Athletes News

Identifying physical and physiological parameters to produce the best performance in a shooting sport athlete

Shooting is a high precision sport and requires a shooter to control all body movements.

By Dr. Neda Nozari, Member of ISSF-Medical Committee



 The muscular strength, posture control and close coordination between eye, nervous system and the musculoskeletal system are its key elements[1].

Most developed countries are following a complex system to choose the most talented individuals to compete in each sport, including shooting sport. The aim of this short article is to highlight the best physical and physiological parameters for shooting sport, as well as the importance of profiling a good shooter and guiding shooting training.

The list of some selected physical and physiological parameters in studies

Some studies report that mixing physical fitness tests and physiological parameters may have an advantage in selecting good shooters. Of great benefit to shooting departments, such tests and parameters can save time, energy and costs[2].

1)Postural stability ( including good balance, and the stability of the rifle/pistol)

Studies show that changes in shooting performance from training to competition situation are most significantly related to the changes in horizontal holding ability [3].

A meta-analysis article regarding the importance of selected physical fitness parameters in shot gun sport reports that good balance has a positive effect on shooting performance[4] [5].

2) Strength, flexibility and physical fitness  

Studies show that coordination, and flexibility (of the posterior muscle chain) directly affect  shooting performance[6]. Shooters with a higher level of physical fitness can benefit from quickly recovering shooting accuracy following intense exercise. This is notably so for athletes competing in rifle shooting [7].

3) Hand Grip Strength

Maximum grip strength of right and left hands is measured by using a handgrip dynamometer.

Studies show a significant correlation between right-left hand grip strengths and shooting performance[8]. In addition, dominant right handgrip strength in pistol shooters have positive correlations with height, weight and upper arm circumference in contraction [9].

4) Quiet Eye

The Quiet Eye (QE) is the final fixation eye to a target before a planned motor response[10].The accuracy of aiming is influenced by the QE period. It means that longer QE periods are associated with better performance particularly in shot gun sport and running target[11],[12]. The QE is influenced by the level of anxiety of the shooters[13],[14].

5) Aiming point trajectory

Evaluation of aiming stability (by considering movement of aiming point for each shot on target and eventually total shots) is critical to the improvement the shooting results and also is the main theoretical and practical factor of training for a shooter[15].

6) Respiratory Function

A good ability to control the breathing can increase the overall shooting performance[16] [17]

7) Resting Heart Rate

The elite shooters have low heart rate rather than beginner shooters[18].

8) Maximal oxygen consumption (VO² max)

VO² max is the oxygen uptake attained during maximal exercise intensity which could not be increased in spite of further increases in exercise workload[19]. A medium level of VO² max is essential for a good shooting performance because VO² max of shooters is less than international standards[20]. Female shooters have significantly higher anaerobic power values in comparison to their non-athlete counterparts. In contrast, the opposite has been reported in male shooters. This difference between the genders maybe due to the ratio of the gun weight to the shooter’s body weight[21]. Also notable is the positive correlation reported between higher levels of VO² max and lower stress and anxiety levels [22].

9) Psychological and Mood stability

The relationship between anxiety, heart rate and efficiency of shooting is indubitable . It means the higher state anxiety levels increase heart rate and cause tremor and negatively effects on the shooting performance [23].

10) Reaction Time

Reaction time means the shooter’s ability to make quick decisions under the pressure of space, time and competition. Studies show anxiety level increases the response time given to any external factors. It means with the increase in the trait anxiety level, the reaction time increases too[24].

11) Mind power

The reinforcement of the nervous system with concentration on shooting performance by mental imagery can improve shooter performance[25].

Results of one study

A study on 237 young boy students reports that there are the significant differences among the sets of students according to shot accuracy groups (pistol) for wrist circumference, biceps circumference, femur diameter, hand grip strength, flexibility, aerobic capacity, reaction time, balance, coordination, state anxiety level, anxiety variability, average heart rate, maximal heart rate and heart rate changes.

In addition, there is a significant correlation among the pistol shooting result and change in heart rate, anxiety variability, mean heart rate during shooting, coordination, state anxiety, maximal heart rate during shooting, balance, hand-grip strength, biceps circumference, femur diameter, wrist circumference and flexibility [26]


The purpose of this article was to offer some available recommendations regarding the importance of selected physical and physiological parameters in shooting sport.

Although there is limited research on shooting sport it appears that a shooter’s performance is not limited to physical parameters, so too are psychological parameters of notable importance. This can explain why some shooters who are in excellent physical conditions yet exhibit emotional variability cannot achieve greater success [27].


*** You can get more information on all of the above in the ISSF athlete’s handbook:









[1] Dopsaj M, Prebeg G, Kos A. Maximum force of hand grip in the function of precision and accuracy of shooting from the official CZ 99 handgun from: Generic models. Bezbednost, Beograd. 2018; 60(2):30-49.

[2] Kayihan G, Ersöz G, Özkan A, Koz M. Relationship between efficiency of pistol shooting and selected physical-physiological parameters of police. Policing: an international journal of police strategies & management. 2013 Nov 4; 36(4):819-32.

