Stretching is an important part of any training program, regardless of the physical activity that you are preparing for or engaging in. Golf, baseball, basketball, shooting: stretching will benefit whatever it is that you do.
Repetitive actions (i.e. lifting a gun hundreds of times a week in practice and matches) shortens your muscles. These shortened muscles become tight. Tense, tight muscles when put into use, often spasm. Spasms result in flyers, creating larger groups, and consequently lower scores. You can avoid this misfortune with a bit of stretching before and after each shooting session. Furthermore, loose muscles are less prone to damage and recuperate from fatigue quicker. On top of all of this, stretching is an effective weapon against stress: not a bad tool to have at a competition! So, stretching, as an athlete, should become one of your priorities.
What’s Involved in Stretching?
- Take it easy, gently, and slowly. Stretch to the point where you feel a gentle sensation in the muscles. If you feel pain, stop!
- Breathe while you stretch. Breathe deeply as you hold the stretch and as you exhale, stretch the muscle a bit more.
- Don’t throw your body into the stretch by bouncing or lunging. A classic dangerous example is bending over and bouncing up and down, trying to touch your toes. This is ballistic stretching and can tear muscles and do damage to your back, making matters worse. No credible fitness instructor or coach will ask you to do this.
- Once in the stretch, hold it for 20 – 30 seconds. A 5 second stretch really does nothing. Gently work into the stretching position, breath and hold for approximately 10 deep breathes.
Now for some stretches:
Below I’ve listed 10 stretches which link to pictures and basic instructions. These stretches can be viewed as a starting point. I’ve listed them in an order which makes sense to me as I work through them, but you can do them in any order that you like.
There are numerous stretches, each with their own benefits. Tailor your stretching exercises to suit your individual needs. A general flexibility program will benefit you in both your shooting and your daily life. I strongly recommend that you get involved today because the benefits will last a lifetime.
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