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3 Simple Stretching Exercises
Apr 1, 2023
Shooting is a static sport, but that doesn’t mean that your muscles don’t do any work. On the contrary: for your body to stand still and in unnatural positions for long minutes, even hours, they have to work overtime. At this time of the year, we’re already deep into the competition period, with lots of practice, competitions, and travels. This all affects and stresses your body, which adds to your forced shooting position. To ensure that your body supports you, you first have to show it some love. Here are 3 stretching exercises you can do straight after a shooting session. They are short and sweet but very effective.
Stretch 1: Extend Your Spine before You Unzip
After standing in a shooting position for a long time, you need to bring your spine back to its neutral position. With all the following stretches, it’s important to go slow, focus on your breathing, keep pulling your belly button towards your spine, and pushing your feet into the ground. Rifle shooters: put your jacket down, but keep your pants closed to maintain their support of your spine. On an inhale, circle your arms up and make yourself as tall as possible. With an exhale, you can shift your gaze up but without major head movement because your neck is still tight. Now, with an inhale, look straight, bend your right elbow and bring your hand behind your head. Hold the elbow with your left hand and, exhaling slowly, pull your belly button towards the spine and move your upper body diagonally up and to the left. Hold the position for an extra breath, then lift with the next inhale and repeat the stretch on the right side. To make your spine happy, make sure you focus on bending up and over – it’s not about how far you’re leaning the side, but about how high you go and how far your inner abdominal muscles let you go.
To end this sequence, stretch your neck in all directions. You can place the opposite arm behind your back to maximise the stretch.
Stretch 2: Rotate Your Spine and Stretch Your Chest Muscles
Muscles always come in pairs; if they are too contracted on one side and overstretched on the other, your body will not be balanced. Especially in rifle-shooting positions, your chest muscles get too tight, while your upper back muscles stretch. To repair the balance within your body, you should strengthen the back (Practical Pointer to follow) and open the front by stretching.
Stand in front of a wall. Rotate your upper body only, reach with your hand behind you, and extend your arm to stretch your chest muscles. Then, rotate back with an exhale and go as far as your inner abdominal muscles let you. It is important to keep your hips facing forwards, so if you are not flexible enough, position yourself more diagonally to the wall to begin with
Stretch 3: Unzip!
Yes, you read that right. Only now can you unzip your pants! (Pistol shooters, please leave your pants on at all times!) Lower your chin and, with an oval spine, slowly lower yourself towards the ground. Without exception, the feet should always push into the ground, with the knees slightly or generously bent. When you have reached your maximum, you can grasp the opposite elbows and “hang” in this position for a few more breaths.
Once your spine has relaxed, hook your fingers into your shoelaces, push your feet firmly into the floor, pull on the laces and straighten your spine to the last vertebra (this means straightening your neck as well, which feels like someone is pulling you forwards through the back of your head). Then, take a few breaths and with and exhale, pull your navel towards your spine to activate your inner abdominal muscles.
Finally, slowly rise with an oval spine. The feet still firmly push into the ground, and the navel is glued to the spine. In the middle, try grabbing hold of your knees and pulling your upper body up to stretch your shoulder blades. Then slowly continue to the top by pushing down with your legs. Lift your head last.
Bonus Stretch: The Secret of Lower Back Pain
As shooters, we are more prone to feeling pain in the lower back area. Keeping a strong core is one way to help with the strain of our forced shooting positions. However, there is another muscle group that we tend to overlook: hip flexors. We’ve covered strengthening exercises in one of our Practical Pointers already – it also includes another stretching exercise: the lunge. Read about it here and try adding it to your stretching routine.
Your body will be extremely grateful for this simple stretching sequence. These exercises are also suitable for those of you who sit a lot during the day. But don’t forget: to balance our overly static bodies, we also need something more dynamic. Fortunately, as shooters, we don’t need to look for anything in particular. All that matters is that we enjoy doing it, which not only moves the body but also relieves the mind. For specific ideas and cardiovascular exercise tips, read more here.
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