Pistol Hold Exercises to Improve Balance and Strength

A couple of trainers I’ve had recommended doing long pistol holds to improve my balance and strength (mainly shoulder, arm and inner core). On top of this I’ve found that the holds are helpful to build more awareness of your body and sensations.

Through experimentation I’ve gotten to a combination of feet positioning that:

  1. Makes the exercise less monotonous and give the sensation that time just flies by;
  2. Gives me a sense of progress and achievement without having to wait for the very end;
  3. Increases balance difficulty as I get more warmed up;
  4. Helps me keep count (I have a lousy memory for keeping count).

The following is my current holds routine. I do it with my pistol and change hands to use both hands (that’s why I call it bilateral). While I do one, the other rests and I don’t have any idle time.


I do 10 holds of 60″. DON’T START WITH THIS. You will hurt yourself. Start with a little and build up progressively. Getting hurt is too easy and you don’t want to be kept away from shooting for a few weeks and loose a lot of your gains. I started with 30″, but a guy at my club that has had some shoulder injury is just doing 10″. You have to evaluate yourself how long you should hold based on your fitness level and then increase the time little by little as you feel your progress and the holds become too easy.

Some of the position can be challenging when it comes to balance. You can always start close to a wall or furniture that you can hold. It is much better to break the position than to fall and hurt yourself. Take good care of your shooting body!


I start counting the time when I dry fire or, if I’m not dry firing, when I enter my aiming zone (for example when I’m away without my pistol and I have to train with a couple bottles or when I’m doing a training programme with no firing).

The holds

Originally I was doing a few 30″ (thirty seconds) holds, but now I’ve raised that to 10 bilateral 60″ holds (20 holds total) that I do five days a week and I’m thinking of doing them twice a day at least the days I’m not going to the pool.

Alternate arms after each hold.

4 holds with the feet in standard shooting position:

4 holds with the feet together:

2 holds with the right foot over the left foot:

2 holds with the left foot over the right foot:

2 holds with the right foot in front of the left foot:

2 holds with the left foot in front of the right foot:

2 holds with the right foot in the air:

2 holds with the left foot in the air:

The position of the other leg when you are doing the holds with a foot in the air is up to you and how difficult you want to do it. Just make sure that you stand tall and don’t slack your hip.

If you have any other positions to suggest, I’m game!

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Published by ramonsuarez

Pistol shooter practicing mostly the Olympic & ISSF disciplines, learning and sharing along the way. #10mairpistol #25mpistol #50mpistol #rfp #rapidfirepistol #issfpistol #olympicpistol

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