Thursday, July 23, 2020

Resistance Band Work Out with Videos

Another work out series from camp. These can be done at home on your own, or in club. You don't need a partner but you'll need a resistance loop. You may need different resistance strength for different exercises.

These can help develop strength, speed or endurance depending upon how you use them. For our fencers we've been focusing on learning the exercises but will mostly be focusing on speed. Use lighter resistance and quick but clean execution of the movements if focusing on speed.

Our fencers have been doing sets of 15, moving through each exercise for one set, and then repeating each one for a second set. You can vary the number of repetitions and sets for your own needs.

Lat Pull

Works lats and shoulders

Stand upright, relax the shoulders and back muscles

Place the resistance loop around your wrists.

Extend your arms upward.

Slowly pull your arms down so that the band rests where your neck and shoulders meet.

Slowly raise back to your starting position.

Extensor Pull

Works Triceps Hold the resistance band, or loop, to the chest with one hand.

Take the other end of the band in the palm of the other hand.

Extend and then relax to draw back.

Repeat through your number of reps then switch arms.

Lateral Arm Extension

Works Lateral arms, chest

Stand with your feet shoulder's width apart.

Extend arms shoulder height and width with fists clenched.

Open the arms outward and then close back to the original position.

Resistance Band Shoulder Tri-set

Works shoulders, chest, upper back and triceps

Stand upright with your feet shoulders' width apart.

Place bands around your wrist with the forearms straight from the body, and the arms against the torso.

Extend the forearms outward using your shoulders.

Relax and bring them back to the original position.

Resistance Band Lateral Walk

Works Hips and Glutes

Stand upright, with a slight bend in the knees, feet shoulder's width apart.

Step to the right, taking a wide step, being mindful to keep the knees out instead of buckling in from the band.

Once you complete one set in one direction, work the other leg by going the other direction.

Resistance Band Squat with Leg Lift

Works Hip Abductors, glutes, and thighs

Position the resistance band around the thighs

Stand with the feet hips width apart.

Lower into a squat.

As you come up extend the right leg out to the side.

Repeat, but this time extend the left leg.

Resistance Band Star Jumps

Works glutes, hips, quads, and hamstrings

Place the resistance loop around the ankles, place hands on your chest

Jump and extend the arms to your sides and legs outward.

Jump and return to the original position.

Friday, July 17, 2020

On the Mats

Our last couple posts have been – and maybe some of our next couple posts will be; posts on exercises from the summer camps we are running now.

A lot of our morning activities are conditioning and work out activities.

None of them are individually too intense. The fencers are doing several work out activities throughout the day so each one is pretty reasonable and doable.

Whether you're a fencer or not, these are largely activities you can do at home. You can give them to your fencer to do to keep them working out while they're not at their salle. You can do them with your fencer so you both get some exercise. You can use them however you like.

Today's set is really simple, very standard stuff that many people might be doing already. At the very least you've probably done most of these exercises.

You'll need a yoga mat, a jump rope, and a timer.

Working with athletes of various ages and fitness levels we use a timer instead of a number of sets or reps. The athletes are told to do their best and break them down how they need to. If you have a more controlled group or are working individually you could either set yourself based on time or based on reps and sets. Using a timer you can measure against fitness tests that require as many as you can in a set amount of time.

We do 2 minutes, but you could vary the time per exercise depending upon your comfort levels. If you're keeping the short time and not doing this with another work out you can repeat the cycle.

The exercises are:
Sit ups
Standard Push Ups
Leg lifts
Triceps (Diamond) Push Ups
Jump Rope

Sit ups are pretty straight forward. Crunches are an option here too. The big thing to pay attention to is moving by flexing your stomach muscles not by lifting your shoulder and rolling your back.

For standard push ups one of the tips that has come up routinely is keeping the elbows back unless you're using a wide base for your hands. Younger athletes might need to do the push up from their knees. Athletes may need to be reminded to keep their backs straight. There is a tendency for young athletes to just dip their shoulders instead of actually doing a push up. For more developed athletes a way to prevent them from only going partially down is to require that the chest touch the ground and the hands come up from the ground. For younger, or less in shape athletes, give them space to go partially down and back up while they work on getting strong enough to go lower and lower in their push up.

