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marcus170888
-14th April 2013, 21:54
So I've been a fencer and regular on the circuit now for a number of years and am getting to the stage where I'm fairly confident in my technical ability and tactical game most of the time, and it's starting to get me some degree of success. But there's always been one thing that's let me down: strength and conditioning. I've recently made the decision to do all the high NIF comps for ME next year and would really like to get into proper shape for it, but I'm not really sure what I'm doing if I'm honest. Does anyone have any top tips and suggestions about what techniques/exercises/machines a fencer should use to build strength and fitness for the following areas:

1. Upper body strength including arms
2. Core muscles
3. General stamina
4. "Quick-twitch" muscles in the legs and arms

sphericalcat
-1st June 2013, 17:44
"Swinging" weights for arms and core (kettlebells, Bulgarian bag...).
Cycling in hilly places for stamina.
Plyometrics for explosive leg speeds (but you have to be reasonably strong to begin with).

Agentchow
-3rd July 2013, 02:47
I read somewhere that an Olympian sabre fencer taped sandbags on her arm to improve her strengthen when she parried. I guess this could help with upper body strength. I highly recommend high incline running for stamina, which forces you to drive your knees and foot while maintaining a proper upright form. Sound familiar? As for quick twitch, I don't think they are a necessity but are nice to have, regular bouting and practice will help with that.

Spider5
-3rd July 2013, 17:20
I would have thought that fast twitch fibres are a bit more than a nice to have. The trick is to develop them optimally for fencing and a properly defined weight training programme will help you there.

sphericalcat
-12th July 2013, 05:07
I read somewhere that an Olympian sabre fencer taped sandbags on her arm to improve her strengthen when she parried. I guess this could help with upper body strength.

I read about this in a coaching book a while ago. What they stressed is that you have to use light light weights, if you don't want it to play havoc with your technique - 1kg or less (each arm/leg). I briefly tried this with the smallest weights I could find (0.5 kg), and I still found that the extra momentum made me do some wild stuff under pressure.

My honest feeling is that hand speed is mostly about reactions and technique. I know a German foilist in his mid 30s. He's pretty slight in build and has barely been training for the last few years, but his direct ripostes are still lightning fast - I think that's just about structure of movement and automatism. (All this applies somewhat less to sabre, because the arm movements are quite big compared to foil/epee, so strength is a bigger factor. And the legs are obviously a completely different story.)

TomA
-12th July 2013, 19:31
IMO when working out how to train for hand speed, it should be broken down a bit further into actions that only encounter air resistance/gravity (extensions, disengages, beats to a certain extent), and actions that will meet with more concrete resistance (parries, engagements, opposition, flicks.

The former category is more about muscle memory/motor learning than weight training - any strength required will be built up over the course of your fencing career lessons and sparring. Weight training will increase speed in these actions a little, but not that much compared with committing the action to memory.

The latter category WILL benefit from strength training, which increases the stability of the arm, allows you to push through the resistance of your opponent to your blade action and through the resistance of your own sword when you flick. There are three main muscles that are important here - the biceps, triceps and brachioradialis (big forearm muscle on the outside of your arm).

The latter isn't particularly easy to train by itself but does usually get engaged in most exercises used to strengthen the other two (bicep curls, hammer curls, bench press etc - ask a fitness instructor). The two key things to remember if you go down this route are a) to keep the reps low but with high weight (maximum strength gain + minimum bulk) b) that muscle memory is still just as important for these actions and that strengthening the muscles should be an added extra, not a replacement for piste and lesson time.

sphericalcat
-20th July 2013, 07:53
... actions that only encounter air resistance/gravity (extensions, disengages, beats to a certain extent), and actions that will meet with more concrete resistance (parries, engagements, opposition, flicks.

It's generally the first category that's the main source of resistance in fencing. There are many actions where the blade and the arm easily pick up momentum and the leverages work against you - we are all familiar with the "windscreen wiper".

Blade interactions, in foil at least, aren't really about muscle. Establishing control of the other guy's weapon, is predominantly about finding an advantageous balance of forces and/or just being slightly ahead of his reaction. If you find yourself in a situation where you are genuinely straining to push against the opponent's blade, you are pushing in the wrong place/direction or shouldn't be pushing at all.


There are three main muscles that are important here - the biceps, triceps and brachioradialis (big forearm muscle on the outside of your arm).

Indian clubs (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1z6J1GRnFUc) are pretty much designed as upper body training for swordsmen.


keep the reps low but with high weight (maximum strength gain + minimum bulk)

This is true if what you are after is higher peak torque (the ability to pull heavier weights). Fencers are generally interested in more explosive power (the ability to accelerate/decelerate more quickly). The relationship between the two is not straightforward - it certainly isn't linear. Here (http://syattfitness.com/athletic-performance/developing-explosive-strength-and-power-for-athletic-performance/) is an article about training for explosive power that I found useful. It is written by a guy who is a qualified fitness professional and holds several world power lifting records.

