Now, no one is expecting you to go shirtless and get all oiled up to hit the range, but some attention should be paid to your fitness level to help get the best results.
Here’s a quick test:
Do you struggle to pull your handgun from your waistband or holster because your love handles are in the way?
Does the recoil from your weapon knock you physically backward and off-balance?
Do your arms and shoulders feel like lead after just a few shots?
Does the sound of your own wheezing drown out the subtle sounds of approaching game in the forest?
If you answered YES to one or more of these questions, then your fitness level may be lacking.
The word ‘fitness’ is a relative term and will mean different things to different people. Individuals come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, and our bodies adapt to the stresses that we apply to them whether they are work related or through purposeful exercise. For instance, a construction worker will differ from someone who sits behind a desk all day, just as an NFL lineman will differ from a marathon runner. Being fit also has nothing to do with being thin either. There are a range of elements that all contribute to any individual’s fitness level.
When it comes to shooting, you could argue that physical fitness doesn’t really apply. As we know, there are many people that just shoot recreationally, and maybe not that often. Perhaps you go to a range now and then or maybe you hunt a few times per year. You go out and do your thing and it is what it is. There’s always room for improvement though. Even for these weekend warrior types, at least some level of physical conditioning will help to improve their comfort level while shooting and potentially enhance their performance.
The other side of the shooting equation is for those that compete. That’s a whole other ball game. Depending on what discipline you participate in, your sport-specific needs will obviously vary. The physical demands of pistol shooters vs. clay target shooters will differ, just as they would for someone who shoots from a stationary position vs. a high-level biathlete. General fitness will be of benefit to all that compete, but with clear differences in the focus.
In taking a look at the various elements that might make up a ‘fit’ person, it’s easy enough to identify what would apply to shooting. It would also normally be self-evident where the gaps may be per individual, and this is how to best determine what improvements might need to be made. For instance, you may have great cardiovascular fitness and flexibility, but have a lot of difficulty raising and holding your weapon steady due to a lack of upper body strength. The opposite may also be true, whereby your strength and size aren’t an issue, but changing shooting positions or moving smoothly is awkward and clumsy.
Here are a few things to consider when it comes to the physical requirements of shooting. Like a lot of other sports or activities, many of these items interrelate or work together to create an overall level of conditioning.
This is normally considered to be one of the most important aspects of your readiness to shoot well. If you are unbalanced or unsteady, it’s much more difficult to effectively aim and fire accurately. That’s why a good amount of time is spent on shooting stances and your base of support. Issues can arise however, if you don’t have the basic strength or coordination to maintain your positioning.
This element has a number of layers that can directly affect how accurately you shoot, how long you can shoot for, and your ability to withstand the physical demands of shooting. As mentioned above, your ability to assume and hold your stance will be dependent on leg and core strength. To be able to raise, hold and fire your weapon repeatedly and absorb the percussive energy of recoil, will rely on shoulder, back and arm muscles in addition to your grip strength.
Stamina & Recovery
The ability to maintain a stable firing position through the shooting of many rounds or over longer periods of time can be crucial to your success. This could include the continued raising or drawing of your weapon, in addition to assuming and holding the specific angles of your arms and legs while shooting. Greater stamina and conditioning will allow for longer, sustained shooting, minimized muscle fatigue and faster post-shooting recovery.
On the surface, cardiovascular conditioning and shooting might not seem to go hand-in-hand. You’re usually standing still, sitting or lying down, right? In this case, it’s really more about maintaining a lower resting heart rate and controlling your breathing. If you’re ‘out of shape’, you know the feeling of huffing-&-puffing after going up a flight of stairs or exerting yourself in any way. If you have to move dynamically through a competition course or cover hilly or rough terrain while hunting, your fitness level or lack thereof can directly affect your ability to calm yourself and to focus on shooting accurately.
Flexibility & Agility
Overall joint mobility will always serve you well, but it is even more important in cases where you rely on your ability to move quickly and efficiently. This would definitely be the case for competitors, especially if you have to change positions and move dynamically while maintaining a consistent performance.
There is a general correlation between your physical conditioning, your diet and your ability to think clearly. Your overall mental acuity can be dulled by a less-than-healthy lifestyle, and it would be best to feel as sharp as possible whenever shooting – either recreationally or competitively.
There’s really no downside to improving your physical fitness, keeping in-mind that everyone is different and that there is no ideal that you should aspire to. You just have to figure out what’s right for you. No one is suggesting that adding quinoa to your diet will help to improve your shot accuracy, but a little overall fitness can’t hurt.
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