Fencer's postural control as key component of sport technique for success of combat actions


Dr.Hab., Associate Professor L.G. Ryzhkova1
Dr.Hab., Professor G.N. Germanov2
PhD S.V. Sedochenko2
1Russian State University of Physical Education, Sport, Youth and Tourism (GTSOLIFK), Moscow
2Pedagogical Institute of Physical Culture and Sport of Moscow City Pedagogical University, Moscow

Keywords: prime posture, asymmetrical loads, electroneuromyographic rates, junior fencers.

Background. Fencing is an asymmetric sport discipline with its sport techniques basically composed of local micro-moves supported by footwork for spatial relocations. The asymmetric nature of the sport is manifested, among other things, in the disproportional loads on and tensions in the musculoskeletal, musculotendinous and osteoartiular systems on the whole and the working muscles in particular. Due postural control in the sport-specific movement sequences helps the athletes maintain static/ dynamic body balance, efficiently control movements and facilitate speed-strength-intensive actions on the move. Efficient initial posture is viewed as the key precondition for success in modern competitive fencing.

It should be mentioned that every operational posture in fencing is associated with the dominant/ take-off leg or dominant arm being under heavy asymmetric load as required by the specific action. This operational postural asymmetry, however, is known to be of high negative effect on the fencers’ musculoskeletal systems [1]. Coordination, postural control and body balancing qualities are secured by the harmonized operations of the vestibular, visual and musculotendinous systems [2]. Therefore, studies of the effects of prime postures and other dynamic conditions on the competitive success in modern fencing are highly relevant today as they give sound theoretical grounds for the efforts to design, manage and correct the relevant motor skills to secure good technical progress on the whole and at early stages of sport careers in particular [4-6].

Most efficient operational postures and dynamic patterns in modern fencing have been formed by the centuries-old traditions that were crowned by the variety of postural control, defensive, offensive and footwork techniques. The sport science, however, offers virtually no studies of how the negative effects of the sport-specific asymmetrical loads on the athletes’ physicality may be mitigated and corrected. We have applied special training simulators equipped with the biological feedback systems [3] to facilitate progress of the body balancing and postural control systems and the relevant kinesthetic reflexes with an emphasis on the key shin muscle operation balancing in the key postures; and improve the static/dynamic balancing skills in the 13-14 year-old fencers.

Objective of the study was to analyze the effects of asymmetrical loads in the fencer’s prime posture versus footwork including the shin muscles performance in attacks, defenses and maneuvering phases.

Methods and structure of the study. The asymmetrical loads on the junior fencers’ lower limbs were tested by an interference electroneuromyography (ENMG) system to obtain the bioelectrical activity data arrays for quiescent sitting and standing positions and the prime postures. Subject to the simultaneous tests by the ENMG system were the right (D) and left (S) m. tibialis anterior and m. soleus as they play the key role in the subject movements. Thus m. soleus is responsible for the orthograde balance on the move with the foot being fixed by this muscle to prevent a forward tip of the body, whilst the m. tibialis anterior action is largely antagonistic.

Study results and discussion. Our analysis of the pre- and post-bout ENMG test data (for shadow fencing bouts) showed the vertical position and prime posture control rates being largely imbalanced: see Table 1. The pre- and post-bout quiescent sitting and standing ENMG test data amplitudes were found higher in m. soleus. The post-bout test data showed the right m. tibialis anterior being the most active, with high multidirectional lateral and frontal asymmetries found in the activation patterns of every tested muscle. The prime postures showed a significant domination of the ENMG tested activity in both muscles of the right shin (with a lateral asymmetry); and the post-bout test rates showed a domination of activity in m. tibialis anterior (with a frontal asymmetry).

Table 1. Pre- and post-bout ENMG test rates of junior (13-14 year-old) fencers (n=22)




Pre-bout data

Post-bout data

Amplitude, mkV





Quiescent sitting


S. tib. ant.





S. soleus





D. tib. ant.





D. soleus





Quiescent standing

S. tib. ant.





S. soleus





D. tib. ant.





D. soleus





Prime posture

S. tib. ant.





S. soleus





D. tib.ant.





D. soleus






To prevent/ mitigate the negative effects of the asymmetrical workloads on the junior fencers’ musculoskeletal apparatuses, we undertook a 12-month-long education process experiment designed to test benefits of a set of corrective exercises of our design with support of the ENMG test and biological feedback systems.

Subject to the study were junior (13-14 year-old) fencers qualified Class I and II Athletes (n=22) split up into Experimental Group (EG) and Reference Group (RG). The RG training process was designed as required by the valid Federal Standard for Fencing Sport, with the training components timed as follows: 11-15% of the total time assigned for body conditioning practices (BCP); 8-11% for special physical trainings (SPT); 49-53% for technical skill trainings; and 2.5-4% for practical trainings.

