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How to Build Strength for Shotgun Shooting

I met Theresa Shields at the Fairfax Rod and Gun Club on a cold and blustery day during a demo event we were hosting. New to the shotgun sports, Theresa was a natural and smashed targets in no time. She exuded excitement about our line of Syren shotguns. We started talking and told me she was a personal trainer. I see a lot of women who struggle with lifting and then holding shotguns,  and so, we thought we should give the ladies some easy exercises to help with building not only their upper body strength but their core strength. The bonus is not just the added strength, but also, nice, shapely arms.

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Syren: How long have you been shooting?  Shooting a Syren?  Who got you involved in shooting?

Theresa: I have been shooting for a little over a year now. My husband Steve told me about an “Introduction to Trap Shooting Clinic” at the Fairfax Rod and Gun Club where we are members and I “reluctantly” decided to give it a try. I say reluctantly because my husband has been shooting skeet for over 40 years, and when we started dating over 30 years ago, I tried skeet and couldn’t hit a target! It was a very frustrating experience. However, this trap clinic at the club looked interesting to me and he encouraged me to give it a try. I took the class, and, wow, did I find out a lot! First of all, one of the biggest obstacles I discovered was that I am left-eye dominant. Once that was corrected – by placing a patch on my shooting glasses – it changed everything.  

I borrowed a Browning BT-99 from one of the instructors and I ended up being one of the best shooters in the class! After completing the clinic, I tried shooting a number of different shotguns, but none of them seemed to quite fit. I used a BT-99 for a while until the recoil got to be a bit too much. I next tried Steve’s old Remington 1100 with better results (and my shoulder thanked me for it), but I still had “fit” issues using a shotgun that was better suited for my husband.  

Meanwhile, Steve had purchased a Fabarm XLR5 Velocity in March 2017 that he used for skeet and sporting clays. He really enjoyed shooting the gun and told me they had a women’s model called the Syren. This past April, Syren had a demo day at our club so I signed up. I was excited to try this line of shotguns. The first time I shot the Syren XLR5, it felt so natural and like an extension of my body. The female geometry of the gun fit me perfectly. It’s lightweight and easy to handle and I loved everything about the shotgun, and ended up purchasing a Syren XLR5 (our new semi-auto is the L4S) in May. I am extremely happy, and shot in my first registered trap shoot this past June! 

Green Syren Theresa Shields

Syren: What do you do for a living?

I am a personal trainer and I can honestly say I love my job! I feel blessed to be able to do what I love. I try to lead by example and encourage and motivate my clients to be the best version of themselves. To me it’s not just a job — it is a passion. I work with all types of individuals, but truly enjoy working with women and specifically building upper body strength! Personally, my upper body strength and my understanding of body mechanics definitely enhances and elevates my shooting ability.

Syren: What are some exercises that women can do to build their strength for shotgun shooting?

Here are several body-weight-only exercises that are fairly simple and no equipment is required. You can modify the number of repetitions and sets of the exercise to meet your own personal fitness level. Always be mindful of your form and I hope you enjoy these simple, but useful exercises.

The Push-Up Bench

push up bench

push up bench

The push-up is one of my favorite exercises and has such positive effects on so much of the body, including your chest, abs, and arms. They are also excellent for strengthening your abs and lower back muscles while increasing your balance and stability.

  1. Start by placing your hands on the bench, with hands underneath your shoulders but slightly wider than your shoulders. 
  2. Come onto the balls of your feet and position yourself in a plank position. Be mindful to keep your hips lifted and core engaged.
  3. Bend your elbows, and lower your body toward the bench, keeping your body in a straight line engaging your core and legs throughout the entire movement. Repeat 8 to 10 times.

Superman Exercise

Superman Exercise

Superman Exercise

Superman Exercise

The Superman exercise is effective for developing strength and endurance in the back (erector spinae), while helping to prevent injury and postural spine problems.

  1. Lie face down on the ground with your arms straight out overhead on the ground and your legs out straight out behind you.
  2. You should be relaxed and your neck should be in a neutral position.
  3. Squeeze your glutes (butt cheeks), back and shoulders and raise your chest and legs off the ground. Get your chest and quads up as high as possible, while keeping your neck neutral. Then retract your arms back and inward toward your spine, retracting your scapula. Hold for a count of 3 to 4 seconds, then return to your original position.  Repeat 8 to 10 times.

Plank Rows

Plank Rows

 Plank Row upper body strength

Plank Rows

The Plank Row is a dynamic exercise that primarily works the mid- and upper-back muscles while increasing stability in your spine and shoulders. It also hits the abs and obliques, which makes this a super useful exercise for shotgun shooters! 

  1. Start in a plank position with your legs wider than hip distance apart. This will help with stabilization. 
  2. Engage your core and glutes while keeping your elbows close to your body. Lift one arm up, rowing your arm back while bending your elbow up, lifting as high as you can toward the ceiling while squeezing your shoulder blade back. Return your hand to the floor. Repeat on the other side alternating back and forth.  Repeat 8 to 10 times.

