Issue 34 Maintaining Balance Ryne Gioviano Practical Application to Balance Training for Shooters WARNING! The exercises and content expressed in this column are for illustrative purposes only. Consult your physician before trying any physical activity or nutritional plan. RECOIL and its contributors are not responsible for any harm or injuries sustained while attempting these techniques. When you think about balance, images of yoga poses, balance beams, or maybe some old-fashioned physical therapy comes to mind. It goes without saying that shooting is probably not on that list. When shooting, you’re on two feet, typically in a standing or kneeling position, putting several groupings down range. If movement occurs, either by choice or necessity, things tend to break down if you’re not trained properly. Balance is one of those qualities that doesn’t take a whole lot of time or energy to improve, but is critical to performance. We’ll put a different spin on it to give you some practical ways of training. Why Balance Training? Depending on your shooting position, there are varying amounts of balance and stability needed to keep your shots on target. There is more balance required in a standing position as your center of gravity is higher, and there are more joints to control when compared to prone where your center of gravity is in line with your base of support (your body). Not only that, there is a direct link between postural balance and shooting accuracy. In one study, the better the balance of the shooter, the more accurate their shots were (Mononen, Konttinen, Viitasalo, & Era, 2007). This was also shown in top-level and novice shooters, where the top-level shooters displayed better control and stability of their center of mass as compared to novice shooters (Era, Konttinen, Mehto, Saarela, & Lyytinen, 1996). Depending on your shooting situation (the range, a day of hunting, military, etc.) fatigue also becomes an issue with regard to shooting accuracy. It has been shown that fatigue can degrade shooting performance (Bermejo, García-Massó, Paillard, & Noé, 2017), which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. In conjunction with just accuracy, balance and control are also degraded to a degree. Through training, you can increase your ability to balance and stabilize both your body and the firearm. While fatigue will still be a factor, the better our ability to balance and stabilize, the better you’ll be able to perform under stress and fatigue. Let’s Make Some Tweaks to Balance Training Balance training typically focuses on the lower body and involves equipment like balance pads and cones. While these are great to use in rehabilitation settings or for general balance training, we’ll go in a slightly different direction with this to make it much more applicable to shooters like you. We want to use exercises we know will result in better performance for the specific task of firearms training. So, we’ll look at the whole body, and how it functions as a unit. That means we’ll use exercises for the lower body, but we’ll also incorporate balance (or stability) training for the upper body and the core as well. The result will be a rock-solid shooting platform, something we all want. By looking at the whole body, we’re taking into account much more than just the legs. Sure, some balance work on the lower body is great, and we definitely incorporate that. But we have to look at the body as an integrated system. This means we aim to create balance in the upper body as well. The Exercises Half-Kneeling Kettlebell Halo > Begin in a kneeling position with one knee down. > Your down knee should be nearly in-line with your front foot > Hold a kettlebell at your chest. > While bracing your abs and getting tight in the lower body, bring the kettlebell around your head in a circular motion ending back at your chest. > Complete eight rotations on one side, then switch knees and complete halos in the other direction. Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift > Start in a standing position with a dumbbell in front of your left leg. > Let the dumbbell hang as you sit your hips back and reach your left leg back behind you. > Keep your lower back flat. > Once you feel a stretch in the hamstring of your right leg, push your foot into the floor and return to the starting position. > Complete eight repetitions on each side. Supine Kettlebell Screwdriver > Begin by lying on your back with a kettlebell in your left hand with your wrist straight. > Bring your right knee up and push your right hand into the floor. > While crushing the handle of the kettlebell, perform rotations of the entire arm. For an added challenge, flip the kettlebell upside down for a bottoms-up variation. > After completing 10 to 12 rotations, switch to the other hand. One-Arm Bottoms-Up Kettlebell Split Squat > Start with one knee down and the other foot on the floor in front of you. There should be roughly a 90-degree angle at both knees. > Hold a kettlebell in the same side hand as the bottom knee. > The kettlebell will be in the bottoms-up position, with the ball part of the kettlebell above your fist. Crush the handle. > Bring the arm up so your elbow is about the same height as your shoulder, but slightly outside. > While holding the kettlebell, drive your front foot into the floor and stand up so both knees are roughly straight. > Slowly return to the starting position. > Complete 8 to 10 repetitions on each side. Bottoms-Up Kettlebell Waiter’s Walk > Begin by holding a kettlebell in bottoms-up fashion. Grip the handle with the ball part of it above your fist. > Crush the handle to ensure the kettlebell stays upside down. > Bring the arm straight overhead. > Brace your abs to ensure your lower back isn’t overly extended. Placing your free hand on your ribs can help you feel to make sure your ribs are down and your abs are tight. > Walk slowly for 30 yards and switch hands. Single-Leg Medicine Ball Anti-Rotation Taps > Begin by standing parallel to a wall, about 2 feet away in a single-leg stance. The leg closest to the wall should be down. > From this position, toss a medicine ball against the wall, being sure to only move your chest area while keeping the rest of your body tight. > Complete 10 throws on each side. Conclusion Balance training certainly has proven its worth both in the real world and numerous studies. If it’s not a component of your shooting preparation, this article is the perfect kick-start to your training. Start by adding a few exercises described above, and you’ll be well on your way to better performance and control both on and off the range. About the Author Ryne Gioviano is the owner of Achieve Personal Training & Lifestyle Design located in Aurora, IL. He earned his master’s degree in exercise physiology and is a certified personal trainer through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. You can find more information at www.Achieve-PersonalTraining.com or reach him on Facebook or on Twitter and Instagram at @rgioviano. 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