A good class of deep work last night. Variated the workout a little to key in some new muscles in the back, to help us fine tune some things. The boxing portion was spent working combos of hooks and crosses, with ducking and step-over counters against cut kicks, and finishing with a stomp kick. Fun stuff. I like hearing the crack of the pads echoing through the hall. Swordplay tonight was rapier, half an hour of non-stop body void work. Wrapped with a half hour of free sparring, and everyone was drained by that point. It was a challenging class.

One of the strength building exercises we do is variations of the Planche, known as planche progressions. A planche is a pretty simple exercise. Take the normal Plank position that’s so popular as a core exercise these days, and pick your feet up until you’re in a horizontal position supported only by your straight arms. Nice and easy…to describe. Actually doing it is a feat to boast about. Our class has had huge boosts in strength and speed by just doing some of the prep exercises. Frog stands are not a bad way to start.

One of the detail work exercises we did last night was a minor correction in our pre-planche exercise. We’ve developed strong upper backs and abdominal muscles, which has given us a powerful arch to try and lift our tucked legs up with. The problem comes in with the contracted abs. When the abs contract, the back muscles have a tendency to lengthen in response. For our baby-step exercises, that was okay. Moving forward though, we need to contract the lower back and glutes as well, in order to pull the legs up and back.

Which is one of the reasons the planche is a perfect foundation strength drill for fencers. It’s not so much the pure strength it gives, but the lessons it teaches about tying muscles together, about pairing unusual contractions. The effort of pushing forward with all the body weight centered on the hands, the shoulders having bear the incredible force of the body at an extreme angle, and all the pushing muscles of the back in full contraction while still having the abs also in contraction? It’s all the muscles of the lunge except the legs being hit in one exercise. The powerful lat development will even serve to aid in body and hand rotation in the lunge. Fitness can build technique.