How to Train to Hold Up a Rifle for A Really Long Time

DrVino called me the other day to kvetch. The California tipster complained that he didn’t have the upper body strength to hold his rifle on target for longer than it takes to pick Sara Sampaio out of police lineup. He asked me if I knew of an exercise regime to improve his on-target stamina (true story). Coincidentally enough I’ve been working on that very thing using a Body Bar. The aspiring rifleman asked me to make a short video, of which I’ll share with you. If you know of a better or complimentary method, let ‘er rip. So to speak.


  1. avatar jwm says:

    Wow. jane Fonda doesn’t have to worry about the competition in body building and exercise videos.

  2. avatar LyleJamesinChiIlL says:

    I’ve found over the last few years using a body blade, has helped significantly. Controlling your blood sugar and not being obese, also helps.

    1. avatar In Memphis says:

      I had to use a body blade during physical therapy after my last back injury. I hated that [email protected] thing with a passion.

      1. avatar Joseph says:


        Agree, been through two surgeries on one shoulder and one surgery on the other shoulder and each time I did therapy I had to use that damn thing.

  3. avatar ensitue says:

    We used to hang small sand bags on the barrels of our boom sticks

  4. avatar Davis Thompson says:

    Pushups with your hands spread as far apart as you can take it.

    1. avatar LarryR says:

      Davis Thompson, pushups with your hands spread as far apart as you can take it will cause tons of rotator cuff problems, and you don’t want that!

      1. avatar Rich Grise says:

        Just remember: If it hurts, STOP.

  5. avatar Fiun Dagner says:

    This is kind of old school, but it works well. I was taught to use a 5-10lb weight held out at arm’s length. Also to use the same weight doing wrist curls when sitting in the armchair watching TV, or otherwise mostly inactive. For handgun speed sight drills use a 3D cell maglight (it’s about the same weight as an average handgun) and practice lighting up a specific point across the room (Doorknobs work well) from a variety of arm and hand starting positions.

  6. avatar Tommy Knocker says:

    Excellent video on prep for fighting off ninja ballet attackers. I can only imagine the terror of them catching you in mid-plie.

  7. avatar Bob Damon says:

    Can you tell us about what you were standing on, looks similar to a Bosu ball, but upside down?

    1. avatar CA says:

      Considering that BOSU stands for “BOth Sides Up,” I’m not sure there is an upside down.

      1. avatar Bob Damon says:

        Good point.

  8. avatar Franky4fngrs says:

    What about holding the actual rifle… for a long time. Maybe a general fitness program for kicks.

  9. avatar Skyler says:

    Don’t use muscles. That’s a losing tactic. Get a 30 round magazine in your AR (why would you shoot with anything else?) and rest the bottom of the magazine in your non trigger hand and that elbow should rest on your hip bone.

    Use bones, not muscles, to support the weapon. Otherwise you won’t be holding it steady enough.

  10. avatar Accur81 says:

    In Marine Corps boot camp, we “snapped in” on targets, holding them with sights aligned against silhouette targets on a barrel. We used pretty much standard shooting positions.

    1. avatar AlphaGeek says:

      This. More important to be able to bring the rifle from rest to a steady shooting hold on target a large number of times than to be able to hold it up for long stretches.

      That said: kettle bell swings, push-ups with hands wide apart, and weightlifting which includes curls and cleans all helps.

      All if which you can find (and much more!) in Crossfit. (Cue evil laughter…)

    2. avatar DrVino says:

      What prompted the query was doing a set of “double tap” drills.
      As time wore on, I was getting increasing muzzle wobble which increased my time between first and second shot.
      Woulda thunk that carrying a 30-pound toddler on my non-trigger arm would improve my strength, but I guess I thunk wrong.

      1. avatar AlphaGeek says:

        Yeah, different muscle group activation for rifle vs toddler support. 🙂

        The hold for Olympic standing target rifle is pretty close, though I’m not sure I could perch my AR on the fingertips of my support hand.

  11. avatar Joe says:

    Learned this from a Vietnam vet, get a length of wood like a broomstick, drill a hole about 2 inches in on either side and attach a rope on either side and attach the other ends to 5 gallon empty jugs of water. Holding the stick out in front of you roll the stick so the rope pulls the jugs up and then unroll them back down to the ground. Start with one cup of water in each jug and 10-15 reps and each day add a cup of water and a few more reps.

