5 Shoulder strengtheners to protect you from recoil

Keeping your muscles strong and flexible is essential for any physical activity. The upper body, specifically our torso and shoulders, are incredibly important when it comes to shooting posture and your ability to withstand consistent recoil and maintaining the weight of our gun throughout a long competitive shoot. Take Ethan Lowry’s advice, and you will see a difference in no time!

The shoulder is a complex joint with many structures running through it: nerves, blood vessels, bones, ligaments, tendons, to name but a few. The arm itself has only one bony joint where it is attached to your torso and that is where your collar clavicle (collar bone) attaches to your sternum (the bony point in the centre of your chest).

As you can imagine it is involved significantly when it comes to shooting: it takes a lot of abuse, 30-60 foot pounds of recoil, and that’s every time you pull the trigger. As competition shoots can last anything from a couple of hours to an entire weekend, ensuring the shoulder is strong enough to withstand this amount of force is of the utmost importance.

Shooting posture involves the arm being held tight into the shoulder joint with the arm internally rotated. Over time this can put you at risk of a number of shoulder conditions.

Imagine holding your arm out to the side to 90° for one minute. It may sound easy but I would imagine that a significant amount of you would struggle to maintain that without any degree of discomfort. Add the weight of your average 12-gauge shotgun to this challenge and it would be near impossible for most.

Shooting posture makes this slightly easier, with a bent elbow cradling the gun tight to the chest – could you imagine holding a good shooting posture for a minute straight? I would imagine this would be difficult for most. You don’t necessarily have to go out and win any strongman competitions, but consistent shooting requires excellent muscular endurance. To address this try exercises one and two.

Shooting posture involves the arm being held tight into the shoulder joint with the arm internally rotated. Over time this can put you at risk of a number of shoulder conditions and/or injuries, including impingement or tendinopathy. To help prevent against this we must ensure we train the muscles that externally rotate the shoulder. Exercise three is the best to help with this.

One final muscle group to train are those that help squeeze the shoulder blades together. We spend an awful lot of time leaning forward when shooting, with our shoulders rounded forwards. The trouble is, that this causes the muscles on our back to stretch and overtime this can cause weakness and injury. Remembering to train them is, therefore, important, and exercise four and five will show you how to do them.

These exercises should be performed on a weekly basis. You should try and progress these exercises where possible by increasing the weighted object or by increasing the number of repetitions. Consistency is key. Keep your exercises as a weekly routine, turn it into a habit. As soon as you let your exercises slip, so will your progress in strength and endurance.

Exercise One: Shoulder Press

Shoulder Press: Ensuring the shoulder is strong enough to withstand this amount of force is of the utmost importance

1. Hold shoulders and elbows to 90° with a dumbbell or a kettlebell in each hand 1. Hold shoulders and elbows to 90° with a dumbbell or a kettlebell in each hand

2. Push up, straightening both elbows fully

3. Lower your dumbbells/kettlebells down to shoulder height in a  slow and controlled manner

4. For strength, pick a heavier weight that allows approximately three  sets of five to eight repetitions

5. For muscular endurance, focus on a lighter weight that allows  approximately three set so of 12-15 repetitions

Exercise Two: Abduction

Abduction: Consistent shooting requires excellent muscular endurance

1. Hold arms straight by each side, with or without a weighted object

2. Keeping each arm straight, or with a slight bend at the elbow, reach out to side to approximately 90°

3. Lower your arms in a slow and controlled manner to your original starting position

Exercise Three: External Rotation

External Rotation: You must ensure you train the muscles that externally rotate the shoulder

1. Bend your elbow to 90° with forearm resting across your stomach 1. Bend your elbow to 90° with forearm resting across your stomach

2. Keeping your elbow tight against your side, turn your hand out to the side

3. This can be done with or without resistance as above

4. It is important to keep your elbow tight against your side. Failing to do this will result in different muscles being targeted rather than the specific ones we are trying to isolate

Exercise Four: Bent Over Row

Bent Over Row: You spend an awful lot of time leaning forward when shooting, with your shoulders rounded forwards

1. Stand with your waist bent forwards to 90° with your knees bent slightly

2. Hold a weighted barbell or a brush shaft with your elbows straight. Hold your arms perpendicular to your body – in line with your chest

3. Pull the barbell or brush shaft up towards your chest

4. Keep your elbows tight against your side and bring your elbows back and up towards the ceiling

Exercise Five: Dumbell Row

Dumbell Row: Your back muscles stretch while shooting and overtime this can cause weakness and injury

1. Leaning on a workout bench, or a secure table or chair if you’re at home, position yourself so that your torso is parallel to the floor.

2. Supporting yourself with one arm, anchoring one foot on the ground and your other leg on the bench, lift the dumbbell (any weighted object would suffice) up to chest height, whilst keeping your arm tight against your side.

3. Lower the dumbbell until your arm is straight and then repeat.

This article originally appeared in the April 2017 issue of Clay Shooting magazine. For more great content like this, subscribe today at our secure online store www.myfavouritemagazines.co.uk

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Posted in Advice and tips, Coaching, Features, Technical

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