For leg lifts, there are a lot of ways people do them. For this we're doing them to work the stomach, but you'll work the legs a bit too. Lift from your stomach muscles. Your legs, while fixed straight, should come about 15 to 20 degrees up from the ground. While they're up, spread your feet apart and make a V with your legs, then bring them back together. Lower them, try and keep them about an inch off the ground when you lower them. Repeat the motion from that slightly elevated position.

Diamond push ups or triceps push ups work your triceps. This is super important for fencing because triceps are extensors. They help the arm extend instead of contracting to pull the arm back. That extension is a big part of fencing. You don't necessarily need bulky triceps but you need the muscles to be trained for speed and endurance. These are a more difficult push up for most people because they aren't used to working these muscles. You'll do this much like a normal push up, but the arms are pulled in close, aligned along the torso, with the hands brought together under the chest so your thumbs and pointer fingers make a diamond or a triangle.

Jump rope is pretty self explanatory. Jump rope for the time allotted, try and maintain your jumping as best as you can. Restart if you fail.

Burpees. Most people are familiar with burpees these days. If you're not I recommend checking out YouTube for examples. Sometimes the push up in the middle of the burpee is viewed as optional, but we consistently include it. For this, instead of a timer, we just have everyone do two sets of five. But you can modify that for your own needs.

Our list includes meditation. The boys in our camp do running, kinetic stretches, a footwork focused work out and then this work out each morning, so by the time they're through a recovery activity makes sense. You could use various options for this. More stretching, yoga, light movement, all are options. We use a breathing meditation because our fencers work with it periodically as a way to help focus and collect themselves. It can be a useful in the stress of a tournament when you only have moments to calm yourself or to shake off a strenuous bout, or anger over a bad loss or a difficult referee. Having a way to shift focus while calming the body can be super important.

The breathing exercise we use is called four-fold breathing. You inhale for a count of 4, hold in for a count of 4, exhale for a count of 4 hold out for a count of 4. While doing this try to focus your thoughts only on your breathing and the count of your breath. Doing this for a few minutes will help bring everything down, you might feel some tension initially but then it will release into relaxation. Focusing on the breathing can help pull attention away from stress and create calm.

Thanks for reading!

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Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Red Riding Hoods – Fleche and Other Footwork Training

This drill can be done by a fencer with their parent or friend. So it can be assigned as homework or it can be one parents can adopt to do with their fencer.

One of the big things with training the fleche is to be able to execute from any point in your movement without telegraphing that you're about to. The fleche should explosively take an opponent by surprise. They should not have the time to realize the fleche is happening or to respond.

If an athlete has to fully settle their feet before beginning a fleche, they lose the moment in which it would be effective. If an athlete has to load the body and set up the weight to be explosive, they lose the element of surprise.

This exercise is a fun one. My youth fencers love it – despite it being strenuous. I originally started using it for my college fencers to help teach them to fleche suddenly from light footwork movement. The team of beginner fencers who first adopted this drill went on to win their conference's foil title three years running. Obviously, this drill was not the only element of their success – but their ability to make sudden bursting attacks, counters, and attacks in prep, helped set them apart.

It is also adaptable. You can change the footwork involved, or even dispense with footwork altogether.

It's pretty simple. The leader tells a story. While the leader is telling the story the fencers “float” or maintain a dynamic guard (they bounce back and forth lightly or shuffle constantly between their feet, if they have trouble with this an advance-retreat in place pattern is fine).

Certain types of words trigger certain responses. Usually you only want two. You could work it as a recognition and choice drill by adding more than two – but this can be difficult and those are better as visual drills.

For example, we tell a faery tale and every time an animal word is used the fencer's fleche, every time a color word is used they do a burpee.

Number words can be an option also. Or the name of a character. Faery tales are the easiest to use, but we used The Death of Superman once. One of our youth athletes likes leading the drill and makes up stories. The important parts are
  1. Keeping the story fun and interesting so athletes enjoy the exercise despite the work
  2. Embellishing the story in the extreme – partially to keep it interesting; in order to add the trigger words as much as possible.

Your chosen responses can vary.

For footwork we commonly use fleche, flunge, double advance-lunge. You could use a distance pull-lunge. You could add an explosiveness exercise and do a scissor jump lunge, or a squat lunge.

For conditioning we typically use burpees or sit ups, but you could use jumping squats, or sprints, or even sit ups. It should just be a small number, or even only one, so that they can reset to their constant movement quickly. You'll also be making them do it several times throughout the story so they don't have to do a lot each time the word is said since you'll say your trigger words several times.

