How to Train to Maximize Results
Train with structure and intentionality in order to improve shooting skills quickly and efficiently.
Training plans and drill sets on Locked Back Training are built on the concept of interleaving training and using a lot of variety in target arrays.
The more variety of drills and target arrays we incorporate into our training, be it dry fire training or live fire training, the more well rounded of a shooter we will become. The more intentional and consistent we are with our practice, the faster we will improve.
We don’t want to practice only what we’re good at with our pistols, we don’t want to be one trick ponies, and we don’t want to be inefficient with our training.
Some simple training strategies can really help us maximize the time we put into handgun training.
Training Session Flow
Here’s a quick overview of a training session, be it live fire or dry fire training.
- Pick a session goal
- Eliminate distractions during the session
- Visualize drills before running them
- Run the drills, keeping up the variety of drills and targets
- Self evaluate afterwards. Focus on the positive during the analysis.
15min video of me running & talking through a dry fire training session
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Use a Realistic Gear Setup
Everyone trains for different purposes – but it’s important to ensure the training environment mirrors the goal environment as much as possible. Lots of nice lightbulb moments can be had dry firing and live firing in the “real world” gear setup.
For conceal carriers, don’t just wear a comfortable tshirt while training. Wear the outfits worn for work, worn for out and about day to day, for fancy gatherings… Different clothing presents different obstacles when clearing the cover garment, so they should all be practiced with.
For competitive shooters or law enforcement, wear the gear setup worn when kitted up. Law enforcement in particular needs to ensure kit doesn’t get in the way of critical shooting actions and the extra weight can impact movement.
If you’re never going to wear full plate and a helmet, maybe consider spending more time in training in an EDC outfit than a full camo tactical setup.
Familiarity with kit is critical.
Pick a Training Goal & Plan
I don’t know of anyone who works out that doesn’t have a goal, nor a training plan to work towards that goal. People who work out have specific exercises for that day as well as a exercise schedule for the week, if not the month. This intentionality helps ensure the exercises cover the entire body over time, avoid injury, and consistently work towards that goal.
So why do anything different for firearms training?
Before starting a dry fire or live fire session, pick a primary goal. Pick a particular skill to focus on so the training session maintains a focus. The more focused you can be, the more value you’ll get. Make sure the drills you run support that focus and evaluate the training session afterwards to make sure you hit your goal.
Think back to the days of studying for a test. Did you watch TV while studying? Or did you find ways to prevent distractions and focus on the studying at hand. While I’m sure some of y’all watched TV, I’m willing to bet that most studying happens with reduced distractions. It makes the studying more effective.
So do the same for firearms training! The more intently we focus on our training, the more we’ll get out of that training.
Everyone’s methods of focus are different, but I recommend turning off notifications, turning off the TV, and setting aside a dedicated chunk of time to train. Maybe even put on some headphones with music, or even put on your ear pro!
Distractions kill productivity – and I want my handgun training sessions to be as productive as possible.
“Visualization” is the act of mentally rehearsing a drill instead of physically doing the drill itself. Visualization is an opportunity to execute something perfectly – and perfect repetitions are how we get better. Studies are showing that mental practice is an effective addition to training – a 1995 study of police recruits showed that adding visualization to their training helped improve their pistol marksmanship scores more than those who didn’t visualize during training.
The more often we visualize, the better we will get at visualizing each and every tiny detail, and the greater detail we visualize, the more effective the visualization.
Visualizing the drill will take just a few seconds and it’ll provide a nice boost to handgun training.
“Interleave” Drills to Maximize Growth
To over simplify, “interleaving training” means frequently changing up what you’re doing instead of lumping things together like in “block training.” Block training would be running the same thing over and over before moving on, like “AAABBBCCC.” Interleaving training would be “ABCABCABC.” To provide a specific example, block training in Basketball would be shooting two pointers for thirty minutes and then three pointers for thirty minutes and then layups for thirty minutes. Interleaving would be to alternate between two pointers, three pointers, and layups every repetition or every few repetitions, and change the position of each shot.
A quickly growing body of research is showing that interleaving practice helps us improve our skills much faster, be it in athletics, learning new languages, music, and more – handgun training definitely fits into that list.
That’s why I highly recommend ensuring training has a lot of variety in it within each session and training over time.
Change up the drill and the target distances and types regularly to boost the effectiveness of each dry fire or live fire training session.
Focus on the Positive During Evaluation
The more we dwell on something, the more we imprint that into our mind.
When we obsess over and dwell on something that we did wrong, we’re visualizing the poor technique and negatively impacting our self confidence. What benefit is there of focusing on the wrong way to do something? When learning math, we don’t sit there thinking up all of the wrong answers to 2+2. So why dwell on the wrong way to execute a reload?
When we focus on what went well, we’re visualizing good technique and building our self confidence. To quote the great Steve Anderson, “Confidence is at least 30% of performance.” The more confident we are in our skills, the more subconscious our skills will become. The more subconscious our skills are, the more effortless they are to execute.
This isn’t to advocate for ignoring what went wrong. When something goes wrong, we need to acknowledge it, identify what we should do instead, and then spend all of our time dwelling on the correct technique.
Leave errors in the past.
Focus on the good for the future.
Not all pistol training is equal.
Many people train in slow and ineffective ways that greatly holds back their skill progress.
Some simple and easy tweaks to how we train can greatly boost the effectiveness and get us to our goals faster.
Further Training with:
How to Dry Fire Practice & Why it is Important
Written by Brian Purkiss - always a student, sometimes a teacher.
I don't consider myself a competition shooter - I think of myself as a performance pistol shooter. I am all about performing at as high of a level as possible. Towards that end, I am obsessive about learning how to perform. I spend a lot of my life learning from the best across the entire firearms world and even into other areas of performance and other sports. I am a USPSA Carry Optics Grandmaster, currently working towards my second GM title in the Open division.
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