstly anything you have had benefit from is great, but that doesn't mean your time would not have been better spent doing fencing specific fitness and footwork. One persons self reported gains means nothing to the next person, you mention later everyones different, very true. Theres a reason case studies of one athlete hold no weight in scientific literature, the findings are only relevant to that one person. When starting out you want as much piste time as possible, learning footwook and conditioning your body for fencing, not running! Also fencing is NOT an aerobic sport and so training should be intermittant with plenty of rest, not continuous, even when the pace is varied.
As for the 2/3rds of any sport resulting in injury, i'm sorry but that is absolute rubbish. I'll have to go and dig out the running injury study if you want that reference, however a study by Hamill in the Journal of S&C Research found for every 100hours worth of participation the following number of injuries occured in these sports; Football-6.2, Rugby-1.92, Squash-0.10, Weightlifting-0.0017. To blindly say that all sports cause 2/3rds of the participants to get an injury that prevents them from exercising for a week is obviously unfounded, statistics are in no way meaningless when you are using real statistics!


Maybe we should survey all the fencing champions around the world and see if they do exactly the same exercises, with the same intensity, over the same intervals? My money is that they don't. You only have to train in a weight room to see that different people have different strengths and weaknesses and their training will vary accordingly, each developing approaches that best suit their physiology and their game. A one size fits all workout regime will only suit the statistic mean that benefited from that regime in the first place.
This is very true and i do not want people to take my word as gospel, i want people to question what the other S&C coaches and i are doing, however we believe in what we are doing wholeheartedly and it is founded in scientific truths as well as countless hours of experience in working with athletes from many different sports. The human body is not that different across populations, there are certain things we KNOW work, almost regardless of the sport and person. I see people training differenetly as well, however there can only be one winner when you step off the piste, only one person will win the gold medal at next years Olympics in each discipline. If you want to give yourself the best chance of performing at your best it would be well advised to utilise the most up to date and most time efficient exercises in your training, rather than spending time on exercises that may or may not help on the off chance you are one of the lucky cases it works for. just briefly on your second post also;


We used to do the equivalent of Pistol Squats 20 years ago in a fencing club, but would lower/raise down on the ball of the foot half way down using the wall to balance- this was pretty good for strengthening. I still do them now on occasion. The CL deBeaumont version of springing up/down on both balls of feet I find is even better because it is more explosive.

The deep pistol on Youtube looked bad for the knees to me - and you need ballet dancer quads - so that rules out beginners. Personally I wouldn't trust my knees for the full movement. I don't even know many technique focussed weightlifters who would squat down on their hocks like that. The half-split is pretty much the same as the weight room 'lunge' - and in any case pretty much like the fencing lunge for the front leg anyway - so why not just lunge?
You need to make sure your heel stays down when doing any squat, including pistols to protect your knees. The demonstration in the video is the safest way to perform it, this position puts more presure through the hip (where your body is designed to take that pressure), it also forces your glutes to control the movement more, they are your most powerful muscles for movement so they are worth training! Raising the heel puts huge sheering forces through the knee and forces the quad to work harder. Fencers are already quad dominant and sheering forces are the most dangerous forces to put onto any joint. Pistols are a very advanced exercise, they require huge amounts of strength and mobility (i can manage 2 or 3 when stood on a box, i end up on my back when i attempt these on the floor, its a work in progress!). If you reach this point your fitness training you are doing very well! And finally...;

Activating core muscles is not so easy in a bout - though OK for training. The micro-second delay and change in focus I find is unacceptable - unless you can train it to be automatic, which I haven't been able to do.
Rudds already touched on this with his excellent understanding of tonic as opposed to phasic muscles! Tonic muscles should automatically contract a split second before they are needed and your body should be able to understand when they are needed, this happens with the rotator cuff muscles during an attack to protect the shoulder. One way it learns is by training them in the right way, i.e. squats, where the core is activated automatically to protect the spine. Sit ups train the core in a phasic way, focusing on them to do a specific job they are not technically designed to do anyway.

