Whether you’re firing a pistol, rifle, or shotgun, handling a gun demands a certain degree of skill. On top of knowing how to use your firearm, you also need the physical power to hold, load, and shoot. You’ll typically engage the muscles in your hands, arms, forearms, core, shoulders, and chest. Fortunately, there are various exercises you can do to target these muscles and enhance your shooting skills. Here are six to get you started.
When it comes to shooting — and shooting well — grip strength is everything. A strong and tight grip will help you hold your gun firmly so you can take your shot without wavering. In other words, getting a better grip will give you more control, especially when handling kickback and recoil.
Generally, shooters rely on finger, hand, wrist, and forearm muscles to grip the trigger and barrel. Exercises that train and strengthen these specific muscles will come in handy when you shoot. Use a grip builder tool to give these muscles a workout or practice forearm curls to target your posterior forearm muscles.
Chest and Shoulder Exercises
Good posture and positioning are also crucial to shooting accurately, especially if you’re competing in a longer competition. If your shoulders and chest aren’t strong, eventually, your muscles will tire from holding up your gun. When they do, you’ll begin to slouch, and your aim will suffer.
Therefore, you must train and strengthen your chest and shoulders, if you want to enhance your skills. Focus on exercises that target the rotator cuff and deltoids to stabilize your shoulder joint and provide more support to whichever arm you use to hold the gun. Use a band to practice external shoulder rotation and incorporate supraspinatus exercises to your routine to strengthen the shoulders. Implement bench presses, pushups, and similar movements to pump up your chest.
If you’re into weight training, lifting heavier weights may improve your shooting skills as well. Adding a few extra pounds to your rack will force you to use a stronger grip and focus on technique. As you squat, press and lift, grip the bar tightly, and engage your forearms and wrists to complete each set.
Weightlifting, in general, may also benefit the average shooter. In addition to forearm, shoulder, and chest exercises, be sure to work the back, legs, and core. Practice movements that target several muscles at once so you can strengthen your entire body. Doing so will improve posture and your overall physical fitness so you can shoot better, longer.
Speaking of total body workouts, boxing certainly fits the bill. Fighting incorporates aerobic and strength training for an all-encompassing exercise that’s bound to improve your shooting skills. Striking a bag — no matter how heavy — obviously demands a fair amount of arm strength. However, it also requires upper body, lower body, and core strength.
Boxing with speed bags, double-end bags, and mitts can also help you improve hand-eye coordination, which is essential for hitting your target — in the ring and at the range. The fast rebound and unpredictability of these bags will keep you on your toes and ultimately improve your fine motor skills and reflexes.
As with any sport, rest and recovery are just as important as practice. Most people can benefit from cold and hot contrast baths, massages, and sleep. However, many shooters take their rest to the next level with a mix of active and passive recovery. In addition to massages and sleep, they also adopt a stretching routine to relieve tight muscles and relax.
If you’d like to improve your shooting skills with active recovery, begin by stretching the muscles you use to handle your gun. Choose active and passive stretches that target your arms, forearm, shoulders, and core. You might even take a few Yin yoga classes to learn different techniques and how to engage, lengthen, and release each muscle.
Anyone who’s ever picked up a gun knows that shooters require a deep reserve of mental strength to aim and shoot a firearm. Their pulse and breath must remain steady as they hone in on their target. More importantly, they must feel confident in themselves and their abilities to repeatedly shoot and hit targets with unwavering accuracy. Thus, their mental state plays a huge role in their performance as a shooter.
Psychological exercises, such as practicing self-affirmations, gratitude, and pre-competition pep-talks, can do wonders for uncertain shooters. Improving self-image and mood may also require more time in the gym, at the range, and in front of the mirror, all the while voicing confidence in yourself and your abilities. While these exercises may seem a bit silly, they can improve your mental state, which can enhance your performance.
Ready, Aim, Fire!
The best way to hone your skills and improve your shot is to shoot more. Pick up your gun and fire away at a local range — practice, practice, practice. While the exercises above can prove helpful, everything is second to getting out there and shooting.
What types of exercises do you do to improve your shooting? Let us know in the Comment section.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in February of 2021. It has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and clarity.