Growing up, my dad would take my brother and I shooting on a regular basis. I remember getting a BB gun at around age six and taking it into the back yard to shoot Coke cans off the fence. This love for guns and shooting has continued to grow over the years. Another passion of mine since the age of 14 has been training, and I have been competing in iron sports for a little over eight years.

Just recently I had some setbacks in my training with some knee pain that won’t seem to go away, and a torn labrum and rotator cuff that are giving me issues. So, I took a step back from preparing for a powerlifting competition and focused my energy towards shooting sports, specifically pistol and 3-gun matches. In doing so, I have gone from someone who had a decent amount of experience and was relatively advanced in one sport, to someone who is a true beginner in another sport. Throughout this transition, I have learned many lessons that apply to both sports. This article will discuss several of them.

gun display David Allen

You need help. 

I can’t tell you how many powerlifters I’ve seen show up to meets having prepared by themselves in a regular gym and consequently had no clue what they were getting into. They didn’t know they had to wear a singlet, they didn’t know any of the commands, and they didn’t know any of the processes that go on. These people often get frustrated when the meet doesn’t play out in their heads like they thought it would. The exact same thing happens in shooting sports. People show up with crappy equipment, shooting things they’ve never practiced, and are totally unaware of the process. Because of this, it is vital that you seek help if you’re a newbie. It can be as simple as finding someone to go over the process with and finding out what the day is going to be like, but I really think there is incredible value in working with a coach, either in a one-on-one situation or with a group.

RECENT: Three Hypertrophy Waves to Use If You're Stuck on Progressive Overload

Not everyone can afford to work with a coach all the time, but there are plenty of seminars and learning opportunities around the world. Yes, you will have to pay some money to make it happen, but if your sport is something you’re passionate about then it will yield high returns. Seek out a coach in your area and get with them. It will be the best investment you will make towards your success.

You need practice.

To become skilled at shooting, you have to practice, a lot. This means daily dry firing and weapons manipulations, and putting round down range on a regular basis. It is vital that you ingrain the motor skills necessary to succeed on competition day. Likewise in lifting, you have to train, a lot. Training must be focused and purposeful. I’ve seen many people go to the range and shoot 200 rounds at a target and gain nothing from it, and I’ve seen lots of people come in the gym and waste their time without a plan. You need practice and you need purposeful practice. If you are not sure how to develop a practice/training plan, seek out a coach or a qualified template that others have had success with. 

target practice David Allen

You need patience.

One of the pistol matches I do is called steel challenge, in which you shoot five steel targets of different sizes, different arrangements, and different distances for time. Inevitably at every match, someone who is doing it for the first time dumps an entire magazine trying to shoot a 25-yard steel plate. After one or two misses they start getting frustrated and tense up, causing them to miss even worse. In this instance, patience is required. Taking a big breath, relaxing, aiming, and focusing on a proper trigger pull is far more likely to result in a hit than seeing how fast you can miss.

As a lifter, you’re going to have good days and bad days, good meets and bad meets, and good training cycles and bad training cycles. If you get frustrated with your poor performances and start making bad decisions, all you are doing is setting yourself up for failure and greater frustration down the road. Being good at anything takes time. Don’t lose sight of the forest through the trees. The process of improvement is a long one, so treat it as such.

You need to check your ego.

If there is one thing that is for sure in the shooting world and the lifting world, it is that there is always someone better. Even if you’re the best in the world, it’s impossible to hold that position forever. If you go into either of these sports with an ego, it will get checked at some point. Whether you’re a beginner or have been in it for a while, it’s important to take a humble approach.

I think one of the best ways to remain humble is to compete. Competition shows you how you match up against others, and I think we’ve all seen enough showboating MMA fighters get knocked out to know how dangerous thinking you have something in the bag is. Over the last couple months I’ve taken several friends shooting for the first time—or at least this type of shooting for the first time—and compared to them, I’m pretty good. At the matches, I get my butt kicked. It’s good to have that push back if you start to feel too highly of yourself. So if you’re someone who takes a little too much pride in your performance, you need to step on stage, step on a platform, or step into the shooter's box.

So there you have it, some takeaways from shooting that apply to the training world as well. I hope you’ll take the opportunity like I did to put yourself in a new situation where you can learn, grow, and apply it to other areas of your life.