Fencing is a sport requiring hand-eye coordination, explosiveness, and pinpoint accuracy. Whatever type of blade you use, you must be faster and more accurate than your opponent. This requires strength, speed and timing, as well as skill. To improve on many of these aspects, a routine based around explosive training can help you lunge faster and give you the extra inch needed to score the winning point.
Lower Body Strength
Much of the explosiveness of your technique comes from the lower body, and strong legs are critical to driving you down the strip. The barbell squat and the lunge should be considered foundational exercises, and be the focus of many workouts. Squat deeply with good technique, and when you perform the lunge, ensure that you go through a full range of motion, as you are often in an extremely extended position when lunging in competition. If you spend all of your time with the same leg forward, you may wish to do extra work on lunge-type exercises for the other leg to avoid a muscular imbalance.
Upper Body Strength
Much of the upper body control of your weapon comes from the shoulders, and the military press is the best exercise to strengthen them. Work for the widest muscles of the back is also of extreme importance, as much of your power will come from your back, so chin-ups and rowing movements are essential. If you spend much of your time training with only a single arm, you may need to do extra work for your shoulder on the opposite arm for balanced development. Extra work for the rotator cuff, such as external rotations, will help improve shoulder stability and avoid injury. External rotations can be performed by standing next to a cable stack with your arm across your body and pulling your arm away against the resistance of the weight.
After you have developed good technique, learn to squat in a dynamic manner. Do not free fall, but lower yourself quickly, and using the stretch reflex, explode out of the bottom to full extension. This is how Olympic-style weightlifters squat, and weightlifters generate more power on lifts than any other category of athlete. Plyometric work, such as depth jumps and explosive push-ups are good ways to develop power, and given that you will push off from your toes when lunging, even jumping rope can help, as well as providing good conditioning work.
Train your entire body three times a week, on non-consecutive days. This will give you plenty of time to recover and should not interfere with your fencing practice. If you need extra conditioning, do this on your off days, but your primary conditioning should always be practising your sport. If you decide to add in extra cardiovascular work, be careful to ensure that it does not drain your recovery ability and make you fatigued for training. On the strip, no one cares how fast you can run a mile, so never lose focus that your training should help you achieve your goals, not limit your ability to pursue them.
Components of Fitness Needed for Fencing
Fencing is a combat sport in which competitors duel with swords. Three different weapons are used in traditional fencing: the foil, epee and sabre, all of which are wielded differently and have different target areas and rules.
Agility describes your ability to make rapid whole-body movements with changes of velocity or direction in response to a stimulus and is, according to Berndt Barth and Emil Beck, very important to a fencer. To develop this skill, you should perform agility drills. These can be performed using an agility ladder, marker cones, hurdles, obstacles and a variety of other equipment, which are available from specialist sports equipment suppliers
Fencing requires fast reactions so developing speed is important. You can improve your speed by performing sprinting and reaction exercises. One of the best tools available for developing reaction speed is a reaction ball, which, when dropped, will bounce in random directions to which you have to respond as fast as possible.
Fencing bouts involve many attacks and counterattacks. You need good muscular endurance to avoid becoming fatigued during a match. Many of your attacks in fencing will be initiated with a lunge, so lower body muscular endurance is critical. Because your sword arm will be constantly moving while bearing the weight of the weapon, upper body endurance is also vital. Improve your muscular endurance by performing 15 to 20 repetitions of a variety of upper and lower body exercises, resting only 30 seconds between sets. Increase reps sets and add weight as your endurance gets better.
It takes good lower body flexibility to make longer lunges and to lunge lower, which can help you reach your opponent while presenting a more elusive target. Because the lunging motion is used in most attacks, mobility and flexibility in the hips are important. Improving your upper body flexibility, particularly in your latissimus dorsi (lats), also may increase your reach. To develop your flexibility, stretch regularly, holding each stretch for 30 to 60 seconds, focusing on inner thighs, hamstrings, hip flexors, the gluteus complex (the buttocks muscles) and the lats.
Being aerobically fit will keep you from running out of energy during a fencing match. Aerobic fitness is developed by activities such as jogging, cycling and swimming. Keep your heart rate between 60 to 90 per cent of your maximum for at least 20 minutes to get maximum benefits and perform aerobic training three or more days a week. You can improve your aerobic fitness and your muscular endurance at the same time with circuit training. Circuit training involves performing a sequence of body weight or weight training exercises, taking little or no rest between stations.
Warm Up and Cool Down
There is no doubt that time spent on warming up and cooling down will improve an athlete’s level of performance and accelerate the recovery process needed before and after training or competition. As a result, the coach must encourage the athlete to regard the warm up and cool down as an essential part of both the training session and competition itself.
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