  12. avatar Nick says:

    Or you could buy a Tavor 🙂

    1. avatar Brian says:

      That’s cheating 🙂

  13. avatar benny says:

    what i do is i take my 8lb benelli and hold it horizontally. one hand on the barrel and one on the butt of the gun. then i just extend my arms and hold it til i cant anymore. 30 second break, lather rinse repeat.

    since i just bought a mosin at the gun show yesterday, i may need to get back into it….

    1. avatar miserylovescompany says:

      Buy an M1A. After that, a Mosin feels like a carbine 🙂

  14. avatar Hal says:

    Best. Video. Ever.

  15. avatar Chase says:

    Dips… Chin ups…

  16. avatar Pat says:

    Maybe slings can help some.

  17. avatar Blkojo says:

    Only thing to add? Switch sides occasionally.

  18. avatar Pariah76 says:

    In 2005 when I was a buck Private, our training included holding up a long and heavy tree branch and practing what was referred to as reflexive fire and “ready up” drills. Needless to say the 6-10lb (depending on your tech) M4 didn’t bother us much afterwards.

  19. avatar Plumbump says:

    Flashbacks of rifle PT, UGH… those damned fake molded m16s… I’m sure one could get their hands on one via ebay or a pawn shop near a base. They weigh more than a real m-16, are quite realistic, and actually have a metal barrel. Dang, my arms hurt just writing about it 🙁

    1. avatar Pariah76 says:

      Readyyyy UP!

  20. avatar PG says:

    At the risk of sounding off the wall, I marched in drum and bugle corps for 7 years. Carrying a contrabass bugle (tuba) that weighed 25 pounds for 12 to 16 hours a day rehearsing, and competing on tour. I’m tall and thin. 6’2″, 140 pounds. I couldn’t muscle a horn at all so I played the mental game. At carry position the horn is held in front of you at chest height with no body contact, held completely by your arms. So I envisioned the horn simply resting on a table, and all I did was walk up and place my hands on it.

    I do the same with my rifle now. Just envision the rifle is on a rest, and all I do is put my hands where they need to be. I can hold my loaded AR for upwards of twenty minutes on target in a standing position. My arms are barking of course, but it’s a mental game. Your mind can overcome more than you realize.

    1. Who the heck is 6’2″ and 140 pounds?

    2. avatar DrVino says:

      How is your grouping and time between shots with this?

  21. avatar WLCE says:

    kettlebells. end of story.

    Another thing that has helped people significantly is squats and power cleans (nothing even too crazy).

  22. avatar Solomon says:

    i never got why he needed to hold his weapon on target unsupported for a long period of time.

    1. avatar DrVino says:

      It’s not holding it on target for long periods.
      What happens as I progress through my drills of snapping up to put two consecutive shots on target, my muzzle starts wobbling more with time so that it takes longer to get it on sight and deliver a second shot.
      The problem is reducing muzzle wobble and shortening the time between first and second shot while standing. As you do this, for a while, the wobble an time between shots increase. I’m trying to increase stamina in that context.

      1. avatar jwm says:

        Muzzle wobble can be caused by poor breath control.

        1. avatar DrVino says:

          Good point. I was feeling deltoid and arm muscle fatigue, tho…

        2. avatar DrVino says:

          Would like some more elaboration on breath control. Bladed gives more support to the rifle, but – for the same reasons – transfers more of chest rise (and pounding heart) to the support arm.

          Please tell more….

      2. avatar Joseph says:


        It sounds to me like you’re mistakenly conflating “stamina” and “cardio.”

        Muscles tremble when they’re not being adequately supplied with oxygenated blood. The only way to improve blood flow is to improve cardiovascular fitness, which means getting your heart rate elevated and then keeping it elevated for an extended period of time.

        Building muscle is accomplished by actually damaging the muscle in question through the build-up of lactic acid which causes the muscle tissue to break down and prompts your body to create more, and then a little extra. So in order to improve the strength of your heart to supply more oxygenated blood to your muscles to allow for greater resistance to fatigue and extended duration of physical exertion you’ve got to do this to your heart which is essentially pure muscle.

        The only way that happens is through rapid expansion and contraction of the muscle (heart) which occurs most easily by first fatiguing your lungs and requiring your heart to pump harder and beat faster to keep up with increased demand for oxygen that results from your lungs drawing in less of said oxygen with each inhalation.

