I'm looking down the range at my stationary target. I’ve already gone through a large amount of ammo by now, and fatigue is starting to set in. The muscles required to hold up a firearm for long periods of time include shoulders, trapezius, arms, lower back, and abdominals. However, my fatigue wasn’t from holding up the firearm, as most would imagine. Luckily for me in this instance, I develop trapezius and shoulder muscles that can put the Hulk to shame. Instead, it was my dexterity endurance that was lacking. I couldn’t get my fingers to clutch weapon and pull the trigger without either jerking it or having to put down the firearm altogether. I kept wondering why this was happening. I regularly work out, why was I unable to properly fire a weapon without becoming fatigued to failure? It wasn’t until I stumbled across the term “sport-specific” fitness program that I realized I wasn’t training to meet the needs of my objective, shooting.
Sport-specific fitness training is a method where you perform exercises related directly to the desired activity. An effective sport-specific program focuses on the needs of the athlete to improve technical and tactical physical abilities. I never trained to increase my hand-grip strength, which is considered an indicator of shooting ability (Kayihan, Ersöz, Özkan, & Koz, 2013). That’s why it was almost impossible for me to load another round into the magazine and why I couldn’t control my weapon. I need to perform exercises that strengthen muscle groups (shoulders, trapezius, arms, lower back, abdominals, hand-grip) that support my ability to lift and hold up the firearm while keeping the body in the proper shooting position.
My issue with shooting lies in the fact that I solely engage in "job-specific" rather than "sport-specific" training. Job-specific fitness training focuses on individual needs by strengthening un-used muscles as well as performing rehabilitating movements for constantly-used muscles. Essentially, I train to spend my time sitting all day. Yes, you read that right. When we have desk jobs and sit for long periods of time, our hips flexors shorten. We fall victim to muscle atrophy in the legs as well as gluteal amnesia (‘dead butt’ syndrome). To prevent this from happening, I focus on strength training specific parts of my body that I don't use throughout the day. However, my training regime to offset my 8+ hours of sitting is not focused on enhancing my shooting performance.
Another example of those that require job-specific fitness training is warehouse employees. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (2016) reported that transportation and warehousing employees had one of the highest rate of injuries and illnesses, requiring days away from work and experiencing over two times the rate of musculoskeletal disorders compared to all private industries. The events leading to injury include over-exertion in lifting and repetitive motion. To prevent these types of injuries and develop a "job-specific" program, one must carefully consider the repetitive motion of their tasks. If you work in a warehouse and are constantly lifting boxes over your head, you might want to skip the shoulder press or similar shoulder isolation exercises, unless it is rehabilitative movements (inner/outer rotations, scaptions, retractions). Therefore, you shouldn't be incorporating a sport-specific training program that most people could use to enhance shooting abilities if you're a warehouse worker. You need a specified training program that supports your individual needs.
Identifying how to engage in sport- and job-specific fitness training is not an easy feat. The Army, whose been involved in physical training since 1858, is still trying to figure out the proper components of a physical fitness training program and assessment to support everyday Soldiering tasks and specified skills (Knapick, 2014). Given that injury rates range from 29-38% (Allison, Sharp & Knapik, 2014), the Army has implemented a number of fitness initiatives, including an Occupational Physical Assessment Test (OPAT), the Army Combat Readiness Test, and the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program. However, these fitness programs, such as road marches and resistance training, create risk for injury when muscles are over-trained. For example, a recent report by the Army Public Health Center (Schuh et al., 2017) found that the injuries of 72 Soldiers during road marches in U.S. Army Infantry Brigades were associated with the frequency and intensity of road marches, holding a combat arms occupation, and participating in heavy resistance training during physical training. Most would think physical training would support their activities, but, in reality, it was working against them. They were fatiguing their muscles instead of supporting them.
Regardless of the occupation, there are still gaps in our understanding of what needs to be done to achieve physical health and readiness. There isn't a "one-size-fits-all" method that will get everyone to the same destination. An office worker shouldn't have the same training regimen as a warehouse worker or someone trying to improve their shooting ability. Therefore, you need to assess your current abilities and adjust your exercises and movements based on your everyday actions, goals, and body. You need a program to fit your individual needs. Only then will we be able to reduce risk of injury and promote well-being.
Allison, S. C., Sharp, M. A., & Knapik, J. J. (2014). Predictive Models to Estimate Probabilities of Injuries and Adverse Performance Outcomes in US Army Basic Combat Training (No. USARIEM-T14-3). Natick, MA: U.S. Army Research Institute Environmental Medicine.
Kayihan, G., Ersöz, G., Özkan, A., & Koz, M. (2013). Relationship between efficiency of pistol shooting and selected physical-physiological parameters of police. Policing, 36(4), 819-832.
Knapik, J. J., & East, W. B. (2014). History of united states army physical fitness and physical readiness training. U.S. Army Medical Department Journal, 5-19.
Schuh-Renner, A., Grier, T.L., Canham-Chervak, M., Hauschild, V.D.,. Roy, T.C., Fletcher, J., & Jones B.H. Risk factors for injury associated with low, moderate, and high mileage road marching in a US Army infantry brigade. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 20, 28-33.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2016). Nonfatal Occupational Injuries and Illness Requiring Days Away From Work, 2015. Washington, DC: Author.
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