Medieval Workouts – How Knights Stayed Physically Fit

Medieval knights were professional warriors whose duty was to not only fight in wars but also train for war in times of peace. But while the combat training of medieval knights – the tournaments that only differed from real battles in 3 points – is pretty commonly known, the workouts that knights did to stay in shape are less well known.

The French knight and military commander Jean II Le Maingre was known to exercise by running one mile every day in his complete suit of armor (about 20kg/ 44lbs). He also regularly climbed up the inside of a ladder while wearing his armor and only using his hands to train his upper body strength.

So knights were supreme athletes!

I mean let`s face it. Climbing up the inside of a ladder while wearing a full suit of armor is already pretty impressive. But only using your hands takes that to a whole new level and makes it pretty good weight training.

Speaking of weight. Have you ever asked yourself whether or not a full suit of plate armor was actually heavier than a full suit of chainmail? Then I would like to recommend you my article here.

Needless to say that such resistance training was also reflected in the physique of the knights. But not only the physical training of knights is quite interesting, so is the diet of the medieval knights. The diet was truly the diet of an athlete and the idea that people in the Middle Ages only ate thin soups and porridge can definitely be seen as inaccurate.

Aside from physical training, knights also participated in tournaments to test and improve their skills. And while most of us probably imagine a joust, the Early and High Medieval tournaments were quite different from jousting. Only during the Late Middle Ages, when the military significance of knights started to fade, jousting would become more and more popular. There were 4 reasons for that.

But coming back to Jean II Le Maingre.

While Jean II Le Maingre had fought in the Battle of Agincourt (where he had commanded the French Vanguard) he had also spent a considerable amount of time fighting the Moors on the Iberian Peninsula during the Reconquista.

But the presence of Black and mixed-race knights in medieval Europe is a story for another time.

Take care of yourself because you deserve it. You really do.

Until next time

Yours truly

Luke Reitzer


Malte Prietzel: Krieg im Mittelalter (Darmstadt 2006).*

Sabine Buttinger, Jan Keup: Die Ritter (Darmstadt 2013).

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