Again i want to emphasis i am not directly critisizing your opinion, however i enjoy a debate and am passionate about this subject, hence it being my carreer! Each person is entitled to train how they want and more important in a way they enjoy! However whether your a beginner on your first lesson or gold medal hopefull, if you want to include fitness training in your regime you should utilise the training that is most beneficial, time efficient, enjoyable and safe, then get back to the piste and continue to develop your fencing specific skills!
Rhys

S&C Guy
-22nd January 2011, 12:25
True about adding weight to the lunge. However, I'm still not convinced of its effectiveness for lunging. While you do use those muscles, the recovery is assisted with a roll of the rear leg - so your front leg has to be strong but not massive.
It is indeed massive! Your front leg has to decelerate your bodyweight in an eccentric contraction, this is the most difficult contraction your muscles can perform, much more difficult that your rear leg pulling you back in a concentric contraction! Without the strength to do this you will end up collapsing over the knee and injuring it. As far as how the 'gym lunge' differs from the 'fencing lunge', yes activation patterns are different but they are not that different, it is easier and safer to load a gym lunge, they help stretch the hip flexors better than the 'fencing lunge' and it enables you to learn balnace on both legs.

While people do talk about all the stress of the front knee, in fact I see way way more injuries to knees in weight rooms, and hardly ever any in fencing salles.
I suggest finding a new gym where people train with better technique if they are regularly injuring their knees, this is not good! ;-)

Instead, squats do assist with propulsion of the back leg - which is very important, and to assist in keeping you down on the knees. While squats are at a different angle and so will stress different parts of the muscle groups - it's a bit like incline bench vs flat bench - it helps alot.
Completely agree here, all good points, hence why in our Academy protocol squats are so heavily emphasised!
Rhys

Mellish
-22nd January 2011, 16:02
"however a study by Hamill in the Journal of S&C Research found for every 100hours worth of participation the following number of injuries occured in these sports; Football-6.2, Rugby-1.92, Squash-0.10, Weightlifting-0.0017"

I'll have to look up the numbers as it's counter-intuitive - I played a lot of football as a kid and spent 10 years in quite a few weightrooms and so saw many more injuries than I have seen amongst the joggers I have known. Most of the injuries were from heavy weight squatting - and lots of spinal issues, shoulder joint and muscle strains. With joggers, the injuries tend to stem from impact on the knees after many years - with the occasional strains to fascia, achilles etc. That pistol squat for example, would put enormous pressure on the knees - more than a lunge because it is so deep. The front knee in the lunge doesn't take as much impact of the lunge because 1) front foot contact is when the leg is only half-bent so some part of the impact travels up the leg, then as the front front knee sinks into the bend 2) the floor contact of the rear foot spreads some of the load across the legs. The return to guard as I say is not done entirely from the front leg. As someone who has done squats with weights, there is no way a lunge is like lifting 3-5x my body weight on one leg. I'd like to see how that measurement was taken but it is plainly wrong. Maybe we should test it on a kid who lunges - see if the same muscles could pistol squat 3x their body weight - no way.

I agree that the plank etc tone the core muscles and is good for fencers' backs. But no-one hurt their back from doing 30 situps 3x a week. Well, maybe someone, but it's going to be pretty rare. My last physio, who is state of the art on core muscle theory - much more than the NHS no surprise - was always hassling me to do more crunches, in addition to a variey of specific core and back exercises.

True anyone doing 'a high volume' of any exercise risks injury - but I don't I ever mention doing high volumes of anything. In fact I was suggesting some toning for a beginner.

Marko
-22nd January 2011, 21:29
Wow guys calm it down! You have all more than answered my question so thank you for that :)

I Tried out some of the suggestions and found my second session much easier to manage which I was really pleased about. Loved my second week so role on the third!