If you want to focus on creating a work out instead of focusing on footwork then you might try three or four cue words. You can increase the cue words in this instance because they don't have to worry about quick reaction on a precise or correct execution of a fencing movement, they are just doing a simpler exercise movement which should be more natural to them. Then set all trigger words for exercise movements. So colors trigger a burpee, numbers trigger a jumping squat, and animals trigger a sprint.

If they get the cue wrong, give them a jovial reminder of what the cues are. It's not a choice or decision drill so the error doesn't really need any firm correction – they just need to get on track so they get the most out of the drill.


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Red riding hood image found on pintrest by Edli on Deviant Art, classic fleche image taken from Sydney Sabre

Monday, July 13, 2020

A Footwork Conditioning Exercise

Last summer I put together a sequence of footwork conditioning exercises for one of my students. He was really working at his fencing, but wasn't working out much. His footwork needed some help. It seemed like perfecting his footwork form would get easier if he had some more strength in his legs, specifically strength oriented towards the activity.

He used it through the summer and into the new season and saw a major improvement in his footwork. He then progressed from a D to a B during the course of the COVID shortened season. Another one of our fencers worked the routine and went from just starting fencing, to making it into the top 100 on the Cadet National Points List in that same shortened season.

In both their cases, they practiced multiple times a week for several hours. But footwork is your foundation and so improvements in footwork and better conditioning on the legs probably helped a lot. So this was potentially one of several factors to help them with their success.

We've been using it over our summer camps this summer, and into week two we're already seeing footwork improvements from the week one fencers.

The routine is really simple and can be done at home or at your club. You'll need a timer, a jump rope, a weight, and a length of space about as long as a fencing strip.

First step is advancing and retreating.

Advance the length of the strip, then retreat the length of the strip. First set do slowly, stay focused on your form.

Repeat at a medium pace. Focus on your form.

Repeat at a fast pace, focus on your form. This is a little harder at the fast pace but still necessary.

Now go at your maximum pace, stay attentive to form.

Now you'll work backwards. Do another fast set, then a medium set and finish with a slow set.

You're working your way up in speed and then bringing it back down. The first half works on maintaining form the second half on fixing form.

Second step is Sabre Runs

Sprint from one end of the strip to the other, then slowly walk back.

This simulates the explosive burst of going forward in a fencing action, and then the recovery from the action while you return to the line. It mimics the burst-rest interval experience of sabre.

When sprinting push to your limit. Try and push each sprint faster. This is how sprinting works to develop muscle speed. The muscles push to use more power so they adapt to normalize that power.

Third step is Jump Rope.

Set 2 or 3 minutes on the clock depending upon capability. Jump rope as consistently as possible during that time.

You're working on cardio, but also a little bit on hand eye and foot coordination.

The fourth step is Weighted Lunging

Grab a weight. Hold the weight to your chest. Lunge and recover forward the length of the strip and then back.

When you're done repeat on your non-dominant leg.

You can add a second or third set of these depending upon capability.

The fifth and final step are Standing Broad Jumps

Take your weight and hold it to your chest. From a stationary position, standing as if in guard, jump forward explosively using only your back leg.

Repeat this up and back the length of the strip.

Repeat the process with your non-dominant leg.

This is a power exercise, so time is a component.

The best way to do this is to run a stop watch and clock how much time it takes you to do one set on each leg.

Rest for about thirty seconds and then do both legs again. Run the stop watch to see if you improved your time.

Rest for about thirty seconds and repeat again. Run the stop watch to see if you beat both previous times.

If doing this for a group you can set partners to time each other, or you can have fencers count the number of jumps they take and try to beat the number each time.

You're only trying to beat the time or number done by that leg. So all your jumps on your right leg compare to each other but not to your jumps on the left leg, and visa versa.


There is a tendency when doing this to take huge breaks when one is left to their own devices. You have to fight this tendency. One student would stretch this to an hour or an hour and a half when he could. You can finish this in about 25 to 40 minutes.

My best friend is kind of into cross-fit. When he saw a student doing this set he was not a fan because it was all such specific exercises focused on such specific sort of uses of the legs. It is specifically a series of exercises to help develop footwork. It's important to do other conditioning and physical development that is more general as well.


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