Table of Contents
A Must Read Book
The Psyche of the Shot: Sport Psychology and Competition is a great book to buy and read in English or German that can help improve your shooting performance. If you want to improve your mental game you must read it. The authors (Heinz Reinkemeier & Gaby Buhlmann) are world renowned Olympic champion coaches.
This is my practical summary that I hope can be helpful (it certainly helps me). If you read the book you will learn more. At the end of the book you will also find 13 pages with exercises and mental training programs, including relaxation training, psychophysical regulation, motivation, state of mind, etc.
The 10 Commandments
- Your technique is at the heart of everything you do.
- Make sure you are fit.
- Accept and control your fright.
- Choose a goal and define the steps to get there.
- Learn from your opponents.
- Think in pictures and apply them imaginatively.
- Learn everything about your discipline.
- Watch each shot as a game
- Find people you can trust and rely on.
- Act, feel and think now… and do not forget to smile.
Technique Is More Important Than the Mind
- 80% technical, 20% mental.
- The most important is to improve technique and tactics.
- Mental training must be supported by physical skills.
- It is necessary to establish a basic technique on which one can rely in case of crisis.
- Increase the pressure during training to get used to it and to do better in competitions.
- Accuracy and consistency are the most important aspects. They require technique and coordination.
Smile, Relax and Enjoy
Smiling calms your heart, breathing and muscles.
People’s moods can be influenced by positive comments about their appearance and behavior. Separate compliment from result.
Network and Relationships
Relationships are fundamental to sports, work and family life. The more people who support your goals, the more influence and flexibility you will have.
It is important to have people around you who encourage you to reach your goals. A good club and good shooters are positive influences in your development.
The learning process is most effective in a group and under the direction of an experienced person.
You have to find the balance between relationships and training.
Healthy communication structures increase performance.
Rating People in Relation to Emotional Value and Performance on Your Development
Rate people around you on a scale of 1 to 4 (1 is the best), considering emotional support and value for performance.
Nice vs useful.
Does your network adequately support your goals? It’s up to you to change it if you do not.
Shooting as a Challenge
- Accept uncertainty of the outcome of competitions as a challenge to enjoy sensations.
- We will always be stimulated during competitions.
- We will never be happy with our 100% performance.
- Even the best shooters have arm movement.
- You have to set limits and balance training with family and working life.
- Tension is fundamental for all sports, it is energy that motivates us.
- Being stressed, shaking and feeling bad is not always a sign of bad performance.
- The pressure increases with the results. It’s like climbing a mountain: the higher you go, the less air you have.
- We have to face reality.
- Keep calm: it’s a question of practice
- No pressure, no medals.
- Performance at the top even under pressure.
- Get used to performing under pressure.
- Relieve specific symptoms: breathing, heartbeat, muscle pain … before, during and after competition.
- Train, train and train! Mental strength is a skill that can be learned.
Three Axes of Work
To achieve clear and concise strategies you need to focus on:
- Psycho-physical regulation
- Transforming body, mind and emotions into constant optimal performance throughout the competition.
- Be aware of muscular tension, pulse, breathing and the psychological aspects of concentration, agitation and feelings.
- Mental training
- Conscious and clear technique involving thoughts, images and sensations. To be used during training and visualizations.
- Visualizations have the same impact as workouts, but without the physical aspect.
- Motivation and attitude
- Identify its purpose and control all the aspects that lead to its realization.
- Intellectual, emotional and physical processes.
- Flexibility: things can change at any time.
- Physical Training
- Resistance training allows for less work on the heart and fewer psychological problems.
Diagnosis and Correction
It’s in the head that we identify the problems. Practical experience is the main driver of knowledge. Take advantage of the time between shots to think about what happened and how you feel, before and after.
Sample analysis and correction document:
- Symptom : Weak results in the last series. Does it affect you a lot?
- Evaluation : How, where, when, how much, why? (with a coach) Identify all possible causes, not just mental ones. Speaking is the fundamental instrument of the psychology of sport.
- Observations during the competition : What exactly happens?
- Possible causes : Technical errors, tactics, physical failures, psychological / behavioral problems.
- Consultation + specialized training : Rest, regulation of breathing, visualization … Work to improve your mental and physical performance.
- Observation : Follow and modify the results. Have you reached your goal?
To find solutions always start by examining the technique, equipment, physique and tactics. You can even change equipment as a scapegoat.
Find the balance between theory and practice.
Be patient : We need a constant effort for a period of time to improve.
If you have to express emotions, do it outside the competition. No consideration of emotions before or during the competition.
Track Goals and Results
Keep a diary with statistics and observations, with the objectives of each session.
Goals oriented towards results.
Risk Training Exercise
Shoot a few sets (even a full 60 shots) in half your usual time then, do some performance checks to compare with your normal pace.
Nerves / Stress
It’s impossible to eliminate them. You have to learn to live with them.
To reduce nerves and stress: control breathing, reduce pulse, and relax muscles .
