Physiological demands of fencing: a narrative review


Oates, L., Price, M. and Bottoms, L. 2023. Physiological demands of fencing: a narrative review. Journal of Elite Sport Performance. 3 (1).
TitlePhysiological demands of fencing: a narrative review
AuthorsOates, L., Price, M. and Bottoms, L.

Background and Aim
Fencers compete over long competition days (9-11 hours) wearing full body protective clothing whilst performing high-intensity explosive movements interspersed with low intensity preparatory or recovery movements. Therefore the aim of this review is to provide contemporary perspectives of the literature discussing the physiological and thermoregulatory demands of fencing to inform training, competition, and recovery practices.
Research articles were searched through three online databases (Pubmed, SPORTDiscus, and Google Scholar; 1985-2022) and included results discussing physiological demands for all three weapons (epée, foil, and sabre).
The physiological demands of fencing performance are high and increase as fencers move from Poule fights to knockout Direct Elimination fights. Fencers compete at 75-100% of maximum heart rate, and ~75% maximal oxygen consumption in Direct Elimination fights. Fencing performance is reliant on the phosphocreatine and aerobic energy systems as shown through low blood lactate concentrations. Considerable variation in distance covered during competition is generally reported (i.e., 435 to 1652m in Direct Elimination fights). Despite fencers competing in full body protective clothing with a potentially large thermoregulatory challenge only one study has examined thermoregulatory responses during fencing whereby fencers’ gastrointestinal temperature can peak at >39°C.
Future research highlighted by the findings of this review includes studies of all weapon types especially foil and sabre, during actual competitive environments. Thermoregulatory responses of fencing need to be determined including measures of skin temperature, mask temperature (as a measure of micro-climates) and thermal sensation, allowing for appropriate cooling strategies to be applied between fights to maintain or improve performance.
Practical Applications
A greater understanding of the physiological demands of fencing performance will allow athletes, coaches, and practitioners to design training to prepare athletes for competition and allow fencing specific protocols to be developed to determine recovery strategies within fencing.

KeywordsFencing; Epée; Thermoregulation; Physiology; Performance; Movement Characteristics
Sustainable Development Goals3 Good health and well-being
Middlesex University ThemeHealth & Wellbeing
Research GroupPhysiology at the London Sport Institute
Strength and Conditioning at the London Sport Institute
JournalJournal of Elite Sport Performance
Publication dates
Online22 Mar 2023
Publication process dates
Deposited05 May 2023
Accepted22 Mar 2023
Submitted08 Mar 2023
Output statusPublished
Publisher's version
Web address (URL)
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
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Bottoms, L., Cawdron, R., Kemp, S. and Oates, L. 2022. Fencing. in: Davison, R., Smith, P., Hopker, J., Price, M., Hettinga, F., Tew, G. and Bottoms, L. (ed.) Sport and Exercise Physiology Testing Guidelines: Volume I - Sport Testing. The British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences Guide Taylor & Francis (Routledge). pp. 325-330
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