Study reveals jousters are as fit as today's top athletes

We put a jouster through his paces at the University of Bath with results showing his sport makes him the ultimate all-round athlete

Jousters need fitness to rival professional footballers, top tennis players and Formula 1 drivers, English Heritage research reveals.

As part of the pre-season preparation for English Heritage tournaments across the county, we put our jouster Roy Murray to the test at the University of Bath. Here he performed a range of physiological assessments commonly used to measure today's Olympic athletes.

The results confirmed the fitness levels and strength demanded by the sport of jousting are comparable to some of today's most gruelling sports and makes a jouster the ultimate all-round athlete. 

Watch our video Jousting: The Ultimate Sport.

Read our blog Fighting Fit: The Science of a Jousting Knight.

Applied Sport Scientist at the University of Bath, Jonathan Robinson, led the tests and said he was impressed by the results.

'What is particularly remarkable is the high standards of fitness demonstrated across a wide range of areas.

'It is clear that jousters must train very hard in various different ways to maintain this fitness in order to compete in such a physically demanding sport.' 

Measuring Up: The Results

  • Body Fat - Roy has a body fat of 7.72%. The average male's body fat is between 15 and 20% while the range for a professional footballer is between 8 and 10%. Thirty-three-year-old Roy's score shows how lean and muscular jousters need to be to cope with the physical demands of the sport and the nature of the equipment associated with it (heavy armour and lance).
  • Cardiovascular Fitness - Tested to exhaustion on a treadmill, Roy's score of 55ml/kg/min in the gold standard 'Maximal Oxygen Consumption' test put him in the same category as an elite male tennis player and makes him fitter than the average Championship level footballer. It demonstrates the stamina required to take on multiple opponents on the jousting tilt yard and - as when moving from a standstill to a gallop - to cope with the short sharp bursts of activity when moving from a standstill to a gallop.
  • Strength - Following both strength dynamometer bench press and bench pull tests, Roy proved to have twice the upper body strength required to get into the police force and recorded a similar score to a variety of motor-racing drivers. As in the Middle Ages, today's jousters need to be incredibly strong to carry their 45kg weight of armour and pilot over half a tonne of galloping horse.
  • Core Stability and Balance - In a series of tests with a University of Bath physiotherapist, Roy's core stability proved better than some professional swimmers and his alignment and balance were comparable with leading acrobats. A strong core and an acute sense of balance are crucial in order to ride straight and stay upright during a joust, all while carrying a 3m long wooden lance and absorbing the sideways impact of a blow from an opponent's lance.

What does it take to joust?

Historically, boys would train to joust from an early age. They would train hard physically all day, every day to acquire the strength, fitness and skill required to become a medieval jouster. 

English Heritage's jousting expert Dominic Sewell said:

'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.'

Last summer, English Heritage launched a campaign to make jousting an Olympic sport. Since then, thousands of people have signed our petition calling for England's first national sport to be given a place at a future Olympic Games.

Throughout this summer as part of its Medieval Knights Season, English Heritage is hosting a series of jousts at its castles.

Visit our Medieval Knights Season page to learn about the science of jousting and find an event near you.

Key events

Eltham Palace and Gardens, London - 8th - 9th July
Framlingham Castle, Suffolk - 29th - 30th July
Pendennis Castle, Cornwall - Every weekend in August
Dover Castle, Kent - 12th – 13th August
Carisbrooke Castle, Isle of Wight - 15th – 17th August and 22nd – 24th August
Old Sarum, Wiltshire - 27th – 28th August
Bolsover Castle, Derbyshire - 27th – 28th August

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