Grip Strength Training for Shooting Firearms
Shooting any gun requires careful precision in order to shoot accurately. It also requires you to have the strength to control the firearm, as well as the endurance to continue to exhibit this control throughout the full time shooting is done.
For someone who has never shot guns, they may not realize the level of strength that shooting a firearm requires. However, when you consider the overall weight of a rifle, shotgun, or muzzle loader, standing there shooting time after time can tired out the body if you are not used to it. After all, there is a reason a table is used to sight in a rifle for hunting season – this helps keep the gun still and takes strength and endurance out of the equation.
Although pistols are much lighter in comparison to rifles, shotguns, etc., the need for proper levels of strength in order to shoot accurately and maintain your accuracy for time is even more important because the pistol is held with the arms extended. This creates a lever through your upper body as you aim, so each joint from the core to the shoulder and out to the hand must maintain integrity, or else your shooting accuracy drops like a rock in a pond.
Without a doubt one of the biggest weak points when shooting a pistol will be the hands and wrists. Although many of the men and women who rely on pistols as part of their job are in excellent condition, often the training they do does not emphasis the grip very much, and can leave a whole in their physical strength that can hold back their shooting ability.
Here is a video I recently shot where I discuss how to strengthen the hands for shooting guns.
With this in mind, here are a few ways to improve your grip strength for shooting guns.
1. Increase Full Body Strength for Shooting a Gun
Some of you may already be doing some form of weight training, but if not, you should seek to bring up your overall body strength. Cardio is not enough. You need to hit the weights.
If you have never trained with weights, or if it has been a while, you are probably best off starting with some bodyweight work. Good Upper Body Bodyweight Exercises include Push-ups, Pull-ups, and Dips. For the Lower Body, you can’t beat Bodyweight Squat variations, lunges, and bridging.
After some time of this, you can move into some weight training. For general strength, you can stick with the basics. Always keep doing Pull-up and Chin-up variations, but also learn how to Bench Press, Overhead Press, Deadlift, Row, and Squat properly, and you will be well on your way to developing the full body strength that will keep your legs, core, and torso stable for handling a gun.
2. Increase Your Grip Strength for Shooting a Gun
There are hundreds of ways to increase your grip strength for shooting rifles, pistols and other firearms. This website has some great posts laying out some very good high-impact grip training exercises that will carry-over well for your shooting.
However, taking a “shotgun” approach (pardon the pun, but I couldn’t resist) when addressing your grip strength is a mistake. You should always have purpose in your training. With that, let’s outline each aspect of the grip that needs to be addressed in your training.
A. Hand Strength
When discussing grip training for firing a weapon, the important thing to remember is that you must include work where you actually hold and fire your weapon, for the sake of specificity. However, there are some ways you can use strength training tools at the gym to get your grip stronger in some degree of specificity, as well.
Crushing / Grippers: As one of my readers, Gary, wrote in, you must be able to squeeze a pistol with some appreciable force in order to control it. He says:
“I am an avid handgun shooter who trains grip using blobs, wrist movements etc, however the most important area to focus on is the crushing aspect for handguns, notably by using grippers. -Gary-”
When you train with your Grippers, don’t get stuck in the rut of just performing a bunch of repetitions when you train them. Remember, when you fire a gun, you must exert a longer, controlled squeeze for control, so make sure you duration of force with your grippers lines up well with the time that you will be shooting your firearm.
In other words, if it takes 8 seconds to empty all the rounds in your gun, then practice your holds for 8 seconds or even longer with your gripper. It is also not a bad idea to hold the gripper up and away from you, just as you would when you are aiming and firing a pistol.
Crush Grip Training for Pistol Shooting Hand Strength
Because the gripper is lighter than the pistol and entails less leverage, I’d also like to suggest some other drills that can help you build more well-rounded hand strength and to help to take your performance to an even higher level by working other areas of grip strength.
Pinch: The Grip used on the handle of a pistol is also a Pinch. When discussing Grip, Pinching is the type of grip where the thumb is the limiting factor. Usually the thumb works in opposition to the fingers, but in the case of shooting a pistol or other gun, the handle of the firearm is not really large enough for the thumb to work against the fingers and instead it works to secure the handle against the palm.
Plate Pinching is a fundamental way to train the hands with the thumb as the limiting factor. There are many combinations that can be used for Plate Pinching but some of these put the hand in a very wide open position. The grip on a pistol is fairly narrow, so Narrow Pinching is probably the best option.
