We have already talked about training your primary or large muscle groups—legs, back, abdominal stomach and chest. These muscles build the “foundation” upon which you will build your “house.” Your body recruits muscles to perform any task in the order of largest to smallest. For example, when you lift a jug of milk, a cascade of muscle fibers begin to be recruited and start twitching. Yours legs will tighten; your abdominal muscles will contract. Your chest and back muscles will begin moving your arm.
It is your secondary muscle group that we will focus on now. Those secondary muscles will gain you seconds in your shooting—and hunting—times by acting as backup to fatiguing primary muscles, as well as strengthening your grip (allowing for a rock-steady position) and anchoring you solidly to the ground.
The secondary muscles used to lift a gallon jug of milk include the muscles in your arms—biceps and triceps—but also your forearms and the muscles in your hands controlling your fingers. Your feet and your calves tighten to stabilize your body against the weight of the gallon jug. Small muscles in your shoulder will move and lift it to elevate the load. The following exercises will help in strengthening those muscles.
Diamond Push-ups and Dips
The diamond push-up is similar to a regular push-up, but you move your hands close together so that the muscles in your triceps work harder than your chest and back. You can perform dips two ways—on any parallel bars or railings approximately shoulder-width apart, or reversed off of a step, chair, or raised, solid object.
For both, start with two sets of 10 to 12 and work your way up to three sets to exhaustion with no more than a one-minute rest in between.
You can perform this exercise easily with an inexpensive set of dumbbells or resistance band available at any big-box or sporting goods store. I bought mine (a 25 lb. set) at a garage sale for $5.00. You can also save your gallon milk jugs, as each weighs approximately 10 pounds.
- Start with your hands at your sides, palms forward. Slowly “curl” your arm up and touch the weight to your shoulder.
- Do three sets of 10 to 12 or to exhaustion, depending on your intensity and weight amount.
Strong shoulders help to accept recoil better, allow for a stronger, more solid mounting of your gun, and are some of the more “recruited” secondary muscles in a variety of shooting-specific holds and rests.
- Holding the same weights that you used in curls at your sides, “shrug” your shoulders up and down.
- Raise the weight out to the front with a straight arm until it is parallel with the ground.
This exercise works the calves as well as the muscles in your foot. Need to see how important these muscles are? Try shooting tip-toe to reach a rest that’s just a little too-high.
- Using a step, place your toes and the ball of your foot on the step, but allow the back 2/3 of your foot to hang 3/4 off the edge of the step.
- Lower your heel to below the level of the step, then raise it up to above the step level.
- Start with one set to exhaustion, work your way up to three sets.
Next up: cardio work. How controlling your breathing and heart rate will shrink your groups and make you a better shooter.