The Ultimate Firearms Destination for the Gun Lifestyle

Shooting Position Fitness

Improve Your Standing, Kneeling, and Prone Shooting Positions

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.

So, you want to get better at shooting? A strength training program can get you there; you just need to focus on the right things. No, curls in the squat rack or bench presses won’t suffice. You need an updated program that builds functional strength in all three major shooting positions. Luckily, we’ve provided just that for you. Read on and find out the best way to boost your shooting performance in the gym.

Training for Stability and Control
Training for the standing, kneeling, and prone shooting positions isn’t all that challenging. We just need to get into these positions and work on some basic strength and stability. From a training perspective, we need to think about the muscles used in holding the firearm and what will help stabilize your body in general.

Your shoulders, arms, and chest can be directly regarded as shooting muscles. The core, hips, and lower body will also keep you stable as you put rounds down range. So, yes, the whole body needs to be considered when training. After all, we function as a system where everything can affect everything else. For now, let’s take a closer look at how to train.

Depending on your personal preference and the type of gun you happen to be shooting, your shooting stance can certainly be impacted. Regardless, there are needs that remain the same if you want to build a more stable stance. In the standing position, you’re the least stable. You only have two points of contact with the ground and your center of gravity is at its highest — therefore, it requires the most stability from your body. That being said, it’s very versatile as you can easily move side to side and high to low; you can also quickly move to another location.

When we’re training for the standing position, working muscles in isolation is certainly not the way to go; they all work together. In order to be as specific as possible, we’ll train in the standing position. This way, what we’re doing will have the most direct carryover to shooting performance. Let’s get into the exercises.

Reaching Squat w/Pause

  • Begin by holding a lighter weight at your chest.
  • As you begin to sit into a squat, push the weight forward.
  • Imagine you’re sitting between your knees.
  • Drive your heels through the floor and exhale fully as you stand back up.
  • Complete four sets of 10 to 12 repetitions.

AltReachingSquat1 AltReachingSquat2

Standing Anti-Extension Overhead Lift

  • Start by holding a rope attachment in both hands at about shoulder height, with the cable on one side of your body.
  • Slowly bring your arms overhead and exhale fully.
  • Brace and don’t let your lower back arch.
  • Slowly return to the starting position.
  • Complete three sets of 10 reps on each side.

AntiExtOHLift1 AntiExtOHLift2AntiExtOHLift1

Heartbeat Carry

  • Hold a weight, such as a kettlebell, at your chest
  • As you begin to walk, slowly push the weight forward until your arms are straight.
  • Pause briefly, and return to your chest.
  • Complete three sets for a walking distance of 30 yards.

Heartbeat1 Heartbeat2 Heartbeat3Heartbeat2

The kneeling position is great for changing the angle of a shot or making use of cover. It’s more stable than standing because we now have three or four points of contact with the ground (our foot, knee, other foot, and possibly our other knee) and our center of gravity is closer to the ground. There are pluses and minuses to each of these variations, so it’s best to choose the right position for your circumstances.

In training, we can choose either a half kneel (one knee down) or a tall kneel (both knees down). One isn’t necessarily worse than the other, it’ll just depend on what you want to put in your training, and what type of kneeling stance you tend to use. Generally, people with knee pain handle tall kneeling better, so if that’s you, it’s a good idea to use that position for the two kneeling exercises. Either way, though, it’ll benefit you.

When we train for this type of shooting position, we use the same muscles, for the most part, as in the standing position. The only difference is now we’ve removed the lower leg from training, placing more emphasis on the hips and core, which is a good thing.

Half Kneeling 1-Arm Overhead Press With Rack Hold

  • Start by holding two kettlebells in the rack position with one or both knees down. Squeeze your butt and get tall.
  • Crush the handle of the kettlebell as you rotate your arm out slightly.
  • Bring the kettlebell fully overhead, then slowly lower it back to your chest.
  • Be careful to brace and not arch your lower back as you push the kettlebell overhead.
  • Complete three sets of 10 repetitions on each side.

OHPress1 OHPress2

Reaching Skater Squat

  • Hold a light pair of dumbbells or small plates.
  • Reach forward as you bring one leg backward, and tap your back knee to a pad just behind where your foot was placed.
  • Drive your front foot through the floor as you return to the starting position.
  • Complete four sets of eight repetitions on each leg.

