Engage the Upper Arms

Many performers focus only on their wrists and forearm muscles when spinning or stopping the rifle. But the muscles in your upper arms and chest are extremely important for powerful tosses and even more important for strong, solid catches. This applies to flag as well.

Stiff as a Board

When you stop your hand spins, when you catch your singles, even when you hold the equipment at ready position, make sure the muscles in your upper arms are engaged—meaning they feel tight.

If someone were to come past you standing at attention with your rifle at right flat, they should be able to push on your rifle, and if your upper arms are engaged, the rifle won’t move very much.

A Trick of the Trade

A few years ago, a friend shared this tip to help train your body to automatically engage these muscles when catching a toss. Whenever you stop the rifle with two hands, squeeze tightly with your hands but then immediately pull outward (pulling your hands apart from one another without actually moving the position of your hands on the rifle). When you do this move, you should feel those upper arm muscles tighten.

Do this every time you stop the rifle, and soon it will become second nature! The same trick applies to catching horizontal flag tosses.

Working on spins and stops with the rifle and pull-hit exercises with the flag will also help you practice the release and contraction of those upper arm muscles, so that you’re body understands what it feels like to lock in that solid catch.

Drop and Give Me 10

And don’t forget the ever-important pushup. Yes, I know … they’re no fun. But trust me! In the long run, they’re so important. You’ll be glad you invested the time when you’re throwing 5s on rifle and catching solid only to hear the crowd erupt with applause … definitely so worth it!

About the Author

Catina Anderson has been involved in the color guard activity, first as a performer and then as an instructor, for the past 20 years. She is a consultant at Broad Run High School in Ashburn, Va. She is also the founder/editor of www.colorguardeducators.com, a website for color guard coaches. She earned a bachelor’s degree at Towson University and a master’s degree in education from Marymount University.

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