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Getting Into Tip-Top Rimfire Shape

NRL22 and similar games can be tough on the body—especially as we age. Here's how to combat that.

Getting Into Tip-Top Rimfire Shape

I love long-range precision shooting. Call me old-fashioned but it’s so much more fun when you’re running a .22 LR rifle. No recoil, it’s quieter, and I’m still refining the same skill set needed to run a larger caliber rifle.

If you like pushing the envelope like I do, you probably enjoy challenging yourself by shooting from various positions. Prone, half kneeling, seated, standing, using a barricade, ladder or even shooting off a tractor tire can put you in an uncomfortable position that makes it harder for you to run the gun and perform at your best.

Unfortunately, sometimes these awkward positions don’t work well for our aging bodies. For example, I know a lot of guys struggle with shooting prone simply because their head, neck and spine aren’t used to bending that way.

I have a solution to your problem. As a strength coach and fitness trainer, I know what it’s like to get uncomfortable as well as make others physically uncomfortable. Getting uncomfortable is where we grow and improve. Getting in the gym or doing your own in-home workout can make uncomfortable shooting positions comfortable or at least more manageable.

If you want to have more fun shooting long-range and spend less time popping Advil afterward, there are some areas I’d suggest you get stronger and some areas you need to get more flexible.

Let’s start with strength. You always need to spend time strengthening your lower body, legs and glutes. Exercises like squats, lunge variations and hip bridging are movements that will work wonders for your lower half.

Why do you need a stronger lower body to shoot long-range? Think about some of the positions. Prone requires you to lay flat but drive your toes into the ground and push your body into the gun for a solid connection. This requires calves and glutes. A half-kneeling position requires you to be able to get down into a lunge, stabilize, shoot, then get up.

Corey Howard demonstrates a pigeon stretch.
Strength training is key to keeping a stable position, and it’s especially important for some of the unconventional positions demanded by NRL22. But strength needs to be accompanied by stretching so you can get into and maintain those positions. Stretches like the pigeon (above) and child’s pose (below) can be a big help.

Strong legs create lower body stability. Shooting from the middle rung of a ladder may require a half-squat hold while you use the ladder to stabilize your upper body. If your legs are weak in this position, you’ll rush the shot because the burning in your legs won’t allow you to relax and squeeze the trigger at the bottom of your breath.

What about your core? Your core is everything from the base of your chest to your hips, front to back, and it’s the stabilizing connection between your upper body and your lower body. Some of the most effective core exercises you can do are anti-rotational in nature: plank variations with an arm lift, standing press-outs or even half-kneeling chops.

These teach the body to find stability in an unstable position.  If your core is strong, you’ll be able to create that solid stable shooting position.

When you’re shooting from sitting your core stabilizes, and when you’re in half kneeling your abs are keeping your body from moving around and collapsing. Shooting off a barricade or ladder sometimes requires an awkward stance or position. However, if your core is strong, you’ll be able to create that strong, stable shooting position.

Corey Howard demonstrates a child's stretch
Corey Howard demonstrates a child's position stretch to help with hip and lower back flexibility when running a dyanmic shooting course.

Another area you should spend time strengthening is your upper back. Some of the best upper back movements you can do are pull-ups, lat pulldowns, and dumbbell and cable rows. Your stronger upper back will help create the framework needed to brace the rifle.

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Not only is this good for our aging posture, but it’ll help create a solid skeletal structure to pull the rifle stock in tight so your reticle isn’t moving around. If I need to shoot off a barricade and I’m pinched for time, I might use my non-dominant arm to pull myself into the implement to create a solid framework for my rifle. A strong upper back is a big help in situations like this.

Finally, mobility, or stretching is very important. As we age, we lose range of motion in all of our joints: knees, hips, back, shoulders and neck. If you can’t move well, then getting in and out of various shooting positions—and even just remaining in them—will be a painful and uncomfortable challenge.

Corey Howard fires from a field-expedient rest on a dynamic shooting course.
Staying fit will help you shoot more effectively, especially on dynamic courses.

I strongly recommend a passive form of yoga as we age, but if you don’t want to go to a yoga class or pull up a video on YouTube, you need to slowly stretch areas like your hips, shoulders and neck. Try some neck rolls, or child’s pose for your shoulders and upper back.

Get down on the floor and stretch out your hips both in a half kneeling position as well as the pigeon stretch for your hips and glutes. By the way, pigeon is one of the most popular stretches for my male clients over the age of 45. It always relieves tightness around the low back. Some of my clients do this stretch first thing in the morning when they get out of bed.

If you enjoy precision rimfire shooting as much as I do, then chances are you like challenging yourself by shooting off various implements, firing from uncomfortable positions, or maybe just pushing yourself with a time limit like they do in NRL22. Relaxing in an uncomfortable position and pulling the trigger at the bottom of your breath is so much easier when you can move without pain.

Spend some time strengthening your body and becoming more flexible, and I promise you will shoot better and have more fun. Plus, you’ll spend less money on Advil for those aches and pains.




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