S&C Guy
-22nd January 2011, 22:08
I'll have to look up the numbers as it's counter-intuitive - I played a lot of football as a kid and spent 10 years in quite a few weightrooms and so saw many more injuries than I have seen amongst the joggers I have known. Most of the injuries were from heavy weight squatting - and lots of spinal issues, shoulder joint and muscle strains. With joggers, the injuries tend to stem from impact on the knees after many years - with the occasional strains to fascia, achilles etc.
What exactly is counterintuitive about this?!? Football is a contact sport played in an ever changing dynamic environment where as weightlifting is performed on a stable base (as long as your not doing stupid things on Bosu balls) in a very controlled environment. Also you should be increasing the load to match your ability where as in football you can be playing different teams and players with greatly varying abilities, mismatches are common. Again you must have been in poorly controlled and supervised gyms to see many, if any injuries from squats. Most running injuries are indeed from impact on the knees and foot, partly because modern day trainers are poorly designed (see 'Born to Run - Chris Macdougal') and the impact of each step being approximately 3X bodyweight. They are overuse injuries, the average person experiences 2640 foot strikes per mile run, multiply this with the load of each foot strike and its easy to see why the joints take such a hammering during running. Squats are zero impact however, just one reason why squats are not bad for knees!


That pistol squat for example, would put enormous pressure on the knees - more than a lunge because it is so deep.
Its obvious from this you are not reading what i have previously put or you are only hearing things you want to hear. There are 2 forces for joints during static exercise, compressive and shear. Sheer forces are the dangerous ones for joints, keeping the heel on the ground and recruiting the glutes significantly drops the sheer force on the knee compared to raising the knee or stopping in a higher position (again if you want me to get the specific references for this i can do that because i am coming from a peer-reviewed scientificly supported position, not anecdotal evdidence based on assumptions. Also whilst the knee is in a mid-flexed position as in a 1/4 or 1/2 squat as opposed to full depth the 4 knee ligaments are in a lax position, this is the most dangerous position for the knee to be in and makes it very difficult for the knee to be stable when reversing the direction of movement (Zatsiorsky V. Kinematics of human motion. 1998 - published by Human Kinetics - p.301).

The front knee in the lunge doesn't take as much impact of the lunge because 1) front foot contact is when the leg is only half-bent so some part of the impact travels up the leg, then as the front front knee sinks into the bend 2) the floor contact of the rear foot spreads some of the load across the legs.
It is a quad dominant movment, flexion of the quad increases patellofemoral pressure significantly, hence the knee is put under pressure.

The return to guard as I say is not done entirely from the front leg. As someone who has done squats with weights, there is no way a lunge is like lifting 3-5x my body weight on one leg. I'd like to see how that measurement was taken but it is plainly wrong. Maybe we should test it on a kid who lunges - see if the same muscles could pistol squat 3x their body weight - no way.
Again please actually read what i have written rather than making things up to have a return point!!! The IMPACT FORCE would be 3-5 X bodyweight force when lunging forward, not when pushing up to return to guard, this would be equal to or less than bodyweight as momentum due to gravity is taken out and the rear leg is supporting you.

I agree that the plank etc tone the core muscles and is good for fencers' backs. But no-one hurt their back from doing 30 situps 3x a week. Well, maybe someone, but it's going to be pretty rare. My last physio, who is state of the art on core muscle theory - much more than the NHS no surprise - was always hassling me to do more crunches, in addition to a variey of specific core and back exercises.
I in no way want to talk down a physio who recomends sit ups however i would be intrigued to sit down and hear from his own mouth if thats exactly how he feels rather than hearing second hand inro on an internet forum. Stuart McGill who's work i have quoted to you already and in the core discussion several times is THE spinal expert in the world. He has many peer-reviewed studies available and several best selling books on the back available across the world (Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance and Low Back Disorders) and when he says that sit ups result in 760 lbs load on the spine and this can lead to disc degeneration i listen. When Mike Boyle, one of the foremost S&C coaches in the world looks at the research available and uses the analogy of it being tantamount to taking your credit card and bending it back and forth repeatedly and hoping it to be ok i also listen! Will 90 sit ups over a week break you back, no. Will 90 sit ups a week, or 4,680 a year, or 46800 a decade lead to some degeneration that may have a negative effect on your fencing (not to mention you continued day to day life as you grow older) ABSOLUTELY!!!!
Finally on this point as i have already said it trains your abs to flex your forward, which you don't want to do so why bother spending time on them anyway when there are much more effective options. (another brief discussion of this can be found here; http://www.bostonherald.com/blogs/lifestyle/step_up/index.php/2007/06/19/cruncheswaste-of-time/)

