Today was the first time I shot in probably well over a month. I’ve been traveling and speaking and just keeping busy with a variety of activities and events, taking time out of practice. Luckily, it wasn’t my shot placement that suffered too much. But what was surprising was my lack of ability to hold my arms up comfortably for a long period of time, which is necessary for gun training.

It looks like I’m going to need my husband (a former certified personal trainer) to help me with some upper body strength. If I’m going to continue training and competing, I certainly need to pay more attention to these muscle groups. If you’re interested in joining me in this strength training routine, here are some tips straight from the trainer’s mouth!

1. Start Gun Training With Exercise

“Let’s just assume that you’re reading this post with the goal of picking up a quick and easy tip or two on what to do to be able to hold and shoot a gun more easily. Any type of weight lifting or exercise program you participate in will ultimately lead to more muscle strength and endurance and, more importantly, the ability for the body to efficiently and effectively recruit and fire motor neurons. The more you move, the better your body becomes at moving. Run a lot, and you’ll be great at running; swim a lot, and you’ll be better at swimming; shoot a lot, and you’ll be better at shooting! This is because of the body’s amazing ability to adapt to external and internal stress. It’s almost like our bodies don’t want anything to be hard for us, so it reacts by getting fitter and stronger.

“I would encourage everyone to start doing some sort of exercise. Not only is it good for your body, [but] a fit person has a much better chance of successfully defending himself or herself should the need ever present itself. That is what all of this is about, right? Personal protection. But, let’s say for now, you’d just like to start with being able to effectively hold a gun. Here are some simple things you can start doing at your very own home.”

2. Dry-Fire Practice

“Yes, there’s that phrase again. You see it all the time. Not only does this improve sight alignment and trigger-pressing abilities, you’ll also strengthen your ‘gun-holding muscles.’ So, instead of drawing an unloaded gun from a holster, pressing the trigger and reholstering, try picking a target and holding the gun on target and as still as possible until you can’t hold it anymore. Rest, let the burning in your upper body stop, and then do it again and again. You could even practice this using the heaviest handgun you own. A good way to keep progress would be to use a timer. Try increasing your hold times by 15-30 seconds. Believe me, after holding up a full-size .44 Magnum for two minutes, going back to a Glock 19 will make you laugh at how easy it is.”

3. Weight Lifting for Gun Training

“In addition to dry-fire practice, any upper-body weight lifting exercises will help. But we’re talking about quick tips here. If it’s not practical or convenient to use actual weights or firearms, you can work on your ‘gun-holding muscles’ using just about anything: dumbells, gallon jugs of milk, trashcans, toddlers … yes, I said toddlers. Anytime you hold your arm straight in front of you with a heavy object, you will be strengthening your muscles. Just get into a good shooting stance and hold. In addition to performing an isometric or static hold with your ‘object,’ try lowering it and raising it. Perform three sets of 15 to 20 repetitions. When you get that milk out of the fridge, don’t just fill up your cup and put it away; use it as a weight to do some front raises and then put it away. Pretty soon your gun that feels heavy will be light as a feather.”

So, there you have it: a few quick tips to getting in some training at home. It’s been a while since I’ve competed in a shooting match and I could use all the practice I can get! Maybe you have some tips, too? Feel free to share.

Whatever method you choose, just remember that perfect practice makes perfect. The gun safety rules are always in play. So don’t get sloppy or cut corners, even with that jug of milk!

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NOTE: Catch up with the other articles in our Beginner Series below:

3 Questions to Ask Before Buying a Gun | 3 Tips for Getting Started in Concealed Carry | Good Guns for Beginners | Ammunition for Beginners | Holsters for Beginners | Practical Gun Training Tips