Strength isn’t everything here, positioning and alignment is important! Let’s work this one through.
Recently we received an Athlete question for advice on a common problem – how to defeat fatigue in the specific muscle groups used when holding a weapon for a long time. You can be patrolling for hours, and during most of that time, the muscles in your arms and back will be constantly contracted. It’s a recipe for muscle fatigue and tightness even in the fittest soldiers.
What to consider
Frogman project programs consider the tactical needs and roles of our athletes including weapons handling. We focus on increasing the endurance, strength and stability of the rotator cuff, scapular, bicep, and joint and tendon strength. The kinds of exercises we use are false grip chin-ups, weighted ring dips, one arm dumbbell rows, and Powel raises on the floor (there are loads more, but these are the basics)
Ok, so now you might be thinking “yeah, I already do all of that, but I’m still getting fatigued at the end of a long patrol.”
That’s because strength isn’t everything – the best quality muscles in the world can’t help out if they aren’t being used right.
So, let’s talk positioning and postural alignment.
First up, check your webbing set-up and pack? Is this a contributing factor to the problem? Can you adjust it to take some extra load on your webbing?
Play around with the grip position on your weapon. Some don’t have the stock properly set into the chest / shoulder. Get the set-up of your gear optimised before you go out.
When holding your weapon in a relaxed patrol state, remember to actually relax. Sounds dumb? Maybe, but you really need to check up on yourself – it is easy to tense up and not notice until the end of the day when your muscles are burning. Think shoulders back and down, and loosen your grip slightly on the weapon, rather than flexing your biceps.
When in the instant state / engaging targets, are you death-gripping the weapon? Focus on your breathing – deep and even – and contract your muscles only when you need to. Relax them whenever you can.
If you are tight in the delts, shoulder and bicep area, then google something like mobilityWOD and look-up some trigger point releases you can do to yourself. Learn how to do that basic maintenance, and then learn some more – it’s how our staff stay in the game on hard courses.
Finally, are you looking after yourself? Are you staying hydrated? If you are going into situations where you’ll sweat a shitload, are you adding some pink sea salt to your water to compensate for salt loss? Do you take magnesium at night to help your muscles switch-off and relax? Are you stretching regularly?
See what we’re getting at here? Strength matters, and you can train for it (we’ll help you), but equally important is to check off the basics (one at a time, so you can see what makes a difference), and put your body in a good place to use that strength.