It is necessary to stabilize one’s nerves and to precisely control the muscular activity.
Pressure changes, it is not constant. It will be higher at the first competition shot, during crisis and in the last shots. Tinals are more stressful.Fatigue reduces excitement.
Stress reduces the flow of oxygen to the brain and sends more blood to the extremities.
Start with small competitions to get used to and not have a great shock in a major competition.
The more we rest before the competition, the better we can overcome the problems.
Train Under Pressure
To stabilize performance and have better results in competitions, it is necessary to harden the training environment. Some tactics:
- Competitions with opponents on the spot;
- Have goals for training sessions;
- Train with bad weather;
- Train at unusual times;
- Publish your results;
- Rate each other (only one thing per day: position, stop, let go, follow up …) Good / Medium / Low;
- Mistakes count double …
The best training for competition is competition itself. The athlete needs the pressure to perform well during a major competition.
It’s in competition that it counts. Our demand for competitions should always increase. The better our series, the more the pressure increases.
It is normal to have better results in training. This gap is a psychological factor and it narrows with the advancement of the season.
Mental training can not eliminate bad performance instantly. This is done with small steps forward, gradually. Keep stats in order to evaluate trends.
To reduce the pressure it is necessary to concentrate on the psychological regulation and to control breathing, heartbeats and muscular tension.
- Isolation (doing one’s routines);
- Warming up;
- Self-observation and correction: breathing and muscle tension;
- Consistent management during the match. We can help with a post-it like “Breath and tension ok?”;
- Accompanying measures: make sure you have everything you need to cope with adverse conditions. Drink water regularly.
- Fatigue control: take breaks, do stretching and breathing exercises.
- Coaching: rely on the security and encouragement of having someone with you (trust + contact + security).
- If you are agitated, calm down.
- If you are tired, pump up yourself.
We will have to do both things during a competition.
Discipline is more important than method.
Once the body is relaxed the mind automatically follows.
Do meditation and relaxation. Concentration on being, on the present.
Breathing is part of the actions and shooting technique. If you make a bad movement of preparation (including breathing) stop.
Optimal breath holding is 6 seconds (± 2 seconds).
The lungs can calm the heart with shallow, slow breaths. To raise your pulse take big fast breaths.
Get used to relaxing the shoulders with the expiration.
We are less agitated when breathing slows down (and vice versa)
Exercise (start by doing it 3 times): inhale 2, exhale 3, pause 1. Eyes with focus blur in front of you, let your eyes close, breathe only with your belly. Repeat for several days, also before sleeping.
All the techniques of breathing regulation change your attention to the breathing, They reduce and calm gradually. We control its functioning and the rest follows.
Calming, it helps to relax the upper part of the body, it lowers the center of gravity and improves balance.
The chest increases the tension and the risk of a bad shot.
Problems in letting go are often related to irregular breathing. Absorb enough air, do not lengthen your shot too much.
We inhale enough oxygen to hold 6 to 8 seconds in competition (10 ” to 12″ in training).
Relaxation by Breathing Exercise
- Lie on a flat surface with your arms at your side. Place a cushion flat under your neck if you prefer, or a blanquet if you’re cold.
- Release your belt to allow the belly to move freely.
- Breathe through your nose using your stomach.
- Leave your eyes closed.
- Feel how your belly goes up and down.
- Focus on the breath.
- Concentrate on your right hand and imagine that it becomes heavier with each breath. Allow this weight to spread to the rest of the body.
- Concentrate on your right hand and imagine that it heats with each breath. Allow the heat to spread to the body.
To get out of the relaxation stage:
- Take a deep breath,
- After 3 to 5 times breathe the deepest you can,
- Close your fists, put your arms under your head, stretch and open your eyes.
Ideally, this exercise should be done twice a day for four weeks to internalize the principles (in the afternoon and before sleep).
It can be done in bed, but we risk falling asleep.
The practice of this technique lying down helps to use it standing during competitions and training. It must be integrated into your day, also between shots, running, sitting …
- “My breathing is calm and steady”;
- “Press the trigger relaxes me”;
- Name each part of the shot when done.
Muscle Relaxation Exercise
- Lie down, close your eyes, feel your belly go up and down with your breath (breathe through your nose). Breathing will become more superficial as you relax.
- Concentrate on your hands, feel the tension in their different parts. Close your hands into fists little by little and increase the tension only of the hands.Continue to breathe calmly and regularly.
- Let your hands open gradually and relax. As there is an increase in blood flow you will feel a heat wave and heavier hands.
- Repeat with 10% pressure increments with each inspiration up to 100% and hold the tension for a few seconds without interrupting breathing.
- Let go in blocks of 10% with each inspiration.
- Keeping the breathing steady, increase the pressure of the arms very slowly, as if you were going to lift them from the ground. Feel how they separate from the ground gradually. Keep them at one centimeter of floor more or less. Feel the tension breathing regularly and trying to keep them steady.
- Let them fall gently and relax. Feel the blood flowing in the veins.
