Shooting is supposed to be all about concentration and precision, but how you need a fit body to achieve that goal is the key to success.
Generally, it is important to have great balance and coordination to be a good shooter. You also have to be flexible to get the body into the correct positions comfortably, and in some disciplines it is important to be agile and quick. Muscle strength/ core strength/ balance and stability and aerobic fitness are also very important for holding the gun up and moving with control.
Physical therapy for shooters is very beneficial. It includes assessment of postural alignment, flexibility, strength, postural stability, biomechanics and the evaluation and treatment of acute or chronic musculoskeletal problems, if any, at any point of time. Though shooting may be considered an unconventional sport, most competitors would agree that consistent winning performances definitely require a certain amount of physical skill. But it is not a physical skill that relates to running, jumping or throwing. According to Dr. Robert DuVall, director of Sports Medicine of Atlanta (SMA), “shooting sports represent the essence of fine motor control in sports… few other sports require the refined motor skill and precision of shooting. Likewise, few other sports necessitate the combined physical and emotional aptitudes that are required for sport shooting success.”
There are many other aspects of physical fitness that can make up that 10 per cent such as balance, coordination, flexibility, control, lower heart rate (for accuracy), consistency and endurance. Each of these aspects will make up a greater or lesser part depending on the type of shooting you want to do.
High levels of balance and coordination are essential for a clay pigeon shooter. Heart rate control for accuracy and consistency is essential for the bench-rest shooter and pistol shooter.
Heart rate is the catalyst in shooting. If a shooter’s heart rate is high, it can affect his/her hold. A hold is what a shooter sees when he/she is looking through the sights at the target. When a shooter’s heart rate is up, the hold will move around a lot more, making it more difficult to see when the gun is best lined up with the target. So adding a cardio element to an exercise plan is a great way for shooters to develop a lower heart rate.
Combination of HIIT and slow, continuous aerobic fitness training can help in increasing the cardio base. Uphill running/ tempo runs/cross training/biathlon/swimming and circuit training also help build aerobic base. Lower the heart rate, better the breathing sequence under tension.
Although most of shooting relies on bone structural support rather than the strength of the muscle involved, having a strong core helps shooters in all positions. Balance and stability are two of the biggest factors in the physical aspect of shooting. Neturalising the recoil of the gun and balancing it are controlled by core strength and stability.
Balance is a very important part in shooting. Though having a strong core aids in attaining this desired “good balance and posture,” working on an unstable equilibrium helps in recruitment of the deep-core muscle in maintaining the centre of gravity, thus increasing balance and stability on a stable platform.
BASE STRENGTH AND ISOMETRIC STRENGTH
To hold the gun or pistol still in a position with total control and breathing requires a good amount of isometric strength. It helps in training the opposite muscle groups for better stability. It is more important than bulking up. Postural sway can be controlled through a good level of strength training. Low weights with high reps are recommended for the target muscle groups.
FITNESS PERFORMANCE UNDER STRESS AND DISTRACTION
Create a training environment through varied distractions while executing the skill. It is also done post very tiring workouts, which, in turn, helps in nervous energy channelling and also to zero in on breathing and concentration when fatigued.
- Swiss ball abs
- Overhead squats
- Isometric arm hold
- Bosu ball hip thrust
- Chest press on Swiss ball
- Neck strength on Swiss ball
To be in a relaxed position, whether standing or lying down, tightness in any area can change the alignment of the body. Important muscle groups are the hamstring, quadriceps, hip rotators (internal/external), calf, IT band, pectorals, shoulder rotators, biceps, triceps, wrists and fingers.
Mental conditioning is the final key to success. Professional sports psychologists will be able to decipher the need for an individual shooter depending on the type of skill required and set their protocols individually.
Shooters are prone to a variety of injuries due to prolonged postural stresses and repetitive movement. Many rifle shooters have knee, hip, lower-back and mid-back pain due to prolonged standing, kneeling and prone positions while supporting the weight of the gun.
Pistol shooters are more prone to shoulder, elbow, wrist, hand and neck injuries — again, due to postural stress.
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