Recently I had the opportunity to attend the NWRC here in Idaho. It was to be my first ever “real” shooting competition. In conjunction with my lack of confidence in my shooting ability, I figured I’d stick out like a sore thumb due to my over-zealous eating habits. My perception was that the fitness level of a Pro-Shooter was equal to that of a Pro-Athlete. ‘Lo and behold, upon arrival on the first day and throughout the weekend I witnessed exceptional shooters of all shapes, sizes and builds. I was ecstatic as I watched the most unfit seeming, lumbering man walk up to the line and then lithely out-perform the fit guy that was up before him. Now, this is somewhat of an exaggeration (somewhat) but it got me thinking about how big a part physical fitness plays in one’s shooting ability.
After consulting several online “experts,” I found that the general consensus is that shooting quickly and accurately depends 90% on Brain Fitness. Brain Fitness in shooting sports is commonly constituted by the ability to focus, deal with match pressure, and recognize repetitive patterns. So, that leaves 10% dependent on physical condition. It is obvious that one needs at least the strength to hold up the firearm, and a higher or lower level of strength depending on what firearm is being used. It takes less strength to lift and hold a .22 Ruger pistol than it does an AR15. The ability to do that probably constitutes the entire 10% for the beginner or once-a-year shooter. Yet, there are many other aspects of physical fitness that can make up that 10% 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. A Clay Pigeon Shooter will benefit most from high levels of balance and coordination whereas a Bench-rest Shooter will depend more on heart rate control for accuracy and consistency. Unless you are a Bi-Athlete who depends on every aspect, you can choose which aspects to hone depending on what type of shooting you want to do.
If you are interested in improving your shot through strength and cardio training, there is plenty of literature out there to help you reach your goals which include workouts for all levels and areas of shooting. AccurateShooter.com offers several good articles as well as a blog which covers physical fitness in shooting for young and old alike. Shooting Sports USA also offers the informative reading on Physical and Mental training in the shooting sports. And if you’re having fun just getting out on the range, that is perfectly okay! What I’ve taken away from my experiences and research is that your current physical condition should not stop you from becoming the shooter you aim to be or participating competitively. So have fun, be safe and go shoot!