Strength Training for Shooting: The Grip Workout

September 11, 2015

Strength Training for Shooting: The Grip Workout

The demands of your shooting grip for high performance shooting are unique. You must be able to simultaneously maintain a consistent, firm grip on the weapon while maintaining a sight picture and manipulating only your trigger finger to press off precise shots at speeds up to 5-6 shots a second.

Effective weapon control is a function of correct biomechanics precisely steering the weapon back to target after recoil energy is managed. As the weapon recoils and the muzzle rises, your hand, wrists, forearms, and entire body work to absorb the recoil and then actively return the weapon back on target. All of this happens in hundredths of a second. 

It is obvious that grip strength alone does not control the weapon at high speeds; however, grip strength does lend a significant advantage in controlling the weapon. A strong grip allows you to relax behind the weapon while controlling it very effectively. This leads to better recoil management and faster, more precise shooting.  

Strength Reserve

Since we use fine motor skills to manipulate the trigger entirely separate from the rest of the hand, gripping as hard as possible interferes with this isolation. Ideally, we grip as hard as we can while still maintaining trigger isolation and speed. Think of gripping a hammer while pounding nails or gripping a baseball bat when hitting a baseball. 

What if we could grip the handgun with sufficient force without feeling like we were really straining?

This is the idea behind the strength reserve. If I have a maximum grip strength of 200 pounds and I grip the handgun with 50% of that strength, it is going to feel more relaxed and I am going to be able to easily manipulate and isolate the action of my trigger finger. 

How Much is Enough?

The amount of grip strength required will depend on the type of firearm being used and the caliber of the weapon. If you are shooting an uncompensated .40, .45, or heavy magnum caliber, then you will need more hand, forearm, and tendon strength.

To increase my grip strength, I use the Captains of Crush grippers and recommend them for serious grip strength training. In general, for upper level shooting athletes, I like to see females closing the Captains of Crush Trainer model 3-5 times without stopping. For men, closing the No. 1 for 3-5 times is good.  

Reps, Sets, and Specific training

To build your grip strength, finding your 1 rep max and then working from 50 to 90% of it is going to be key. Make sure to warm up with a couple of sets in the low end for 10-12 reps. Then work into the approximately 70-80% range for 3-5 sets of 6-8 reps. Once a week, go into the top end for singles or doubles. Use care as you can really mess up your tendons if you go too hard too often.

An example for me might look like this.

1-2 times a week:
 Sportsman’s model 10-12 reps x 1-2 sets
 Trainer model – 10 reps 1 set
 No. 1 – sets of 5-8 x 4 sets
 Grip holds while isolating and manipulating the trigger finger – 5 reps x 30 seconds with Trainer
 Finger extension bands – 3 x 15 reps to keep balance of strength
 Stretch afterward
Once a week:
Substitute only 1 set of the No 1 then jump to the 1.5 for sets of 3-5 reps x 3
No. 2 – Singles – x 3

Another great exercise is holding the gripper shut while simultaneously manipulating only the trigger finger. 

Summary 

Strength and physical training is very specific for shooting sports. Most strength coaches are generalists in their approach. Dynamic stability and balance, motor specificity, and fine motor control matter far more than raw strength. However, a specific strength program geared for shooting will see significant results in just a few months and is worth pursuing.

-Ron Avery, Co-Founder



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