- Just think of doing the same thing with your arms and hands, without ever lifting them. Breathe five times to try to approach this point.
- Relax and sense the flow, heat and heaviness.
- Concentrate on the points of contact of your arms with the surface. Visualize each of these points and feel the weight of these parts of the arms and hands.
- Gently lift your arms to reduce tension in 10% blocks in all contact points, continue to breathe calmly and regularly.
- Sense the muscles that are tense and with how much tension. Try to keep your arms and hands as stable as possible. Sense weight and tension for five breaths and let them fall gently. Feel blood circulation, heat and heaviness.
- Decides to return to a state of full alertness and clarity.
- Breathe deeper gradually, with your mouth and chest.
- Slowly extend your hands and arms and stretch them over your head.
- Yawn if you want.
This exercise can be applied to any muscle group. The best is not to focus on more than two areas per exercise.
Visualization and Reflection
You decide which images / words appear.
Images are more powerful than words.
Use visualization systematically to prepare and review shots. We visualize a good shot.
Visualization and anticipation must become automatic reactions.
When you look at the target, fix it in the center and imagine that your shot will get there.
Get used to stopping your shooting sequence whenever a disruptive thought mixes.
Remember what happens before, during and after each competition.
With the visualization one can even direct the breathing towards a pain zone.
Concentration requires a point of focus (breathing, tension, balance, release …). We can only focus on one thing at a time. We must shift focus during our firing sequence: preparation, alignment, execution and analysis.
There is a strong link between motivation and concentration.
Concentration Meditation Exercise
Imagine a white wall. If something else happens, remove it and hold the white wall thought.
Make our sequence without firing during competitions to re-focus and get back into the rhythm.
Rhythm-based exercises help us consolidate the movement sequence during training. For example, ten shots with more and more speed to find out what is our maximum speed while remaining efficient. Visualize the sequence before sleeping, keeping the rythm and breathing.
Write down your sequence.
- It’s very frustrating to miss basic movements. They must be practiced: simple movements and with little risk. They are less likely to spoil themselves in competition.
- Make some basic moves towards the end of the training, thinking that everything depends on them.
Stages of Concentration
Divide your shot into three to five sections. Evaluate each one (this gives breaks to concentration). Critical steps:
- Positioning of the weapon: relaxed and balanced.
- Descent: vertical and slow.
- Aim: central and calm.
- Release: alert and at the right time
If a distraction happens, take care of it right away. External distractions (noises …) and internal (own thoughts).
We can not control external distractions but we control our reactions to them. Do not moan or get upset. Ignore the best possible. Resume your concentration.
If our concentration weakens identify the cause (fatigue, nervousness, lack of interest …). The most common is to take too much time to shoot. Keep your shooting pace.
Always in positive dialogue with oneself. Clear and concise rehearsals of the basic principles.
Body, Muscles and Coordination
More than 100 muscle groups participate in shooting. We have more than 240,000 sensors in the tip of the fingers.
It is necessary to concentrate in the stabilization of the correct processes.
Coordination training can increase the density of nerves in the muscles and boost the production of relevant stimuli. This allows the good shooters to preload 95% of the release. One must practice the movement to let go as much as possible, focusing on precision.
Stress reduces sensitivity. We must compensate this with competence.
Relaxed muscles work better: you have to use relaxation and breathing routines during the match.
It is necessary to train the agonist muscles and their antagonists (for example the flexors and extensors of the forearm).
Having more control when lowering the weapon towards the target reduces the necessary corrections. Descend vertically, in a straight line.
Walking puts all groups of the body’s muscles under a balanced pressure. The ideal state of muscle preparation is heated. Walking is a great way to prepare your muscles.
A quick walk of 10 to 15 minutes regenerates our system.
We are in equilibrium when our center of gravity is located on the center of the position in which our posture is the most relaxed and which requires the least tension to maintain it.
Tension in the muscles means instability.
A balanced position is the starting point for each shot.
Practice your balance by breathing with your belly to learn where your balance is (with open and closed eyes, feet separated and together, one leg in the air …) It is important to increase your perception and your dexterity.
Economy of Movements
The more economical your movements to get to the center of the target, the more energy you have for a stable position (strength), for aiming and for the shot release (concentration).
Almost all the best shooters raise their pistols higher than the target and gently lower them, taking advantage of gravity.
Tips and Tricks
- Concentrate on the bridge of your nose to clean your mind.
- Yawn to calm down.
- Self Control Exercise: Look in a mirror and try to have a calm and confident expression.
- Long walk the day before a big competition, without limits until being bored, let your brain fly.
- If your mouth opens because of stress, close it to reduce the rhythm (reduction of the oxygen input).
- Breathe quickly through the mouth to increase rhythm.
- Stick an image of a perfect shot to your pellet box.
- Make a short cheat sheet with the points you need to focus on and keep it in plain view.
- Speak to yourself: “… guide the shot directly into the 10 …”, “… being consistent with letting go …”
- If you are nervous, focus on your breathing.