In fact I was suggesting some toning for a beginner.
A brief word on this too, 'Toning' is not the same as 'Tonic'. 'Tonic' muscles are discussed by Janda and help give the body structure. 'Toning' is essentially a term made up by the female fitness industry (gyms like Curves) to suggest they can weight train without getting big and bulky, instead they can 'tone and shape' their muscles how they would like. You can not determine how your muscles are shaped, that is genetically predetermined, however i appreciate i am being a little pedantic on this one! the idea of 'Toning' really refers to being a low body fat percentage and having some noticeable muscle bulk.

I am not debating these points to be argumentative or awkward however i have built and continue to build a career from this exact subject. I spend every day reading the literature, speaking with coaches/physios/doctors about these topics and i most importantly coach athletes myself at a high level from many different sports. I come to this site to help people as they start out with their S&C training and enjoy the environment provided here. I want to continue to help British Fencers who are getting excited by the S&C support they are now getting. I do not get paid for the time i spend here, which has been considerable today and yesterday! Hopefully from now on any discussion of S&C can be more constructive from now on and the things i have written can be read properly, if i have been unclear ever i am happy to clarify if a question is asked, but to critisize with unfounded claims such as 2/3rds of all sportsmen get injured is not helping anyone on this site get better. When i attend camps i aks the fencing coaches why they get their fencers to do certain attackks/defenses because i want to learn more, i do not tell them they are wrong because i am not a fencing coach. Hopefully S&C coaches can be afforded the same respect.

I hope this discussion helps people understand some of the arguments for and against what i have recomended to fencers here and elsewhere.
Rhys

S&C Guy
-22nd January 2011, 22:14
Wow guys calm it down! You have all more than answered my question so thank you for that :)

I Tried out some of the suggestions and found my second session much easier to manage which I was really pleased about. Loved my second week so role on the third!

No worries, its all good natured. You should be pleased too, not only have you found a new sport you enjoy, but you have also sparked a quality debate about training for it! I'm glad to hear you are enjoying your sessions, good luck with it all!!!

Jon Willis
-22nd January 2011, 23:03
Boom!

Marko
-22nd January 2011, 23:31
Well in that case please, carry on!

I'm very pleased I've found this sport, it's about time I got more active and to fin something I can really enjoy is superb!

Mellish
-23rd January 2011, 13:11
Marco, I was worried S&C would get bored and not write back... excellent, back into the fray...

S&C I am reading what you are writing (that's a bit of a cheap shot I think...) but there are a lot of points - most of which I agree with - but certain ones I have my doubts about, and my responses are not 'making things up'- I'm just not accepting some of your retorts. Major themes are as follows:

LUNGE

"We are currently doing studies into the amount of force that goes through your lead leg during a lunge however from looking at sports this has already been measured in i would assume this would be somewhere near 3-5 X your bodyweight, that is huge! "

Your own statement was not specifically about "impact" but the strength required in the front quad: "Without the strength to do this you will end up collapsing over the knee and injuring it." I myself was also referring specifically to strength required to adjust the body to stopping - not just the return. I was addressing the strength requirement to deal with a 3-5x body weight load - which is what your writing appears to say. Hence my interest in how the measurement was taken. If you flew through the air in a ballet leap and landed on your front leg - yes, I would grant that like a ballet dancer you would need a massive set of quads. The perfect lunge however uses the contact with the rear foot as a counterlever to spread the load of the forward and downward. I'd have to ask my son about the the ratios in leverage maths, but if done properly the straight front leg absorbs impact, then as it bends into the lunge, the rear leg counterlever would reduce the load by (possibly) half.

