Stuck at home unable to get out shooting? Becky McKenzie has some advice on practising your swing and keeping fit.
Many of us are now unable to get out to a shooting ground, whether for a registered Sunday shoot or just for practice. So I have put together a few tips to keep you in the swing of things, so to speak!
Even when I am shooting regularly I practise at home maybe three times a week. If you aren’t able to get out shooting, you could usefully do the following exercises maybe three or four times a week.
Keep the sessions fairly short, at perhaps 5-10 minutes, as it isn’t helpful to keep going when your muscles tire and your movements become less fluid.
First of all, you can practise your gun mount anywhere, even in your own living room. A good consistent gun mount is vital to good shooting, and being stuck at home provides an opportunity to work on this, building up that muscle memory without the distractions of the shooting ground.
If you can stand in front of a mirror that’s ideal, but a wall or door will work too. Make an aiming mark on the surface, roughly at eye level. Take care not to use anything that will damage the surface – a knob of Blu-Tack is ideal but you could also use sticky tape a piece cut from a Post-it note.
For a bit of variety, you can place marks at different heights. Ensure that passers-by won’t see you waving a gun around in your home, as you don’t want to cause a panic, and of course make very sure your gun is empty.
Put on your Skeet vest so you have the same clothing you’d wear out on the range, and stand a good distance away from the mirror or wall, perhaps 8-10 feet, so there’s no chance of actually hitting the surface with the muzzles.
Address the mark on the wall as you would a target, using the correct stance and foot position. Your hold point – where you place the barrels – should be slightly below the mark in front of you.
Now slowly mount your gun to the ‘target’ in front of you. Make sure you look at the target at all times, and don’t allow your focus to drift to your barrel or bead. Use your guiding arm to push the gun to point of aim – that’s your left arm if you are right handed, and vice-versa for left handers.
Practise your swing
You can also use your mirror or wall for crossers to practise your swing. This is particularly good for novices, who naturally tend to stop when they get to the clay. For this one you will need a horizontal line stretching for 6-8 feet across the mirror or wall in front of you.
Electrical tape can work well for this, but as before do be careful not to use anything with strong adhesive that might pull off the paint or wallpaper! Make an X towards each end, to indicate your ‘kill point’. Follow all the precautions noted above, including making sure the gun is empty.
As an alternative to leaving the chambers empty, you can use snap caps which would allow you to go through the whole action of pulling the trigger. If you’re doing this, then do check and double check that they really are snap caps you have loaded, and any live ammo is locked securely away so there’s no chance of a mix-up.
Make sure there’s plenty of room all around so you can’t knock anything with the barrels as you swing. OK, now you’re ready to practise your mount on crossers, using visual preparation. When I’m practising on the range, I visualise the clay moving as I am loading my cartridges into the breech.
At home you can do this by holding the gun as you would, and load imaginary cartridges or your snap caps. Close the gun, and adopt your ready position with the gun at your selected hold point. Call “Pull” as you would normally, start to move, and mount along the line.
Keep the gun swinging and when you get to the X, squeeze the trigger (or pretend to if you don’t have snap caps) making sure you keep your swing moving after the ‘shot’. Repeat this drill from left to right, and right to left.
As with gun mounting practice, don’t over-do it – keep each session to no more than 5-10 minutes, and stop when you feel it’s no longer productive.
Build those muscles
Being isolated at home you may enjoy a bit of strength training, and that can only help with your general fitness as well as your shooting. Personally, in normal times I go to the gym three times a week for strength training, and run six days a week.
You may hate the thought of exercise like this – so did I when I started, now it’s more of an addiction! For shooting, strength training your core, shoulders, biceps and triceps can help. If you haven’t done any training before, you do not need anything particularly heavy.
WARNING: Please note that before undertaking any sort of exercise that you have never done before, you need to think about any health conditions or injuries you may have. If you have any concerns whatsoever, check with your doctor or physio that the exercises are safe for you to use.
At any time if you feel a sharp pain, stop this exercise immediately. A dull ache like you’ve made your muscles work is not a concern, but any sharp pain is a warning to STOP.
Core strength for shooting
Core exercises train the muscles in your pelvis, lower back, hips and abdomen to work in harmony. This leads to better balance and stability, whether on the playing field or in daily activities. In fact, most sports and other physical activities depend on stable core muscles. Gentle sit-ups and leg raisers are good for the core.
When doing sit-ups for the first time, have someone hold your feet down, or use your bed or sofa and tuck your toes underneath, knees slightly bent, hands on the side of the head. Don’t put your hands on your neck, or you will use your hands to pull you up, not your stomach muscles.
Lying flat, gently and slowly lift your back off the floor. You do not need to come all the way up to your knees. Just lift a few inches at first, hold it for a couple of seconds, then go back to the floor slowly. Do this ten times, rest, then ten more times.
Lie flat on the floor, with hands by your sides, palms down. Then slowly lift both legs together slightly off the floor, hold it for a few seconds, then put your legs back on the floor. Repeat ten times, rest and repeat as above.
For this you will need something relatively light to hold in your hands – perhaps a light dumbbell or kettle bell. If you don’t have purpose made exercise equipment, you can use a bottle of water, or even your gun!
With your arms by your sides, hold the weight evenly distributed in your hands. Keeping your elbows in, curl the weight up towards your shoulder – not all the way – and then back down.
Make sure to keep your elbows by your side throughout, so you are engaging your bicep muscles only. Do three sets of ten, allowing a rest between sets.
The tricep is the opposite muscle to the bicep. You can do this exercise standing up and, like the bicep curls, it can be done with dumbbells, kettle bells or water bottles. Use light weights for your first time.
Hold an equal weight in each hand. Raise the weights above your head and lock your elbows. Now bend your forearms backwards down the side of your head, then straighten back up again. Do three sets of ten times, with a rest in-between.
This exercise is performed with your gun, dumbbells, bar bell or kettle bell – something with a little weight. You can do it sitting or standing. Relax your legs, stand (or sit) straight, and hold the bar bell or gun with over hand grip, with your hands at shoulder width apart.
Now, nice and slowly, raise your hands above your head, then again slowly back down to your chest. Complete this ten times, rest, another ten, rest again, then ten more.