        The best way to do this is to run, doesn’t need to be fast but it needs to be sustainable. Find the fastest pace at which you can run a mile, then slow that pace as much as neccessary to allow you to run an additional mile on top of that.

        Alternately on a treadmill set the speed as high as you can without needing to support yourself on the side rails, then sprint at this pace for a full 60 seconds, rest for 120 seconds, and repeat this cycle a minimum of 10 times.

        This will cut down on trembling.

  23. avatar Dave says:

    Kettle bells work great. The goal should be overall strength training. I would throw in so e cardio in as well.

  24. avatar Saul Feldstein says:

    Buy a bipod for 20 bucks and keep eating CheeTOS.

  25. avatar jsallison says:

    Why would I choose to stand unsupported for lengthy periods? Move to cover, find a rest. Sit, squat, kneel. I get the point, exercise is useful but that’s not an optimum shooting position.

    1. avatar Rich Grise says:

      This. I can’t shoot for beans standing up anyway. And as you said, get behind cover and find a rest, or shoot from a crouch or siting or prone. Don’t forget, you also want to make yourself as small a target as possible.

  26. avatar Paul W says:

    Maybe a general strenghtening program would be appropriate? Overhead press, pull ups, squats…I mean, I’m far from a great lifter, but I can hold a 30-30 in front of me for a damn long time.

  27. avatar WRH says:

    Strength is a general and systemic thing; increase your strength all over rather than trying to target one aspect. Look up Starting Strength and Mark Rippetoe. The added bonus is that every physical task becomes easier when you’re stronger.

    1. avatar Joseph says:


      The physical task becoming easier is how people become complacent and then fall back into old habits. Getting stronger is subject to diminishing returns, eventually you balance out to the point where even the level of “burn” you felt the first time you worked out hard is only going to indicate that you’re maintaining the strength you have acquired.

      Bottom line anyone who tells you that each workout session shouldn’t be an exquisite exercise in agony either doesn’t understand exercise or is lying to you. If they’re seeking to convince you that it’s OK or god forbid even a positive thing that you’re workouts seem easier as you progress then they’re not just lying they’re trying to con you.

  28. avatar mediocrates says:

    how dare you point that “thing” at me 🙂

  29. avatar Billy Wardlaw says:

    The best exercise for holding up a rifle for long periods of time is, well, holding up a rifle for long periods of time.

    What kind of person can’t figure this out?

  30. avatar DrVino says:

    The kind of person who knows this but wants to get there faster because they are getting ready for a FrontSight class….

  31. avatar Bova says:

    Simple solution(though not cheap)…buy a Tavor. That thing is so balanced you could hold it up for days even if you were an infant.

  32. avatar Joseph says:

    As much as everyone wants to believe otherwise there are no shortcuts when it comes to physical fitness.

    No matter what your goal is you’re going to have to invest time effort and pain toward achieving it.

    Probably the quickest route for the specific goal of “holding a rifle for a really long time” is to employ isometrics. Get something approximately the same length as your rifle, hang a weight of some kind on the end of it. This item should be longer than your rifle is and should also be unbalanced, start out by using a weight one or two pounds heavier than your loaded rifle and then stand there for as long as you can before reaching muscle failure. Do this every day until you are able to stand there holding this incredibly heavy and unbalanced object for as long as you intend to hold your rifle without reaching muscle failure.

    That is likely the quickest way to achieve your specific desired result, although you’re going to end up looking noticeably lopsided.

    The best way to achieve real results would be exercise, as long as you drink enough water, at least a gallon a day and are consistent you’ll see much more useful results in terms of strength in just a few weeks. Without altering diet and exercise you won’t lose weight or anything but you’ll be and feel stronger. If you’re not sore all the time from any consistent workout then not only are you not getting results you’re flat out wasting your time.

    In summation; beware Greeks bearing gifts and discount anyone who tells you that you shouldn’t just try to break your body to make it stronger.

    Hope that helped.

  33. avatar Rich Grise says:

    My motto is “No pain, no pain.”

    Pain is Mother Nature’s way of saying, “Don’t do that.”

  34. avatar Anna B says:
    this is a much better option… balance balls can get you hurt… the safer way is to do standard drills… the ball can cause the brain more stress and can actually weaken your balance instead of improving it. Try Dr Cobbs balance gym instead. By strengthening your entire vestibule system you will find your balance improving naturally with everything you do, which will translate into your shooting.

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