SkaterSquat1 SkaterSquat2 SkaterSquat3

Tall Kneeling Cable Lift

  • Start facing 90 degrees to a cable machine with your inside knee down. Get tall and squeeze your butt.
  • Grab a rope attachment, pull it toward your chest, and push it across and over your opposite side shoulder.
  • Your body should not move except for your upper back.
  • Slowly return to the starting position.
  • Complete four sets of eight repetitions on each side.

CableLift1 CableLift2 CableLift3CableLift2 CableLift1

When on the deck, we’re in our most stable shooting position. The vast majority of our body is in contact with the ground, so there’s very little stability required by the body relative to the other positions. Because we’re on the ground, what you gain in stability you lose in mobility. There’s very little leeway in shot angle or movement, and it’s the slowest position from which to move.

Why even bother training the prone position? It’ll make your transitions between positions easier, it’ll make crawling into position easier (think stalking), and ground-based training has tremendous benefits beyond shooting a gun. Exercises like crawling and rolling are very primitive; we learned them in our developmental sequence as babies. They can help develop a lot of reflexive stability in the core and help the left and right sides move in a more integrated way. Bottom line, you’ll do much more for your body and overall movement quality than it seems.

Taking all of that into consideration, here’s how to train for the prone position.

Plank With Alternating Reach

  • Begin by lying on your stomach with your elbows under your shoulders.
  • Pop yourself up on your toes and your forearms, with your feet wide.
  • Squeeze your butt and brace your core.
  • Alternately, reach an arm forward without your hips rotating or your hips falling.
  • Complete three sets of 10 reaches per side.

PlankReach1 PlankReach2 PlankReach4PlankReach1

Static Bear Crawl Off Knees

  • Begin in an all fours position.
  • Lift your knees off the ground, so you’re only supported by your hands and feet.
  • Step forward with your leg and opposite side arm at the same time.
  • Bring the same arm and leg back to the starting position.
  • Don’t let your hips rotate at all.
  • Complete three sets of eight repetitions both with the right arm and left leg, and with the left arm and right leg

Crawl1 Crawl2 Crawl3Crawl2Crawl1

Prone To Supine, And Supine To Prone Upper Body Rolling

  • Begin on your back with your arms straight overhead and your legs straight.
  • While keeping your lower body completely limp, move your eyes and your head to the right, and reach your left arm across your body and to the right. Your body should rotate, and you should now be on your stomach.
  • Next, again keeping your lower body limp, move your head and your eyes to the left. Take your left arm and lift it over and roll onto your back. This is considered one repetition.
  • Complete three sets of three repetitions each.

Rolling1 Rolling3 Rolling4 Rolling6Rolling1

Sample Programming

Day 1
Exercise Sets Reps Rest (sec) Comments
A1. Reaching Squat 4 10-12 45-60 Reach through shoulder blades; hold braces
A2. ½ Kneeling Overhead Press with Rack Hold 3 10/ea. 45-60 Crush handles
A3. Prone/Supine Rolling 3 3/ea. 30 Reach far, Lead with eyes
B1. Plank with Alternating Reach 3 10/ea. 30 Squeeze butt, Hips don’t rotate, Don’t let hips sag
B2. Static Bear Crawl Off Knees 3 8/ea. 30 Hold brace, Arm/leg move together, Exhale on each step


Day 2
Exercise Sets Reps Rest (sec) Comments
A1. Reaching Skater Squat 4 8/ea. 45-60 Reach through shoulder blades, Sit hips back, Just tap back knee
A2. Tall Kneeling Cable Lift 4 8/ea. 45-60 Stay tall, Hold brace; squeeze butt, Don’t arch lower back
B1. Standing Anti-Extension Overhead Lift 3 10/ea. 45 Move slow, Don’t arch lower back, Squeeze butt
B2. Heartbeat Carry 3 30 Yards 30 Slow movements, Brief pause with straight arms


Now, some of these movements might look a little strange, but that’s a good thing. You’re being exposed to some new exercises and positions that are very beneficial. They work extremely well to create stability in your entire body, as well as helping with moving and making adjustments while shooting or when transitioning between positions. Do the prescribed exercises, and you’ll see a difference down range.

About the Author
Ryne Gioviano is the owner of Achieve Personal Training & Lifestyle Design located in Aurora, Illinois. He earned his master’s degree in exercise physiology and is a certified personal trainer through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. | @rgioviano

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1 Comment

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  • Hello there,

    I’m Jane, a freelance content writer. I’ve been researching an idea for a blog-post about survival and keeping our family safe– and then I thought that this could be an excellent contribution to your site

    What do you think? Should I write it up and send you a draft?

    Kindly let me know if you love the idea, and I’ll write up a post on it!


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