Bench (Chair) Squats  

Bench (Chair) Squats

Bench (Chair) Squats

Bench (Chair) Squats

Bench (Chair) Squats core strength

This is a perfect lower body exercise for beginners! It works your glutes, hamstrings and quadriceps while using your core to stabilize the movement.

  1. Stand in front of a bench or chair with your feet slightly wider that hip distance apart.
  2. With your weight centered in your heels, bend your knees and shift your hips back, slowly lowering your glutes down onto the bench or chair.
  3. Activate and tighten your core and immediately stand straight back up, keeping the weight in your heels. Repeat. Again, challenge yourself, be mindful of form and fitness level. Focus on the muscle being utilized and complete a set. 

Bicycles – Rotational Crunch

Bicycles - Rotational Crunch

Bicycles - Rotational Crunch

 It is the best exercise for strengthening the entire abdominal area and is one of my favorites.

  1. Lie face up on the ground with your hands behind your head, one leg straight and lifted about 3- to 5-inches off the ground, the opposite hip and knee bent to about 90 degrees. Be mindful not to pull on your neck and head. Just place your hands gently behind your head.
  2. Curl your torso and pelvis toward each other, rotating your torso toward the bent leg, bending the straight hip and knee to 90 degrees each.
  3. Repeat the move by rotating your torso toward the opposite side, straightening the bent leg and bending the straight hip and knee to 90 degrees each.
  4. Continue alternating back and forth to complete a set! Keep your belly drawn in, stomach tight and neck relaxed. Challenge yourself. Maybe two sets of 10 to start. Adjust the exercise according to your fitness level. 

Reminder: You can modify the number of repetitions and sets of the exercise to meet your own personal fitness level.  Always be mindful of your form.

Syren: What do you most like about shooting shotgun?

Theresa: Shotgun shooting has really provided a mental focus outlet for me, as well as being such a fun outdoor activity. I enjoy the competitiveness of the sport, and I deeply enjoy the mental aspect. The “being present in the moment” that you must have when shooting truly excites me and I also enjoy the mind/body connection it provides. Absolute concentration and mental clarity, as well as fine motor skills and strength, are a must in the sport. Quite a balance of many things is needed to be successful. I also enjoy all the different people you meet. I have met a lot of wonderful individuals from different walks of life that I probably would never have met had I not been involved in shooting. It’s a great community and everyone is so helpful. It’s also a sport that my husband, son and I can participate in together. 

Green Syren Theresa Shields 2

Syren: What are your tips for ladies to get involved in shooting in their area?

Theresa: Shooting is a great sport for women to get involved in. Locate a local shooting club and sign up for a class. A lot of clubs have beginner trap and skeet leagues; consider joining one! I happened to have a husband and son who were already involved in shooting, so it was easy for me to get started. Don’t be intimidated by this mostly male-dominated sport. You will find that just about everyone is willing to help you. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for advice and questions. At our club, I was able to meet Ray Ycong, a world record holder in trap. I got a couple of lessons from him just by asking. Ray was very supportive and happy to lend his expertise. The community is very helpful, and I have found so many people who will go out of their ways to assist and give me instruction. Almost all the competitive trap shooters at the club always invite me to shoot with them and are available for guidance and help. It’s been great! They really support me as a shooter and want me to be successful.

Theresa is based in the Washington, D.C. area. You can follow her on her Facebook page, Theresa Shields Fitness Solutions here.

Lynne Green learned exercises to build upper body strength and core strength for shotgun shooting from Theresa Shields, a personal trainer. | #womensoutdoornews #shotgunshooting #exercisesforshooting #stayinshape #syrenUSA #shootingsports #sportingclays #shotgunsforwomen #coreexercises
  • About Lynne Green

    Prior to becoming the Brand Manager for Syren, Lynne Green served as the Executive Director of Atlanta Charity Clays, disbursing more than $300,000 to local area children’s charities in 2016, bringing their total to over $4.3 million in 26 years. Most of her career has been spent as an IT Infrastructure Project Manager working on multi-million dollar projects such as merger/acquisitions, data center migrations, desktop deployments and outsourcing conversions for several Fortune 500 companies.

     

The Conversation

2 Comments
  • Natalie Critchley says: October 18, 2018 at 8:33 am

    Great article! Prior to moving out fo the area, Theresa was my personal trainer. She is a great trainer and friend. I’ve noticed her shooting pictures on FB. I shot clays for the first time last weekend in NC. My spouse and I used my brothers shotgun and it was too heavy. We both had beginners luck even with the heavy gun:) Please email me some information about Syren. If we decide to continue with this sport, we’ll need to think about shotgun designed for women. Thanks.