It can be easy to forget that not all firearms training involves shooting ranges, ammunition or even guns. For instance, there’s a lot to be said about the importance of including regular exercise and strength training routines into the mix of your typical range drills and dry-fire practice. In fact, a workout not only is good for your body but also offers you a much better chance of successfully protecting yourself should the need ever arise. After all, that’s what self-defense is about, right? Personal protection. But let’s say for now that you’d just like to start with being able to effectively hold a gun. Luckily, there are some simple steps you can take, right in your very own home, that will increase your ability to do so. These exercises will incorporate several specific movements to help increase the strength and endurance of your “gun-holding muscles.”
Without going into an entire lecture about anatomy, physiology and kinesiology, let’s just assume that you’re reading this column to pick up a quick and easy tip or two on how to grip a gun as well as fire more easily and effectively.
Ultimately, any type of weightlifting or physical program in which you participate will lead to increased muscle strength and endurance and, more importantly, your body’s ability to efficiently 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 improve your swimming; shoot a lot, and you’ll be better at shooting. We can thank the human body’s amazing ability to adapt to internal and external stress. It’s almost like the body doesn’t want anything to be too difficult for us, so it reacts by getting fitter, stronger and more efficient.
The following activities will target your hands, arms and upper body so that you can continue to improve your skills and abilities with a gun. Perform these routines whenever and wherever you can so that you can apply your newfound strength and endurance to your range time.
Not surprisingly, one of the main areas on which to focus is grip. Your hands do a lot of the work in shooting, and it’s important to hold the gun as firmly, consistently and still as possible. As such, it’s beyond beneficial to work on your grip strength, and a simple way to do so is to use a grip trainer. They’re available in a wide variety of levels, types and prices, and you can easily add one to your daily routine. Pick one up and complete several reps (for each hand) while you’re on the phone or during a favorite podcast or show.
No grip trainer? You could even squeeze a tennis ball or something similar. Using an isometric hold and squeezing the grip trainer or ball for as long as you can is also beneficial. Focus on increasing the hold time or the number of repetitions every other week.
If you have dumbbells, you can also try wrist extensions, wrist curls or finger rolls, which basically entails rolling the dumbbell down the palm of your hand and curling your fingers to lift it back up into a grip position.
Arm and Upper-Body Strength
Arm and upper-body weightlifting exercises can certainly help, but we’re talking about simple activities that you can do in your home. So, if it’s not practical or convenient to use actual weights or a firearm, you can work on your gun-holding muscles using just about anything: dumbbells, gallon jugs of milk, trash cans, toddlers … yes, even toddlers.
Any time 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 chosen object, try lowering it and raising it. Perform three sets of 15 to 20 repetitions.
Whenever you get that milk out of the fridge, don’t just fill your glass; use it as a weight to do some front raises and then put it away. Pretty soon that gun that currently feels heavy will feel a lot lighter.
Dry training can not only help improve your sight alignment and trigger-pressing abilities but also help strengthen those 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 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 then again.
You could even practice this using the heaviest handgun you own. After holding up a full-sized .44 Magnum for two minutes, going back to a Glock 19 will make you chuckle at how light it feels.
A good way to track progress on exercises like these is by using a timer. Work toward increasing your hold times by 15 to 30 seconds per “step up” and record your progress.
Fit to Fight
Whatever exercise method you choose, just remember to be careful and intentional in your training. The gun safety rules are always in play. So don’t get sloppy or cut corners — not with that jug of milk and definitely not with a firearm.