There’s a lot I don’t know about fencing, but here are a few things I do know. Like many sports, the youth level is highly competitive. Jaden (seen on the left in the above video) is only 15 yrs old but will be soon competing internationally. These kids practice and compete A LOT. The sport is highly dominant to one side as you compete on a narrow strip. Think about other sports in comparison, while you might shoot a puck or throw right handed, in those sports there are a lot more things going on as far as change of direction left and right, up and down, crossing over. In fencing you’ve got only a couple of options as far as movement. You’ll always have the same foot forward, and you’re either going forward or backward. Fencing is explosive. It is short bursts of power followed by recovery before the next point is contested.
Jaden has been training with me for about 2 years. How strong does a fencing athlete need to be? Is a 400 lbs squat going to make him better? Does bulking up into The Hulk really help? What does a fencer need to strength train for? After I watched the above video a few times, which is from a recent tournament, I began to think.
- Getting stronger can make you more durable. Tournaments can make for long weekends and the season is long too. Being strong enough to endure all of that work is important. That strength practice can also help to decrease injury by putting the athlete in positions that are not the same as those seen in the sport. Repetition in sport without some sort of balance to the other side, or towards something neutral-ish can possibly lead to overuse injury and/or a lack of durability.
- Quality strength training isn’t just pumping up in the gym. There are many other qualities that should be addressed. Training power and speed which are clearly used in the sport of fencing are important. So is learning to produce force and also absorb or decelerate, like in the change of direction.
- Strength training is about building a better overall athlete. Fencing specific instruction is for the fencing coach/expert. As I’ve established, I’m not that guy. But, I do know that enriching generally athletic qualities makes for a better athlete.
So, how strong does a fencer have to be? Probably not super strong at any one thing, but well rounded enough to jump, land, throw medicine balls, sprint fast, squat, deadlift, chin up and push up with some proficiency.
- Mike Baltren