The EG training process was designed as required by our program, with the training timeframe being compliant with the valid Federal Standard for Fencing Sport. The program was different from the RG training system mostly by the BCP component being replaced by special corrective, preparatory and developmental exercises designed to prevent/ mitigate negative effects of sport-specific asymmetrical loads on the junior fencers’ musculoskeletal systems; and the SPT time used for the training simulators assisted practices supported by the biological feedback data.

At the initial stage of the educational experiment (September through October), the EG trainings in the BCP-replacing phase were dominated by the set of special exercises (15min sessions 6 times a week) to correct the negative effects of the asymmetrical loads on the junior fencers’ musculoskeletal systems. The SPT-replacing training component of the EG system included the training simulators assisted practices (10min sessions 6 times a week) supported by the biological feedback (BFB) data. In the first 6 trainings with the BFB systems the athletes were trained to stand firm in the orthograde postures on the moving platforms watching the real time shin muscles activation patterns on the ENMG system screen; with the orthograde posture changed over to the prime posture in the training process.

At the special training stage (November through December), the corrective practices remained largely the same in terms of time, composition and scope, with only pace being increased. The springs in the moving platforms of the BFB systems were loosened in a phased manner to complicate the balancing exercise, with the training time and schedule remaining the same. In the competitive phase of the experiment (January), the EG went on with the asymmetric load correction practices, with the training time reduced to 10min sessions 5 time a week; and no training simulators assisted practices with BFB data were scheduled for this phase. In the second preparatory period (February through April), the EG was trained as follows: special practices taking 15min 6 times a week in the BCP timeframe, with low-pace training in the first week of February and moderate-pace trainings from the second week; training simulator assisted practices with the BFB data (10min sessions 6 times a week) in the SPT timeframe, with the standard springs applied in the first week of February and loosened springs from the second week. In the competitive period (May through July) we applied only the special exercises paced and timed as described above. In August the trainings were designed in compliance with the general preparatory system design.

The differences in the pre-experimental ENMG test data for the EG were insignificant versus RG (р>0.05). The post-experimental ENMG tests rates showed high variations in the EG progress rates within the group and high intergroup (EG vs. RG) differences: see Table 2.

The prime-posture EG test rates showed multidirectional lateral variations as follows: in the left shin the amplitude dropped by 12.7%; in the left m. soleus by 16.9%; in the right m. tibialis anterior by 23.8%; and in the right m. soleus by 11.6%; with the overall significant reduction of the lateral asymmetry. The muscle activation test rates in the prime posture were found better balanced, with the frontal and lateral differences notably leveled down. The RG test rates showed some growth of the lateral asymmetry in the quiescent sitting and standing positions, plus growth of the frontal asymmetry; with the lateral asymmetry tested to grow in the prime posture as well.

Table 2. Pre- and post-experimental shin muscle activation rates in the EG versus RG

Test area

Pre-experimental data

Post-experimental data

Difference meaning rating t-criterion/ growth rate, %









1 -


2  -






Prime posture

S. tib.











S. sol.











D. tib.











D. sol.











Note: differences are rated statistically significant when tcomp > 2.101 with р=0.05; or tcomp > 2.878 with р=0.01.

Conclusion. The educational experiment with application of the training simulator assisted practices supported by the BFB data showed the proposed training system being beneficial as verified by the training progress of the EG versus RG, with better balanced activity of the leading shin muscles in the prime position i.e. progress in the postural controlling musculotendinous reflexes. The new junior fencers’ training system supported by the real-time biological feedback data was tested to improve the body support functionality, prime posture controlling and static/dynamic balancing abilities in the junior athletes. The special preparatory and developmental exercises supported by the real-time biological feedback data in application to the 13-14 year-old fencers were tested to improve the training and competitive performance of the athletes as verified by their significant progress in the key technical and tactical actions.


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Corresponding author: genchay@mail.ru


The study analyzes the effects of asymmetrical loads in the fencer’s prime posture versus footwork including shin muscles performance in attacks, defenses and maneuvering aspects. Based on the study data, we designed and tested a set of corrective exercises with the real-time biological feedback system to analyze the asymmetrical loads in fencing bouts. We found that the real-time biological feedback system applied in the 13-14 year-old fencers’ physical training process facilitates the postural control skills building process, forms the right prime posture and improves the static/dynamic body balancing skills in the training and competitive process. Special physical training practices for the 13-14 year-old fencers with application of the real-time biological feedback system were found beneficial as verified by the improved training and competitive performance rates and notable progress in the versatility and success rates of the technical and tactical actions.