If you want to see a perfect lunge - at least in my opinion - get Alex Agrenich to show you one of his. The front foot skims the floor and lands silently, at that point, both legs are straight but not locked, and as he sinks into the lunge the rear leg is fixed on the floor and the momentum and body weight are balanced between the two legs as the body goes forward and down. It's done with cat-like precision, and maybe he just makes it look effortless, but I can't see any great muscle stress on his front leg. Do some tests on him.

RUNNING
Yes I agree that running impact does wreck knees, and have said so, but I would not have thought the injury ratio would be more than football - where, sure you run, but you get kicked, headbutted etc etc. A recreational runner who only jogs around the block a few times doesn't get many injuries in my experience - we've got 50000 years of running evolution comparied to how many for squats? OK I don't have any stats and I'll defer to your wisdom on weight room injuries - but I tell you I've seen and felt plenty. My guru physio I was telling you about thinks my back problems are not due to the fencing, but the 10 years of weight training that I stopped 20 years ago because of neck and rotor cuff issues. And he does a lot of work with rugby teams who do a lot weight room training. My brother was the same - different injuries though. His view: "You have to do the sport your body was designed for - weightlifting is for East Europeans" (That's just his sense of humour.) All my weightlifter mates are the same - torn pecs, backs, elbows shot to pieces from tricep exercises. Injuries do happen.

Back to running: fencing IS a BIT aerobic. What is a more aerobic activity - a 1 kilometer run with 6 occasional 25 metres sprints - or 9 minutes of rapid bouncing, forwards and backwards, punctuated with fleches and lunges. All my money is on the latter as an AEROBIC activity - even through I don't deny the significant ANAEROBIC element. Why I like the run, is that it not so asymmetric, and it uses the balls of the feet and calves.

EXPLOSIVE EXERCISES FROM THE BALL OF THE FOOT
Didn't really get to this last time. I'll keep it brief. The fleche. An explosive 1/2 squat on the ball of one foot. Moreover, using the bounce makes all fencing activity much more focussed on the ball of the foot.

GENERAL FITNESS AND SEEING EYE TO EYE
Sure, you're the scientist and I'm an old boy nursing injuries, so you have that advantage on me. But, part of my scepticism about such exercise prescription is possibly due to the different people we deal with. I suspect you are involved with athletes at their peak. My beginner classes have middle-aged women carrying a 15 kilo spare tire. I have blokes injured in rugby and bike accidents whose knees look like they were visited by the IRA several times - all of them lunge OK, but get them to do some skiing exercises sitting against a wall where you need some quad strength and I've got a mini-revolution on my hands.

Sure I get a variety and some do exercise and have real promise, but some of them have to walk after jogging around the gym twice. I did a straw poll at my club a while back asking - who does any situps or stomach exercises during the week (outside the minute or so of crunches I make them do, and the plank too of course) - ZERO.

So that's why I say to beginners, do some basic toning exercises - strengthen up the calves, a few easy squats, a short run - get the heart rate up with a few short sprints - and do some crunches and plank work. While that might all be fairly useless for an elite fencer - who would be on bleep test 14 - it makes real sense for many beginners.

I haven't addressed all your points - but my key issue is that it is important to tailor exercise around the person. My exercises are good for me - and a lot other not so elite people.

You know where you can put that pistol squat, that's for sure...

S&C Guy
-23rd January 2011, 21:04
OK, you are right, i am getting bored now and we are just going round in circles with you claiming you are trying to design a program around an individual... which you are... yourself! Which is fine, crack on but as i said i was doing in several of my posts, i was also trying to give the individual some S&C recomendations, only based on scientifically sound training principles true of all people rather than anecdotal evidence and subjective opinon ("in my experience" doesn't count for much in the literature). I have worked with athletes and the general public right through the spectrum, again as i mentioned in my last post, not just the elite so this is not based on that. Beginner or not each person trying to get fit for a sport should do so using the best advice available. In fact it is doubley important for beginners who as you say 'may be carrying a 15kilo spare tyre' as they lack the strength and coordination to control their bodyweight unless in a very controlled environment with the safest possible variations of the exercises but again i have already finished one other post discussing that so trying not to repeat myself too much here!

A few brief points;
- its not about needing a massive quad but fencers do tend to have a larger quad on their lead leg compared to their back leg (obvious in Richard Kruse down to many of the Academy guys i've worked with) as well as very atrophied hamstring. This does not happen by accident, it is a consequence of the sports demands.
- Inuries do happen.... yes, obviously! Do injuries seem to happen more often with some sports and activities than others(based on scientific fact, not "in my experience").... Absolutley without a shadow of a doubt!!!
- Fencing is not Aerbobic, look at British Fencings own LTAD Handbook where it states this, or 'Essentials of Strength & Conditioning - Baechle and Earle' where it also shows this. Breathing heavy afterwards does not mean its aerobic, the length of high/medium/low intensity efforts combined with rest periods show its anaerobic. Hence why elite level fencers are so incredibly fast and explosive. It is also why no fencers under my or any other S&C coach i know working with fencers now will be testing anyone with the Bleep Test ever again. Its irrelivant, it tests the aerobic running ability, not the anaerobic fencing ability!
- The Fleiche is one move in a whole sport of moves. Its done a handful of times a match. The guard position going back and forward is done heel-toe, this is done almost continuously during a match. This is your start point not a Fleiche when designing a program. Despite this its not about making an gym-exercise specific for Fencing, its about what is safe for the knees and enables the greatest load to be used. In back/front/split/pistol/zercher/goblet/overhead squats, this is heels down, end of story!

I'm going to leave it there and spend some time answering some of the private messages people have sent me regarding their personal programming so i can spend my time tailoring it to suit their level and needs best, rather than going over old ground here. Good luck with your fencing training though Mellish, whether you choose to train using some of my own recomendations or your own theories that you say work for you. I hope they do and you continue to be succesful and injury free.
Rhys

Jon Willis
-23rd January 2011, 22:01
Rhys, I miss you so much. Jxx

Red
-23rd January 2011, 22:21
... LUNGE

"We are currently doing studies into the amount of force that goes through your lead leg during a lunge however from looking at sports this has already been measured in i would assume this would be somewhere near 3-5 X your bodyweight, that is huge! "

Your own statement was not specifically about "impact" but the strength required in the front quad: "Without the strength to do this you will end up collapsing over the knee and injuring it." I myself was also referring specifically to strength required to adjust the body to stopping - not just the return. I was addressing the strength requirement to deal with a 3-5x body weight load - which is what your writing appears to say. Hence my interest in how the measurement was taken. If you flew through the air in a ballet leap and landed on your front leg - yes, I would grant that like a ballet dancer you would need a massive set of quads. The perfect lunge however uses the contact with the rear foot as a counterlever to spread the load of the forward and downward. I'd have to ask my son about the the ratios in leverage maths, but if done properly the straight front leg absorbs impact, then as it bends into the lunge, the rear leg counterlever would reduce the load by (possibly) half.

If you want to see a perfect lunge - at least in my opinion - get Alex Agrenich to show you one of his. The front foot skims the floor and lands silently, at that point, both legs are straight but not locked, and as he sinks into the lunge the rear leg is fixed on the floor and the momentum and body weight are balanced between the two legs as the body goes forward and down. It's done with cat-like precision, and maybe he just makes it look effortless, but I can't see any great muscle stress on his front leg. Do some tests on him.
...


When I did more stuff in the gym using the leg press machine with one leg (either of them), I could shift 2.3x my bodyweight at 30 reps a go. Depending on the method of calculating it, my 1RM for that exercise would be 4.6-12.1x bodyweight although these formulas don't seem to be that reliable at such high reps. The woman that was doing the same as I was by virtue of being lighter could shift 3x her bodyweight for 20 reps (apparently a 1RM of 5.1-6.5x bodyweight) This would seem to agree with Rhys was trying to say.

