The following article was adapted from “Shooting Equipment and Physical Training for Silhouette” written by Dennis Martinen and published in the NRA Clinic Series book Silhouette Rifle and Pistol Shooting (1997 edition). Although an older book intended for championship-level Silhouette rifle and pistol shooters, all competitive shooters can still benefit from the information in Mr. Martinen’s article.
Physical Training For Silhouette
By Dennis Martinen
If we are looking at the level at which we are to be satisfied and feel good about our shooting performance, know that a lot of things affect it. You need to look at what you are doing and figure out how to improve. Not only is there position, sight picture and trigger control, but there’s also the dedication it takes to be a top shooter.
I’d like to talk a little bit about diet because I think you have to visualize your body as a machine that is going to do work. Your body undergoes a lot of stress during a match, and you experience fatigue at the end of the day. You cannot ask your body to cope with the stress of doing everything right and then ask it to work doubly hard by loading it with a large amount of food just prior to shooting. Whenever I’ve done that, I’ve found my timing was off and my coordination wasn’t there because my body wasn’t functioning at its highest level.
“Your machine will not work very well when you don’t fuel it correctly.”
Remember that shooting is a sports event. The night before a marathon, the runners don’t sit down and eat lots of steak because that kind of food puts too much stress on their bodies so their bodies can’t function well. Just like the marathoners, you should eat a high carbohydrate diet the day before the tournament, and during the match, eat lightly throughout the day to keep your energy up. Fruit and crackers are good; but remember, stay away from caffeine. Your machine will not work very well when you don’t fuel it correctly. You can’t go out and have a big time tonight and expect your scores to be where you want them tomorrow. If you decide to go to an all-night party, fine, but don’t be surprised tomorrow if your scores are not what you want.
Your body must be in reasonably good physical condition to put forth the energy you need during the day. This is a sports event—think of it in those terms. Your body is being asked to absorb energy to the tune of about 2,000 foot-pounds every time you crack that trigger. As you are being jerked, pushed and pulled, your muscles are being stressed, and as fatigue sets in, your performance goes down.
Mental training and sight picture are important but along with that goes physical stability. Remember you are shooting from the feet up. If the old legs are trembling, you aren’t going to be as effective when the wind blows as you would be if they were in good shape. In the excitement of the match, your heartbeat is going to increase. As you get better and better and start knocking them down one after another, it all gets harder to control. Start with your legs. You need a fitness program to keep your legs in shape. Walk, jog or do whatever it takes for you to support the level of shooting performance you desire.
The things we are talking about are a little bit like the legs that support a table. Diet, physical fitness, dedication, dry firing and trigger control are the things that support your level of shooting performance. You may have practiced everything perfectly, but if you were out all night or drank 16 cups of coffee before the match, your machine is not going to work efficiently.
Photos courtesy of Elizabeth Harty.