Dispelling the “Weights slow your fencing” myth

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Putting together a weight training and fitness plan isn’t a mystery only open to fencers vying for a spot on the national team. Lorenzo Casertano highlights the steps fencers should be taking to improve their chances on the strip:

A good weight training program will increase your power and speed
Dispelling the “Weights slow your fencing” myth

Any competitive fencer knows that strength and power play an integral part in success at the highest levels of competition. However, when it comes to how to train outside of the usual conditioning classes and drills provided by their coaches, most fencers also find themselves at a loss for what approach to take. They may have heard the weight training is bad for fencers because they might “bulk up”, or that they should only do high reps/low weight. Many fencers run long distances as their cardio, some run stairs, and some don’t do cardio at all.

In truth, the ideal workout plan for a fencer depends greatly both on the pre-existing condition of the fencer, and on which part of the season the training falls into. The following is an attempt at setting some guidelines for a good conditioning program for fencers.

The first and most important point is that a fitness professional should always be consulted before starting a workout plan. When choosing a trainer to work or consult with, it is important that they do some preliminary testing with you, that you ensure that they are aware of any pre-existing conditions that may affect your exercise capacity, and that they discuss your specific strengths and weaknesses with you.

Since many trainers have never seen fencing, it would also be useful to demonstrate some the movements you will be doing (lunge, advance, retreat, etc.)to them and walk them through the phases of each. This will give them a more complete understanding of the muscles used in each movement and the biomechanics involved.

In terms of the workout plan itself, there are a few important points to keep in mind:

Any exercise done without proper form has the potential to hurt you, and probably won’t help you.
While “bulking up” should be avoided (no fencer should be aspiring to become an Olympic weightlifter), heavy weights are not necessarily a problem

Lorenzo Casertano, CSCS (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist) is a graduate of Columbia University (majoring in neuroscience), and in graduate school at Columbia now getting a Doctorate in Physical Therapy. Lorenzo is currently a competitive epee fencer representing the NYAC.

About the author


Fencer for 25 years, Chairman of NYAC Fencing Team; Head Coach Men's and Women's Fencing at Columbia University; 2012 USA Modern Pentathlon Olympic Fencing Coach.

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