TomA
-20th July 2013, 12:47
Blade interactions, in foil at least, aren't really about muscle. Establishing control of the other guy's weapon, is predominantly about finding an advantageous balance of forces and/or just being slightly ahead of his reaction. If you find yourself in a situation where you are genuinely straining to push against the opponent's blade, you are pushing in the wrong place/direction or shouldn't be pushing at all. Maybe not so much for foil, but the OP specifically mentioned epee. Correct opposition is of course important in epee and if you can get it every time then you won't need upper body strength, but 90% of the time you won't get perfect opposition, which is where strength comes in.




Indian clubs (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1z6J1GRnFUc) are pretty much designed as upper body training for swordsmen. Not sure I like those. Their use as demonstrated in the video seems to contradict the point about explosive power training made in the article you cite later.




This is true if what you are after is higher peak torque (the ability to pull heavier weights). Fencers are generally interested in more explosive power (the ability to accelerate/decelerate more quickly). The relationship between the two is not straightforward - it certainly isn't linear. Here (http://syattfitness.com/athletic-performance/developing-explosive-strength-and-power-for-athletic-performance/) is an article about training for explosive power that I found useful. It is written by a guy who is a qualified fitness professional and holds several world power lifting records.Love the article. It seems to come out with the same conclusion re maximal effort as I did though - minimum reps and high weight = best strength gain (which translates into more power).

There's a great video on Usain Bolt's training kicking around on Youtube which shows how he compliments his speed training (sprints) with big weight/low rep gym sessions.

sphericalcat
-22nd July 2013, 12:08
Tom, I think you missed the point of the article. The guy advocates a specific training system called the Westside Conjugate Barbell Method. The whole point of it is that you mix different training regimes, because high loads and low reps aren't a particularly effective way of building explosive power.


Personally, I base my training off of the Westside Barbell Conjugate Method in which 2 days of the training week are focused on Maximal Effort work and 2 days of the week are focused on Dynamic Effort work.

...

On Maximal Effort training days ... 3-4 total lifts at loads equal to or greater than 90% 1RM within a single training bout.

...

On Dynamic Effort training days ... explosive/power based movements with light to moderate loads (anywhere from 0-60% 1RM).

Worth keeping in mind that he is a powerlifter. His sport is all about lifting the heaviest thing you can lift. Ours isn't.

Here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VgZ8pRImUfc) is Matteo Tagliariol messing about with a barbell at what is clearly well below a 90% load (for him).

Indian clubs are part of the Indo-Persian martial arts tradition that's been going since pre-Islamic times. The Persian version (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BR1WdV5OM-c) is a bit heavier, and the actions are a bit more cagey - but still nowhere near 90% of what you can lift. The tradition is very much alive in Iran and consistently turns out successful wrestlers (hereURL] are the medals, and [URL="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gholamreza_Takhti"]here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iran_at_the_Olympics) is one especially famous exponent).

Epee is harder on the hand than foil, but that's mostly about the weight of the weapon. The same basic principle applies: if you find yourself in an arm-wrestle, something's gone really wrong. Dealing with takes is still basically about changing the point of blade contact or trying to detach. It's a bit trickier in epee, partly because the weapons are heavier but also because small mistakes in distance and timing are more likely to end in disaster (bigger target, no ROW). The big difference is between foil/epee and sabre. In point weapons, blade and arm movements are comparatively small, and hits are diverted rather than blocked. In sabre, blade and arm movements are quite big and hits are blocked rather than diverted - consequently it tends to be more physical.

sphericalcat
-22nd July 2013, 13:12
Sorry, just noticed the typo in one of the links in my last post. Here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iran_at_the_Olympics) it is again.

TomA
-22nd July 2013, 16:39
Tom, I think you missed the point of the article. The guy advocates a specific training system called the Westside Conjugate Barbell Method. The whole point of it is that you mix different training regimes, because high loads and low reps aren't a particularly effective way of building explosive power. I think with that last part you are putting words into his mouth. The quote you reference does not support this in any way. By contrast he does say:


For a majority of individuals (notably beginner and intermediate trainees), initially improving one’s maximal strength will be far more important than speed. In reference to the original post, we are very much dealing with the beginner/intermediate end of S+C. For the sake of completeness, the rest of the quote:


However, as an individual progresses and exhibits sufficient maximal strength, targeted training to improve speed becomes an essential component to improving explosive strength and power as well.So of course speed training is important, but only once you have a solid foundation of strength.



Worth keeping in mind that he is a powerlifter. His sport is all about lifting the heaviest thing you can lift. Ours isn't.But the article is a general one, aimed at athletes from a variety of sports. Like I said, Usain Bolt does some pretty heavy lifting and his sport involves nothing but his own bodyweight.






Here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VgZ8pRImUfc) is Matteo Tagliariol messing about with a barbell at what is clearly well below a 90% load (for him).So? a video of him messing around in the garden with a barbell doesn't really exemplify his typical training regime - I imagine he goes to a gym.