Narrow Pinch for Pistol Grip Strength: Plate Pinch Plus Weight
For this drill you will need two 10-lb plates, a chain, carabiner, and loading pin. Put some weight on the loading pin and attach it to the chain. Pinch the plates and lift the extra weight off the ground.
This lift closely mimics the positioning of the thumb when gripping a pistol. Concentrate on 5- to 10-second holds and work both hands.
Open Hand Training: Of course, open hand training is always a good option for bringing up your general hand strength. Five years ago, this would have meant buying a thick handled dumbbell or an fat barbell (called an Axle), or wrapping something around the dumbbell to make it thicker, but these days, there is a much simpler option. Fat Gripz will pop right onto a dumbbell, barbell or other device (like a chin-up or pull-down bar). The investment is much less than a thick-handled dumbbell or fat axle, and much less cumbersome than wrapping a towel around the handle.
Fat Gripz Band Hold
Many people do not realize that Fat Gripz can be incorporated with bands, in addition to barbells and dumbbells. For this drill, choke a band of the appropriate strength level to a sturdy object. Attach the Fat Gripz handle to it and take a position as if holding a pistol. Be sure to cycle through all the grip positions used by both hands. The same type of drill can be done mimicking the position taken when shooting a rifle as well.
Please take note that I do not shoot pistols, so my technique may be somewhat off. Be sure to approach your resistance training the way you would your shooting by using the proper stance, body positioning, etc, when performing these drills.
Wrist Strength is important for shooting. The wrist needs to be strong in order to keep the gun steady, and it needs to have endurance in order to perform well over the duration of a shooting competition.
There are many great ways to train the wrists using leverage devices. Leverage devices can be just about anything where there is weight held out away from the hand. Hammers, sledgehammers, baseball bats, and even loadable dumbbell handles can be used to train the wrists.
Since the leverage experienced in shooting a pistol mostly takes place along the lines of deviation, these are the movement patterns that should be trained for pistol performance. From time to time, wrist flexion and extension exercises can also be peppered in for well-rounded development.
Leverage Bar Hold
This simple exercise can be done with any type of leverage device. Here, it is done with loadable dumbbell handles, which are a fairly common item at gyms and can be picked up for cheap at sporting goods stores.
Grip them by the end of one loading sleeve and hold them at your sides for time. This trains the muscles on the thumb-side of the wrist (the radial deviators), which can tire out when shooting a pistol, especially one-handed.
When you reach the point that an empty loadable is too light, feel free to add weight. If 2.5-lbs weights are too heavy for you, try balancing or hanging something across both handles for some extra resistance. Naturally, if the implements are too heavy, feel free to choke up on the handles.
Hybrid Grip Drill – PVC Banded Hold for Pistol Grip
I also came up with a pretty cool way to train the hands specifically for firing a pistol in an article I wrote a while back, called “Functional Grip Training for Law Enforcement.” This combines several of the disciplines we’ve already discussed.
“One of the challenges of aiming a gun, especially for those who are new to using a pistol, is the leverage of the heavier firearms in the out stretched arm. Their surprising weight causes new personnel to shake and become incapable of maintaining an accurate site picture, let alone an accurate shot. The following exercises will help strengthen the lower arms and wrists to be better prepared to aim and hold a gun.
For this exercise, you will need a length of PVC Pipe 1.5 to 2.5 inches in diameter about 5 inches long, a large carabiner, and some JumpStretch or other elastic training bands.
Run the band through the PVC Handle and clip the carabiner onto the bands. This will keep the bands from popping back out through the pipe. Next, choke the bands toward the bottom of a squat cage or other sturdy structure.
Stand several feet away from the squat cage, grasping the PVC pipe as if it were the handle of a firearm. Raise the handle upwards, attempting to keep it perfectly vertical. Once it reaches shoulder height, keep it there, performing holds for time, shooting for a solid 30 second hold.
Both hands can also be used on the device, allowing for more band tension to be used.”
To read the entire article, click here: Grip Training for Law Enforcement Personnel
There you have a few of the ways you can train your body and your lower arms for increased performance. Without a doubt, there are many, many more things you can do. Remember, shooting a pistol is very technical and requires physical strength throughout the body.
Also, as you can see, it is not necessary to always buy extremely expensive gear in order to train the grip. Sometimes all you need is already at the gym, or somewhere in your garage.
Any further questions, feel free to comment below, and do not be afraid to direct others who you shoot with you to this article and this site.
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All the best in your training.
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