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Learn How To Drastically Improve Your Paintball Skills!

     Paintball is definitely an active sport.  Whether you play woodsball or tournament speedball, there will always be an amount of running, jumping, rolling, crouching, crawling and fast, quick movement involved.  Some people play paintball to get or stay in shape!  Some players take it to the next level however and want to steadily improve their game to become more competitive; perhaps their goal is top level competition.  These players practice regularly and actively try to improve every aspect of their game, including skills specific to paintball as well as physical conditioning.

     This is an article about how to train to improve your skills and physical fitness for paintball.  It is written in two parts, the first offering information and ideas about how to practice and become better at specific skill sets needed in the game of paintball; shooting, aiming, bunkering, running while shooting and aiming, etc.  The second part of this article series will focus on how to train to improve different necessary physical attributes required to be successful in paintball; speed, explosiveness, agility and muscular tone.  A training template will also be offered at the end of the second article that could be used as a guide to help you practice.

     As this information is regarding advice for a physical training program, let the reader be aware of a disclaimer.  The ideas set forth in this article series are to help players set up a training program of their own and should be used literally only if the individual possesses the physical prowess to perform them.  Please do not attempt manuevers listed if you are physically incapable or restricted by a doctor.  If you are unsure of your ability or have physical limitations, please consult a qualified physician before attempting any of the exercises or drills listed in these articles. 

     Most paintballers feel they will get as good as they need by simply playing tons of paintball.  Up to a point, they’re correct.  However when it comes to the upper eschelon of the sport, there is more to it than just playing the same old game.  If you want to really outshine all others on the paintball field, put an intensity and passion into practicing and training for your sport.  Develop a regular schedule of practice and follow it to a T. Practicing your paintball skills should be the primary emphasis of your program.  Next, pin point the specific movements and actions you perform most often during a match – then train with exercises to enhance them with more power and speed.

     Most training programs (for any sport) are broken up into two aspects; skill training and conditioning.  For example, wrestlers practice their skills by wrestling, learning new moves and practicing them.  Then they often have specific days or a portion of their practice time devoted entirely to conditioning; this might be running sprints, push-ups, riding a stationary bike or light weightlifting.  Top level powerlifting, football, pro baseball, hockey; many professional sports training is divided up like this.  Part I of this article series will discuss how to practice your paintball skills to hone them into a sharpened first place trophy.

     Start by setting regular times of practice for paintball.  Practice at least twice/week but three is better.  An ideal schedule for someone who wants to improve their skills quickly is three practices/week; for the purposes of this article, this will be Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  Make the majority of your practice time consisting of actually playing paintball.  Take the first 30 minutes of each session to practice specific skills.

     Make the goal of your skill training two fold…to improve 1. your shooting accuracy, and 2. your ability to move with your gun and equipment.  To improve your shooting accuracy, practice drills on aiming, target practice, target practice while aiming and shooting and target practice with your gun at waist level.  Also practice shooting your paintball gun from behind cover, shooting while running, sliding and even flying thru the air. 

     Here are some drill suggestions to help improve your paintball gun shooting skills:

-  Target practice – set up targets at different distances and practice shooting them.  Also practice target shooting while popping up from hiding behind a bunker/cover.

-  Moving target practice – Have one of your teammates run an evasive pattern and you try to shoot him.  This is actually great practice for both athletes.

-  Shooting multiple targets – set up multiple targets to practice firing at.  Target and shoot one after another as quickly and accuratey as possible.  Do this while standing still and also while moving.

-  Target practice while moving – stationary target, but you’re on the move!  Practice target shooting while running, sliding, crawling, and coming out of a roll.

 Target practice from waist – practice hitting stationary and moving targets while holding your paintball gun at waist level.  Also practice shooting like this while you are running, crouching, and moving.

Also practice maneuvers to help improve your ability to move with you paintball gun.  If you can become more agile while carrying lots of gear, you will be very useful on the paintball field; you will also be harder to hit!  Here are some ideas of different things you can do to practice and improve this:

Practice running, diving, sprinting and sliding into home plate while carrying your paintball gun and tank.  It’s a good idea to always practice in full gear.  Whether you wear a belt with pods or full tactical vest with sidearm, practice these maneuvers wearing everything you would wear in a competition.  One technique to use is by wearing a 20-30 lb weight vest while you practice and play.  Remove it during the last two weeks of practice before you meet and you will be amazed at how quick and light you are!

Practicing in your gear will also get you used to the way it feels when you move and if there are limitations to its sturdiness.  It’s not smart to make last minute changes right before a competition – introducing new/different gear minutes before the match could throw your meet.  In other words, if you haven’t practiced with it, don’t use it!

If you’re going to practice moving with your paintball gun, you may want to consider owning a practice gun - one that you would use only to practice with.  Your gun can get pretty beat while you’re learning to run, jump, and roll with it over and over again.  Buy something cheap, reliable and sturdy that you won’t mind if it gets bruised a bit; you might even consider buying a used marker for your practice gun.  Use this marker as your backup but practice with it 50+ percent of the time, particularly when performing physical maneuver drills.

Use your competition paintball marker for target practice and the less physical drills.  When you are two to three weeks away from an event, use your competition gun exclusively; this will get you use to it and work out any bugs if there are any.  It’s also smart to do this with the rest of your gear as well.  Practice wearing exactly the same equipment you will wear at the meet for the last two to three weeks.

If you are on a paintball team, make sure you also practice team skills as well.  Practice different strategies you will use during the competition.  Practice moving and communicating as a team.  If you’re on a woodsball team, practice different formations of movement, cover fire and ambush situations.  It’s a very smart idea to have all team members practice and become good at each position as well.  This way every position is covered in case someone can’t make it, gets hurt or sidelined.

Before each practice, make sure you warm up properly.  Warming up before any physical activity is essential to avoid injury.  Warming up may include light calisthenics, jogging, short distance running and stretching.  Remember to warm up your muscles a bit first before stretching.  Stretching a cold muscle can lead to a strain or even a tear.  A good routine is to jog lightly a bit, and perform a few calisthenics for approximately ten to fifteen minutes, then stretch.  After stretching, pick up the pace of your warm up routine and include a few sprints and some lateral (side to side) movements – all while holding/ carrying your paintball gun.  Now you’re ready to train!

If you want to significantly improve your paintball skills, you will have to practice more than once a week.  Twice is better, but 3+ times a week is optimal.  If you practice this regularly, it won’t take long before the cost of paintballs becomes a deterrent to training as often as you should.  Save money by only using a semi automatic paintball marker when you practice.  Target practice is better/more challenging when shooting one ball at a time.  Get good with a semi automatic paintball gun and you will be amazed at your skills with a fully automatic marker!

     Want to know how to seriously improve your paintball skills?  Practice, practice, practice!  Plan out a training routine including several days per week of practicing specific skills and playing paintball.  Spice up your game even more by training yourself into a paintball superman!  Read part II of this article series to learn how to develop a two day training program that will make you run faster, jump higher and physically perform better!
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