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Fitness for HEMA

With all sports and, indeed, any activity which requires physical exertion, the fitter a person is so the more enjoyable it becomes. As fitness improves so the HEMA novice ceases to battle against the limitations of their physical endurance and strength with the body adapting to new demands placed upon it. It is entirely up to the individual how much fitness training they do – everyone’s goals and aspirations differ – but one thing regular HEMA practice will do is improve physical fitness!

***NOTE*** We are not fitness instructors nor medically trained so before acting on any well-intentioned suggestions here, consult someone who is a certified competent authority (with insurance)! TLA, individuals associated with TLA and referenced 3rd parties cannot be held liable if you injure yourself! This article is based on what I personally do for ‘club level/intermediate’ fitness.

Low intensity/Gentle beginnings

For those looking for a low impact fitness workout- anything is better than nothing and what seems like slow progress is still progress:


A change of diet (less carbs, much less sugar) is a good place to start and the creation of a routine will ease you into things. A routine may simply mean going for a walk every lunchtime, a bike ride after work, or choosing to take the stairs not lift.

Medium intensity/Reasonably fit already

“Cardio is king”, particularly recovery: a jog or short run doesn’t phase you and you’re not a wheezy mess for more than a few minutes afterwards. HIIT (High Impact Interval Training) is your friend for HEMA as when sparring, it is exactly that – high intensity with 30 seconds break for judging. Even the most hard fought combats is unlikely to take longer than 15 minutes with actual fighting accounting for two-thirds of it.

For cardio: a 5 Km jog/run should be the maximum you ever need to do. If you’re not a natural runner, then cycling or a brisk walk is just as good. You’re looking for a raised heart-rate and a bit of a sweat.

For strength: repetition is key at and I aim to do 3 sets of 12 repetitions with 30 seconds rest between each set, in whatever weight training I undertake.

Here are a couple of great links from the excellent “Encased In Steel” blog:

Fitness for HEMA, part 1:

Fitness for HEMA, part 2:

“Pro-Level”/Very fit

You’re probably no stranger to the gym or the running track so this article isn’t for you! Continue doing what you’re doing but remember that speed and reaction times should be very fast – train the fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscle fibers, and don’t get ‘too big’ if strength training.

Here’s some more advanced stuff to add to your regime:

Swordsmanship Reference Material

We use the rather superb book edited and created by Michael Chidester et al (2016) that looks at the German Longsword system as taught by Grand Master Johannes Liechtenauer. We strongly advise getting hold of a printed copy of this publication. Happily, in the spirit of open propagation of knowledge by recognized HEMA experts, a digital copy can be downloaded/viewed here:

This composite treatise is the ‘core syllabus’ for TLA and the source material for the majority of lesson plans.

If you find the Hroarr site useful; perhaps you can show you appreciation by donating from $1 per month to keep them going!

Likewise, if Wiktenauer has enriched your HEMA understanding (and where the treatise, above, was published) why not support them as well: