Holding your arm out in front of you requires lots of muscles working in synchronization. Add the weight of a pistol and try to hold it steady while you shoot and fight recoil, and you need a basic level of fitness to prevent fatigue and injury. Check out the video below from Destinee of Guns Gear & Fitness to learn more about all the muscles that have to work together when you shoot a pistol. I’ll wait right here.
Shooting strong-hand-only puts particular strain on the muscles of your strong arm, but do an experiment next time you dry-fire or go to the range: get into a good, two-handed shooting stance and take note of what doesn’t feel comfortable. Your weak-hand wrist should be locked out–does that give you a forearm twinge if you hold it for more than a couple of magazines? If you shoot a revolver, there’s actually a thing called “revolver finger,” and even the pros get it. At some point in your shooting, those tiny muscles in your trigger finger that are expected to do all the hard work just…quit…working. Annnd, you’re done shooting for the day.
Start by selecting the firearms that fit your hand, your hand strength and your upper-body strength. Gradually strengthen your body to prevent concussive and repetitive-motion injuries using some basic moves that focus on the muscles you use while shooting. Adjust it to your own needs and fitness level by adding or subtracting reps and weight, and be mindful of existing injuries or limitations. Add cardio, core, and lower body work for a complete fitness regimen. Get help from a certified trainer if you’re unsure how to proceed, and always consult with your doctor before you start a new workout routine. That’s especially important if you’re nursing an injury.
Warm-Up: 25 Arm Circles, 25 Arm Crosses, 25 Wrist Circles (Repeat 2X) Dynamic stretching is the way to warm up cold muscles without risking injury. Make big movements that involve your chest, back, and core, feet directly under your hips. Complete arm circles to warm up the shoulders, then swing the arms wide and “give yourself a hug” to complete arm crosses. Wrist circles warm the forearms and get them ready to work. Speed up the movements as you get warmer, and you’ll get a little cardio warm-up, as well. Do this every time you’re going out to shoot.
Chest, Back: (with dumbbells or canned goods) 25 Chest Flys (on the floor, elbows slightly bent, straight arms going up and back down), 25 Bent-Over Upright Rows. Repeat two times or until your muscles won’t work anymore and are shaky; that’s called muscle failure, and it means you’re pushing your limits and getting stronger.
Stretch It Out: (Goal is to ultimately hold each stretch—no bouncing—for 30 seconds) Extend arms straight back, thumbs up to stretch the pectoral muscles; bend at the waist and round the back to stretch back muscles, slowly rolling up one vertebrae at a time until standing. Roll the shoulders back to complete the stretch, and don’t forget deep breaths to oxygenate and help stretch the back and chest.
Shoulders, Biceps: (with dumbbells, arms as straight as possible) 15 Front Raises, 15 Side Raises, 15 Overhead Presses. Repeat two times or until failure.
Stretch It Out: Put one arm straight out in front of you, then grab it with your other hand above the elbow. Pull it across your chest and hold the stretch. Repeat on the other side. Turn your head to look over each shoulder to increase the stretch.
Forearms: (with dumbbells) Seated, place your forearms on top of your thighs with weights in-hand. Bend your wrists only as you roll the weights up and down for one movement. For greater grip strength, relax your fingers slowly and allow the dumbbell to roll just to the fingertips, keeping them curled to keep from dropping it. Bring the weight back up into your palm by curling your fingers, then lifting your hands to work the wrists and forearms. Complete 10 reps, then stretch by pushing each hand as far back as possible toward the elbow and as far down as possible, without pain. This exercise will help prevent repetitive-motion injuries such as tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome. Repeat two times, and increase reps as it gets easier.
Triceps: (with dumbbells) 15 triceps kickbacks (one or both arms), 15 overhead triceps extensions. Repeat two times.
Stretch It Out: Bend each arm at the elbow and try to touch your upper back while keeping gentle traction on your triceps with the opposite hand. Stretch both arms.
Kick It Up a Notch: Complete this workout, adding weight and reps as you get stronger, every other day. Keep your core engaged and tight. On off days, gentle cardio such as walking is your best bet for improving endurance.
Alternative: Walk while carrying weights, pumping arms the whole time.
Always: Drink an ounce of water each day, per pound of body weight.
Source: Beth Moses, personal trainer.