Sunday, April 15, 2012

Strength Training



I once reviewed several books on fencing. One was "Strength Training for Fencers" by Harry James. I thought it was a very good book for strength training, but not so fencing specific. I reread that book a couple of months ago and changed my mind. It is not only a good book for strength training, but is also truly geared for fencers.

(Note: You can't read a book on lifting weights and do it correctly any more than you can read a book on fencing do it correctly. You must have some one show you what to do. Just saying.)

 For the last four months or so, I have gotten increasingly serious about strength training in the gym. Yes...I know... it doesn't show. I am getting to that. As I constantly look for ways to improve and vary my routine, I go to "Strength Training for Fencers" and select elements to try. I have enjoyed that and it helps to find new ways to shock my body.

In the last month and a half, I am up from three times a week to four/five times a week for an hour and a half in the gym. There are a lot of reasons for this. One is that my training partner continues to inspire me. Sadly, where as she eats like a bird.....lifting makes me hungry. I am working on that. But I digress.

I also think constantly about when I was "lifting" in my forties. I knew then that I was having to work twice as hard for half the results. What kind of results are realistic to expect twenty years later?

I think "Strength Training for Fencers" would be a better if it was a part of a trilogy. There should also be "Cardio Training for Fencers" and "Nutrition for Fencers".
There are some who would argue as to how much value strength training is for fencers. Obviously, you don't want to look like a body builder. That is a separate thing all together.

However, if you are 60 year old man with a bad right knee who competes mainly in local tournaments against younger opponents, you best be looking for an edge. In my estimation, strength IS speed. It is not the only component,but an important one. In this case I am talking about " arm speed". If you fence epee and you have a bad knee....if you are older...if you are cannot move as fast with your legs as a young fencer. But you can still fleche. It better be half your game. It better be fairly good, to compensate for for lack of speed in your legs. Hence, strength training.

I also read something interesting if you are a vet fencer of 50+. You should not be doing bench press or declined bench press in the gym unless you have been lifting weights for years and years. You should just be doing inclined bench with dumbbells. The reason given is gravity is starting to take it's toll and you don't want to put mass where it is going to sag. I don't know. I just read it. Makes sense. I am not sure about me. I have been lifting since my thirties, but  am going to go this route for a while. I like to experiment on myself. ( Note: The article did not mention this, but I assume that inclined flys would be better than doing it on a flat bench or pec deck.)

Another thing I have read of late involves working your glutes. If you can find a machine that isolates your butt and work it, this helps to prevent lower back pain. I don't have lower back pain, so I am adding to the routine as a preventative measure. Turns out that the glutes are sort of like a core muscle group. Who knew?

In the realm of experimentation, I now belong to a huge modern gym.  My gyms before had the same basic equipment over the last thirty years. There is equipment there I have never seen or heard of. Only yesterday, I found a new machine I think would help with my fleche. Trying these different machines keeps it all fresh and hits muscle groups from different angles.

Another benefit of going to the gym is seeing what other people do. A beautiful young women was doing a dumbbell exercise yesterday for balance. I need this desperately, I copied her and will add it to my routine for a while.

Now to loose about 15 pounds, which isn't going well at all, and add more cardio. Due to the knee, I must be selective about cardio. just bores the living hell out of me. you think strength training is making you a better fencer?  There are many great fencers who don't do it. Yes...I do...but I can't prove it. I take a multivitamin every day. Some people think you are just making expensive urine by doing this. They could be right. However, taking a multivitamin every day makes me feel better. So...real or imagined...that vitamin makes me feel better. Perhaps it is the same with strength training.


Yesterday, I had a note from a college fencer. Last semester, I coached them once a week. They had been doing the best they could do without a coach. This semester their meeting time changed and I could no longer go to help them. The young man who wrote me asked for advice, which I gave as well as I could. He told me how the club missed me and how greatful they were. It wasn't that much really. It made me feel so very good though.

Hurry up and post the clinic on AskFred Walter. I want to be a better coach so I can feel that good feeling again.