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Study Finds Armor-Clad Medieval Knights Were More Agile Than We Thought

Medieval suits of armor were heavy and cumbersome, leaving us modern peasants wondering just how those knights of yore mustered any sort of mojo on the battlefield when facing down an opponent. Although knights relied on armor to protect them from flying arrows and wielding swords, wearing a full suit of armor was no walk in the park. Medievalist Daniel Jaquet and his team at the Planck Institute for the History of Science decided to put the agility of an armored knight to the test by dressing a volunteer in replica armor and putting him through the grueling workout routine of renowned 15th-century knight Boucicaut.

During the workout, Jaquet and company recorded the volunteer’s efforts to recreate the body-intensive medieval workout, analyzing his range of motion and gait via 3-D kinematics. The routine included various components, including chopping wood, ascending a ladder from its back rungs and climbing a rock wall, which simulated Boucicaut scaling a tower. Their analysis found that the participant retained most of his range of motion and was actually quite agile and spry while suited up in full armor. However, the team’s modern knight expended 2.3 times as much energy as normal just to walk. It’s easy to see why: suits of armor weighed as much as 110 pounds, which is the equivalent of carrying an additional person with you wherever you go.

Watch the workout for yourself to see how taxing 15th-century fitness could be.

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