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Modern-day jousters as fit as pro-footballers

Tests show one jouster had fitness similar to a pro-footballer. Photo: English Heritage/Jim Holden

Today’s jousters have similar levels of fitness and strength compared to a professional footballer, top tennis player and a Formula 1 driver, research by English Heritage reveals.

As part of pre-season preparation for jousting tournaments at castles across the country, jouster Roy Murray was put through his paces at the Physio and Sport Science Centre at the University of Bath, undergoing a range of physiological tests used to train Olympic athletes.

The results from the sports laboratory revealed the impressive level of fitness and strength required to joust at the highest level and the requirement of jousters to be an all-round athlete:

Jouster's body fat. Average male 15-20%. Pro-footballer 8-10%.

How 33-year-old Roy scored in other tests:

  • Cardiovascular fitness: Roy scored 55ml/kg/min in the ‘Maximal Oxygen Consumption’ test - the same as an elite male tennis player.
  • Strength: Roy bench pressed 67kg and bench pulled 76kg - twice the upper body strength needed to be a police officer and the same as a motor-racing drivers.
  • Core stability and balance: Physio tests ranked Roy with a core stability better than some professional swimmers and balance the same as leading acrobats.
Roy's cardiovascular tests put him in on a par with an elite male tennis player. Credit: English Heritage/Jim Holden

These results are very impressive. They indicate that jousting requires physical prowess on a par with professional footballers, tennis players and Formula One drivers combined. What is particularly remarkable is the high standards of fitness demonstrated across a wide range of areas.

– Jonathan Robinson, Applied Sport Scientist at the University of Bath

English Heritage says the results show just how physically demanding the role of a modern-day jouster is. A jouster must content with the following equipment:

  • a 3m wooden lance
  • a helmet which only allows a 4mm field of vision
  • armour which weighs 40kg (90lbs)
Credit: English Heritage/Jim Holden

Historically, boys would have been trained from a very early age; working hard physically all day every day to acquire the strength, fitness and skill required to become a medieval jouster. While modern lifestyles are very different, to joust properly in the 21st Century requires the same dedication. The knights that you’ll see at English Heritage jousts are among the best in the country and indeed the world. Achieving that level in such a physically and mentally demanding field is no mean feat, but for the audience it certainly makes for a thrilling and spectacular experience.

– Dominic Sewell, Jousting expert, English Heritage

English Heritage’s Medieval Knights Season takes place across the summer.

An English Heritage jouster takes on his opponent. Credit: English Heritage/Jim Holden