I'm a coach and a physicist. I started writing up a detailed explanation of why you're wrong about the lunge (and your application of physics to it), taking into account the mechanics of the action as well as technical and tactical considerations but your interaction with Rhys made me realise it would be pointless...

Foilling Around
-23rd January 2011, 22:51
Rhys man, you're so patient!!

Mellish, take Jon Willis and my word for it S&C Guy does know what he is talking about.

I could pick holes in so much of what you posted, but to be honest I can't be bothered.

Cyrano5
-24th January 2011, 09:21
Just to let you know Rhys, I think the majority of us hugely appreciate your input. I fixed a number of issues by reading your posts easily and quickly.
So a big thank you for your patience and time.

S&C Guy
-24th January 2011, 11:48
Just to let you know Rhys, I think the majority of us hugely appreciate your input. I fixed a number of issues by reading your posts easily and quickly.
So a big thank you for your patience and time.

No problem at all, if you have any other specific questions for me feel fre to shoot them across or private message me with them. Just trying to help.

Rhys

Mellish
-24th January 2011, 14:34
but your interaction with Rhys made me realise it would be pointless...
My understanding was that we were having a friendly discussion...was I offensive in some way??

pavski
-24th January 2011, 16:07
Hi Rhys

Thanks for your considerable contribution so far, its very interesting. I am curious on the Bleep test point you mention (and agree with). Can you suggest a way of measuring anaerobic fitness that could be used within a normal club environment?

Thanks Pavski

S&C Guy
-29th January 2011, 23:40
OK, so honestly... we don't know yet! I know this is a rubbish response but right now we do not know the best way to measure anaerobic fitness in fencing, however this does not mean to just continue using the bleep test in the mean time for the lack of a better choice. This is the equivalent of a car mechanic having no way to test the horsepower of a car so he takes the tyre pressure instead and decides if the car's ready to race from this!
Currently we test Academy athletes with a Countermovement Jump for height and a Fencing Agility test (2-4-2). This tells us a lot about the athletes and is helping us build a picture of fencers characteristics. Looking at testing in other sports it's possible that a fatigue index could be developed using the 2-4-2, repeated with short rest periods to establish an athletes ability to repeat their performance as fatigue sets in. We do something similar in rugby with a repeated sprint test, but untill some of the data we are collecting grows large enough we can not be sure if this test is feasible or even relevant!

In the mean time i just have to re-emphasize the uselessness of the bleep test for fencing. At a camp over Christmas i met a coach who's son had been on a university scholarship for his fencing, then after getting a poor bleep test score his scholarship and coaching support was withdrawn. This fencers does not look unfit or overweight, he is fast and explosive, he just doesn't run continuously for his sport so performed badly. I see this as a good thing for his fencing however his university place was jeaprodized because of this old school thinking! Not long after he went to a competition and beat the other fencers who'd gone longer than him in the bleep test. Luckily because of this they gave him back his scholarship support, on the condition he improved his bleep test score next time! Ridiculous! He had demonstrated great fencing ability in competition and performed exactly how i would hope an elite fencer would perform on an aerobic test, badly.

Stick to measuring speed, power and strength where possible, as for anaerobic ability i think the best thing you can do for now is watch them in competition. If they are struggling check whether its because they have had poor comp nutrition, hydration, stress. If these things are all ok it may be conditioning, in this case get them on the piste more and try and make training as realistic as possible to push them. One thing other fight sports do is work one fighter with fresh opponents. For example, fencing rounds are 3mins long. So have a group of 4 fencers where 1 person is selected to be 'working'. He then fights the other 3 one at a time for a minute each, totalling 3mins worth of fencing. Normally in 1 on 1 training will result in maybe 90seconds of hard work and then they both fatigue and have 90seconds of slower paced fencing. With the former technique of 1 on 3 the 'working' fencer is forced to keep a high pace as his opponents know they only have to work for a minute each. This way your fencers get their conditioning pushed in a way that is highly fencing specific and will carry over to competition. Once your fencer can maintain his explosiveness, speed and decision making ability through all 3 opponents he or she will be a pretty difficult person to come up against in a match!
Rhys

miraberis
-30th January 2011, 09:16
One thing other fight sports do is work one fighter with fresh opponents. For example, fencing rounds are 3mins long. So have a group of 4 fencers where 1 person is selected to be 'working'. He then fights the other 3 one at a time for a minute each, totalling 3mins worth of fencing. Normally in 1 on 1 training will result in maybe 90seconds of hard work and then they both fatigue and have 90seconds of slower paced fencing. With the former technique of 1 on 3 the 'working' fencer is forced to keep a high pace as his opponents know they only have to work for a minute each. This way your fencers get their conditioning pushed in a way that is highly fencing specific and will carry over to competition. Once your fencer can maintain his explosiveness, speed and decision making ability through all 3 opponents he or she will be a pretty difficult person to come up against in a match!
Rhys

Definitely trying this!

pavski
-30th January 2011, 15:55
Well for a "rubbish response" it's still pretty informative, thanks for the answer even if you don't know what it is yet! I saw a tv programme on the Cuban amateur boxing training a while ago and one of the exercises they had Kindalin (i think it was him) doing was combinations of punches on a trainers pads interspersed with 10m sprints to the wall and back and then another combination of punches, sprint, punches, sprint, etc. Seemed pretty hardcore to me but what a way to condition yourself.

Neil Brown
-7th February 2011, 14:44
Reminder

The Second Annual Strength and Conditioning Conference, 5th March 2011

The 2011 Strength and Conditioning Student Conference, hosted by the London Sport Institute at Middlesex University, aims to provide both delegates and student/graduate presenters with the opportunity to discuss programme design and scientific research in front of an expert panel. The conference also includes key note presentations from world renowned experts, Ian Jeffreys and Liam Kilduff.
http://www.britishfencing.com/news/latest-news/?n=233


National Academy resources & video
http://www.britishfencing.com/academy/academy-resources/

Gav
-10th February 2011, 15:35
One thing other fight sports do is work one fighter with fresh opponents. For example, fencing rounds are 3mins long. So have a group of 4 fencers where 1 person is selected to be 'working'. He then fights the other 3 one at a time for a minute each, totalling 3mins worth of fencing. Normally in 1 on 1 training will result in maybe 90seconds of hard work and then they both fatigue and have 90seconds of slower paced fencing. With the former technique of 1 on 3 the 'working' fencer is forced to keep a high pace as his opponents know they only have to work for a minute each. This way your fencers get their conditioning pushed in a way that is highly fencing specific and will carry over to competition. Once your fencer can maintain his explosiveness, speed and decision making ability through all 3 opponents he or she will be a pretty difficult person to come up against in a match!

Or try this.

Fence for 1 minute, first to 3 hits wins. Winner stays on and accrues a 1 hit handicap for each victory. Winner stays on till he's "beaten" - that is his opponent gets 3 points first (or whoever has the higher score). At which point that person starts with an immediate handicap of 1.

Rinse and repeat.

Variations: doubles don't count, doubles count for the opponent only, doubles cause the challenger to lose a point and so on.

S&C Guy
-10th February 2011, 23:07
Sounds like it would work to me!

You guys are the fencing coaches so you will know what works best for you guys. The key is to make it fast, intense and quality training. If the athlete becomes tired and slow, call it a day there as you will no longer be training the right muscles and energy pathways used in an actual fencing match. At first they may not last long but they will improve! As i said if you can be fast and explosive for the full 3 minutes you will be a difficult person to fence. Long drawn out conditioning sessions will do nothing but teach your body to be slow and tired.

To be fast, you must train fast, remember this one key point and you'll make huge jumps in your fencing conditioning! See S&C stuff doesn't always have to be complicated and sciencey!!!
Rhys