Indian clubs are part of the Indo-Persian martial arts tradition that's been going since pre-Islamic times. The Persian version (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BR1WdV5OM-c) is a bit heavier, and the actions are a bit more cagey - but still nowhere near 90% of what you can lift. The tradition is very much alive in Iran and consistently turns out successful wrestlers (hereURL] are the medals, and [URL="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gholamreza_Takhti"]here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iran_at_the_Olympics) is one especially famous exponent).Wrestling? Fencing?




Epee is harder on the hand than foil, but that's mostly about the weight of the weapon.Come on, neither of them are that heavy. I'm not even sure epee is harder on the hand than foil, given the beats, flicks and multiple disengages which foilists use so much.



The same basic principle applies: if you find yourself in an arm-wrestle, something's gone really wrong.That's epee though. It's scrappy. Things go wrong all the time. You can either put yourself in a position to take advantage of those situations and score, or just lose the point. Personally I'd prefer to score.




Dealing with takes is still basically about changing the point of blade contact or trying to detach. So if you can produce more resistance against your opponent's action, this gives you more time to do this.


It's a bit trickier in epee, partly because the weapons are heavier but also because small mistakes in distance and timing are more likely to end in disaster (bigger target, no ROW).So why not take any advantage you can?

sphericalcat
-22nd July 2013, 23:10
Tom,

Without getting into too much detail... We can probably agree on one thing: there is a certain level of base strength you need for most types of explosive training. This is the general gist of this guy's program and many others (probably including Tagliariol's). That said, the core variable is just how much, and this obviously varies depending on activity. Apparently Olympic weightlifters outperform sprinters in squat and jump tests - but not in 100m sprint.

Much as I like the article, it is not an exhaustive exercise manual. The guy explains the basic principles then gives you a rough and ready template. This exact program obviously cannot in equal measure benefit everybody from weekend runners to Olympic shot putters is silly. The basic point is that you have a raw strength component and a dynamic power component. The balance between the two depends on the person and the activity, as does the amount of attention paid to various parts of the body, and the respective strength thresholds. Other than for pure strength athletes, it is not simply a case of the more the better. Once again, weightlifters do not beat sprinters at 100m sprint - despite having stronger legs.

I'm not sure, but if this is the Marcus I'm thinking off, then you are talking about somebody who has been fencing for over 20 years. My guess is, even without any S&C at all, his hand is substantially stronger than average.

Again, without getting bogged down in detail... I like clubs for the same reasons I like kettlebells.
1) Cheap and convenient. Can be done at home with improvised materials. Requires little storage space.
2) You work with your body's natural motions. It is harder to do yourself a mischief (but not impossible).
3) There is an infinite number of possible tweaks and variations. You can alter the structure of the movement, the amount of effort you are putting in, the dynamic character of the action...
4) You don't need a separate warm-up/warm-down (shock, horror!). You can achieve the same effect by gradually ramping up the effort and incorporating stretches and joint mobilisation into the actual exercises. (I never walk away from a session feeling stiff or in pain.)
5) You can kill a lot of other birds with the same stone: CV, balance, joint stability, looking good naked...

andreash
-7th October 2013, 16:08
Marcus,
you asked a while ago, but anyways ... a typical gym-based S+C session for fencing could look like this:

# Warm-up - 10 minutes on the exercise bike
# Core Strength - sit-ups, hyper-extensions, side-planks 2 x 20 of each
# Leg-Press (45 degree) - 5 x 12 x 250kg (is your goal)
# Bench-Press - 5 x 8 (or another combination if so desired)
# Leg-Curl - 2 x 10 x 50kg
# Leg-Extension - 2 x 10 x 50kg
# Calf-Raises - 3 x 15 x 40kg
# Biceps-curls - 3 x 10 x 15kg
# Hi-Intensity - (1 to 3) x 5 x 20 seconds x 450 Watts on exercise bike (1-2 minute breaks)

Total Time: 60-90 minutes.

If you are a free-weights-afficiniado (and have no back-problems) substitute squats, deadlifts or Olympic Lifts for the leg-presses (and have someone check your technique!).

Pre-season carry the above out 2-3 times per week with regenerative runs and fencing in between. After building a base of strength you will then want to work more towards maximal strength during pre-season and more on strength endurance (20-25 reps instead of 12) during the competition season (where 1-2 S+C sessions per week suffice).


Explosiveness:

# Warm-up - 10 minutes running
# Skipping, butt-kick runs, side-shuffling etc.
# Sprints (5 to 8) x 15/30/45m (only one distance, standing or lying start, 3-5 minutes break between runs)
# Plyometric bounding - 2 x (4 to 8) reps with each leg (check on Youtube)
# Plyo series jumping - 3 x (4 to 8) jumps, push off as you land
# Box or stair jumps - (2 to 3) x 3 (very injury-prone!)
# Side lunges - 2 x 10 with each leg

Again this is possible in 60-80 mins. Do 1-2 of these per week.

Good luck.