Spring! That beautiful time of the year when the days get longer, the weather gets warmer and we start spending more time outdoors after being stuck inside all through the dreary, cold winter. It’s always in early spring that I regret letting my workout routine get lax. It’s easy to slack off when you’re covered from head to toe in bulky, warm clothing, but come spring, the layers start coming off and the realization sets in that maybe you need to get into better shape. While you’re at it, why not target those areas that will also help you get into better “shooting shape” with spring training!
Just over two years ago, fellow TeamWON member Julie Golub introduced the hashtag #shootfit while tweeting her daily walking mileage count at SHOT Show. This really struck a chord for me and made me realize our physical well-being and strength also plays a huge role in our shooting. Last month I covered some tips and drills to get your shooting in shape; this month, let’s talk about us!
Besides the obvious health benefits of being in better physical shape, being in better “shooting shape” can help get your shots on target. Have you ever thought about the muscles that you use when you shoot? There are actually a lot of them. The obvious muscles involved when you shoot are the ones that provide arm strength. However, hand strength, a strong core and even leg strength all come into play as well. And it’s important to maintain them all: If you’re spending the day at the range and get fatigued, you can take a break, but if you’re in a defensive situation, a rest break may not be in your best interest!
It’s time for spring training!
Looking for ideas on how to get into better shooting shape, I reached out to my fellow New York State Rifle Pistol Association member, Nicole Katz. Nicole is not only a fitness professional, but she’s also a huge advocate for the Second Amendment and enjoys shooting, too! I asked Nicole which exercises she recommends to assist in getting my shooting muscles back in shape after the winter.
Here’s what Nicole had to say:
Spring is finally here and like me, I’m sure you are so ready to get some serious range therapy! But first, if you want to improve your performance on the range, be it with a shotgun or pistol, there are a few key exercises every woman should do to help boost their skills. I picked the 3 best moves that any woman can learn regardless of experience. Balance, core strength, stamina, a strong back, solid foundation and, of course, grip strength are necessary when handling a firearm and are the focus of the following exercises.
One of the oldest and simplest exercises, the push-up recruits all the muscles in the upper body while working the core simultaneously. Push-ups build functional strength in the forearms, shoulders and chest. Performing push-ups regularly will help get rid of those dreaded jiggly “chicken wings” because the pushup works the triceps, or the back portion of the upper arm as well.
Start with at least 5 sets of 15 repetitions at least three times a week, working your way up to 10 sets of 20 repetitions. Don’t worry if you are unable to perform a single push-up. There are a few tricks to help you build up to a perfect push-up. If you have very limited upper-body strength, start with modified push-ups on a wall with your body at a diagonal. Advance to performing them on the floor on your knees for a few weeks. Pretty soon you will be able to do a perfect push-up! The key is consistency; attack them every day if you can.
So many benefits in just one move! Performing lunges with or without dumbbells will increase your balance and stability, functional strength and core strength, give you a strong foundation, and shape your quads (thighs), glutes (butt), hamstrings and calves. Keep your upper body straight, with your shoulders back and relaxed. Look straight ahead while executing the movement, and keep your core engaged. Step forward with one leg, lowering your hips until both knees are bent at about a 90-degree angle. Make sure your front knee is directly above your ankle, not pushed out too far, and make sure your other knee doesn’t touch the floor. Keep the weight over your heels as you push back up to the starting position.
Yes, women can do pull-ups. Just 2 years ago I wasn’t able to do a single pull-up. But now on back days, I do a few hundred. The benefits—aside from turning heads and dropping jaws while wearing an open-back dress this summer—are huge. Few moves will strengthen your entire back like the pull-up. Even just hanging from the bar has powerful benefits for your posture. Pull-up training develops your lats, upper back, shoulders and arms, and even hits your abs to a surprising degree. Having a strong upper back is especially important for women to help support the weight of our breasts. Performing pull-ups regularly will help give you the coveted “hourglass” physique, because the bigger your lats (back muscles) are, the smaller your waist appears. And again, like the push-up and the lunge, the pull-up develops your real functional strength, so everything you do will become easier.
There are a few different modified variations of a pull-up for beginners. Practice and work your way up to performing a full unassisted pull-up in no time. Use a box or bench to stand with your chin either at or above the pull-up bar. Grip the bar underhand (palms facing you) with arms bent. Step off the box if your chin is already above the bar (or jump up so your chin is above the bar) and lower your body by extending your arms as slowly as possible. (If you’re lucky enough to have a workout partner, he or she can spot you by kneeling down and supporting one or both of your feet as you raise and lower your body to the bar.) Another trick is to focus on just the negative portion (lowering your body down from the bar) of the pull-up.
All 3 of these exercises require minimal (if any) equipment, and you don’t need a gym membership to do them!
There’s so much you can accomplish with just your body weight and your determination. Be consistent and you will be amazed with the results you get on the range. And by the way, if you stick to this program, in just a few weeks you will be pleasantly surprised with how good you look! Just in time for summer.
Nicole offers excellent advice, which now has me motivated to get started with these three exercises. It’s also important to remember that exercise comes in many forms. Don’t discount different types, such as yoga or Pilates. Both are effective for building core strength, and yoga is excellent at helping you control your breathing, which is a very important (and often overlooked) part of shooting.
We’re all pressed for time, but keeping our bodies in “shooting shape” will help us not only greatly improve our overall physical well-being, but it will also help put our shots on target! If you’re like me and need some extra motivation to get up and get working out, I find it helps to remember that working on these targeted exercises will improve my shooting, and that is something that truly does motivate me. Getting into better shooting shape is something we should all aim for!
If you missed Spring Training Tip part 1, follow this link.
Annette Doerr is a freelance outdoor writer and business services consultant living in suburban New York. This married mother of two is an NRA Certified Pistol Instructor and Range Safety Officer. Annette is not only passionate about the sport of shooting, she also loves helping new shooters get involved, especially women and teens. An active equestrian, she enjoys riding her American Quarter horse, Cody. She volunteers in greyhound rescue and adoption, and shares her home with Casper, a rescued racing greyhound, along with her her cat, Tony, and her husband, Bob. Visit Annette at WeShoot2.com, her personal blog. View all posts by Annette Doerr