How Knights of Medieval England Kept Themselves Fit

Photo by: Bigstockphoto
Photo by: Bigstockphoto

The knights of Medieval England symbolized gallantry, chivalry and rippling power. The knights were often depicted wearing full metal armor on horseback. They were trained to protect the king, defend the weak and, of course, rescue damsels in distress.

English knights were highly skilled fighters. They were trained as young children – about five or six years old – as warriors. But how did these noble fighters develop their physique and fighting prowess? Sadly, there are no books that accurately present how knights used to train. The specifics of knight training also vary greatly. However, the underlying principles of knight training remained the same: keep the fighters in peak physical and mental form for battle.

Intensive Physical Training

As children, knights were chosen to fight. They go through intense physical and mental training. By their teens, they were already expert fighters. They trained using heavy weapons, such as swords, axes, and katanas. As far as training goes, it will vary according to the form of fighting. For instance, some knights will train for archery while others train for hand to hand combat.

During training, the fighters will train by pair. They will lift boulders and wrestle. Because their job demands peak physical performance, knights will continue training until they retire their armors.


Jousting was a popular sport favored by kings of the middle ages. It requires two knights riding on horseback, wielding a blunted lance. The aim is to strike the opponent with the blunt lance. The rider who falls from his horse loses.

Jousting is one of the many forms of physical exercise knights have to master. The sport required a certain level of accuracy, flexibility and strength. The blunted lance, which is several feet long, weighs several pounds. To knock the opponent, a knight must have a sharp eye, quick reflexes and, of course, a strong core.

Hand to Hand Combat

It’s one thing to sharpen one’s fighting skills without weapons. It’s another to do it in full metal armor. Trainees were required to wear their armor as they fight mano y mano. Just like jousting, hand to hand combat requires quick reflexes and immense physical power. But because the hands are vulnerable to injuries during an unarmed combat, knights have to wear gauntlets as protection.

In Medieval England, the average knight armor is over 100 pounds. The armor protects the fighter from injuries, but it limits the knight’s movement. Now imagine fighting with full metal armor. Wearing the armor and fighting using just the bare hands is an intense workout in itself.

Fencing and Swordfights

And to master the sword, a knight had to swing a heavy sword over and over again. When they sparred by pair, they don’t use dummy swords, they use real ones. In 15th century England, losing a limb (or a head) in a sparring session with a fellow trainee is possible. Knights were trained to fight wearing normal clothing and in full battle gear. They were trained to use real metal swords to stimulate the touch and feel of a real swordfight. Trainees will never become knights until they master fencing and swordfight

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