[3] Ihalainen S, Mononen K, Linnamo V, Kuitunen S. Which technical factors explain competition performance in air rifle shooting? International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching. 2018 Feb; 13(1):78-85.

[4] Peljha Z, Michaelides M, Collins D. The relative importance of selected physical fitness parameters in Olympic clay target shooting.2018.

[5] Gianikellis K, Pantrigo J, Vara A. Stabilometry applied on the analysis of individual technique in the air-rifle shooting. In ISBS-Conference Proceedings Archive 2001 (Vol. 1, No. 1).

[6] Ibid 4 and  Yapıcı A, Bacak Ç, Çelik E. Relationship between shooting performance and motoric characteristics, respiratory function test parameters of the competing shooters in the youth category. European Journal of Physical Education and Sport Science. 2018 Sep 13.

[7] Ibid 2 and Ito MA, Sharp MA, Johnson RF, Merullo DJ, Mello RP. Rifle shooting accuracy during recovery from fatiguing exercise. Army research inst of environmental medicine natick ma military performance div; 1999 Jan.

[8] Ibid, 1, 6 and  Orr R, Pope R, Stierli M, Hinton B. Grip strength and its relationship to police recruit task performance and injury risk: a retrospective cohort study. International journal of environmental research and public health. 2017 Aug; 14(8):941.

[9] Ibid 4 and Koley S, Gupta B. Correlations of Static Balance and Anthropometric Characteristics in Indian Elite Male Shooters. International Journal of Applied Sports Sciences. 2012 Dec 1; 24(2).

[10] Ibid 4 and Vickers JN. Visual control when aiming at a far target. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance. 1996 Apr; 22(2):342.

[11] Behan M, Wilson M. State anxiety and visual attention: The role of the quiet eye period in aiming to a far target. Journal of Sports Sciences. 2008 Jan 15; 26(2):207-15.

[12] Ibid 4 and  Causer J, Bennett SJ, Holmes PS, Janelle CM, Williams AM. Quiet eye duration and gun motion in elite shotgun shooting. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 2010 Aug 1; 42(8):1599-608.

[13] Ibid 4 and Janelle CM. Anxiety, arousal and visual attention: A mechanistic account of performance variability. Journal of sports sciences. 2002 Jan 1; 20(3):237-51.

[14] Nian-hong L. Research of precompetitive anxiety of shooting athletes [J]. Journal of Shandong Physical Education Institute. 2003; 3:15.

[15] Zanevskyy I, Korostylova Y, Mykhaylov V. Aiming point trajectory as an assessment parameter of shooting performance. Human movement. 2012 Oct 1; 13(3):211-7.

[16] Ibid 4, 6 and Antunes HK, Stella SG, Santos RF, Bueno OF, Mello MT. Depression, anxiety and quality of life scores in seniors after an endurance exercise program. Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry. 2005 Dec; 27(4):266-71.

[17] Mohamed MN, Norman WM, Linoby A, Sariman MH, Azam MZ. Breathing pattern influence to the shooting performance. In Proceedings of the International Colloquium on Sports Science, Exercise, Engineering and Technology 2014 (ICoSSEET 2014) 2014 (pp. 321-333). Springer, Singapore.

[18] Jon JH. The effect of resting heart rate variability on shooting performance among rapid fire pistol athletes. Exercise Science. 2015 Aug 30; 24(3):315-21.

[19] Ibid 4 and Hill AV, Lupton H. Muscular exercise, lactic acid, and the supply and utilization of oxygen. QJM: An International Journal of Medicine. 1923 Jan 1(62):135-71.

[20] Ibid 4 and Kasapis, C., & Thompson, P. D. (2009). Sports cardiology. The Encyclopaedia of Sports Medicine: An IOC Medical Commission Publication, The Olympic Textbook of Medicine in Sport, 14, 232.

[21] Ibid 4 and Mondal A, Majumdar R, Pal S. Anthropoimthy and Physiological Profile of Indian Shooter. International Journal of Applied Sports Sciences. 2011 Dec 1; 23(2).

[22] Ibid 4 and Petruzzello SJ, Landers DM, Hatfield BD, Kubitz KA, Salazar W. A meta-analysis on the anxiety-reducing effects of acute and chronic exercise. Sports medicine. 1991 Mar 1; 11(3):143-82.

[23] Kayihan G, Ersoz G, Özkan A, Tuna M. Relationship between anxiety, heart rate and efficiency of pistol shooting Tabanca atış başarısı, kaygı düzeyi ve kalp atım hızı arasındaki ilişki. Journal of Human Sciences. 2014 Jun 22; 11(1):1266-81.

[24] Ibid 3, 6 and Soyal M, Çelik NM, Pekel A. An investigation of the relationship between the reaction times and the state and trait anxiety levels of the athletes. European Journal of Physical Education and Sport Science. 2017 Dec 30.

[25] Guillot A, Collet C, Molinaro C, Dittmar A. Expertise and peripheral autonomic activity during the preparation phase in shooting events. Perceptual and motor skills. 2004 Apr; 98(2):371-81.

[26] Ibid 2

[27] Ibid 3.

Dr. Neda Nozari