Strengthening Your Archery Muscles | Samantha Lance
Strengthening Your Archery Muscles
by Samantha Lance
Have you ever picked up your bow after a long hiatus of shooting, and realize that you have trouble drawing it? Or perhaps you are a beginning shooter and don’t quite yet have the strength to pull effectively. Archery is technically a year-round sport, whether hunting, bowfishing, or target shooting. It’s not uncommon to run into an issue as frustrating as being able to draw a bow well. This may be, in part, due to “archery muscles” being out of shape.
Those people we consider “lucky shooters” have harvested game, won target-shooting competitions, or are great all-around archers because they prepare themselves mentally and physically. It’s extremely important to keep the key archery muscle groups in tip-top shape. We use muscles in archery that are rarely used anywhere else, including the gym. That’s why some folks can relate to seeing even bodybuilders struggle to pull a bow.
Archery is considered a total body activity where muscles in the legs, core, back, shoulders, and arms all work together to make a successful shot. As an archery instructor, I teach that the most important movements in archery are your stance and “back tension”. Your stance is the foundation of your entire shot movement and must remain steady and strong. This involves your legs, hips, and back. “Back tension” is the act of engaging the muscles around the shoulder blade to bring it toward the spine, like squeezing an orange with your shoulder blades. When these muscle groups are tired and weak, it may cause your shots to be compromised. But fear not, there are exercises to keep these muscles in shape and to keep you prepared for the next time you sling a few arrows.
A simple exercise to help improve back tension is the row, either standing or kneeling. Bend at the waist, and using a weight or a band and starting with an extended arm, make a rowing motion, lifting your elbow towards the sky.
Innova Archery has a product called the “PowerDraw”. The PowerDraw is specifically designed for working the muscles used in archery. They strap around your wrist, like a bow release, and you use weight resistance to mimic drawing a bow. This tool helps to isolate the key muscles in your back and shoulder. I began using the PowerDraw straps in January, with a weight resistance of fifty pounds. Now, I am able to use seventy-pound resistance. I have noticed a significant improvement in my form and ability to pull my bow. Similar to the PowerDraw, an elastic band is versatile and can be used to perform rows and pulls.
There is also nothing wrong with old-fashioned pull-ups and push-ups. These equally work the upper body and core muscle groups. Start slowly with as many reps as you can safely and correctly. As you progress, work your way up on rep count and frequency. And for bow hunting, what better way to train your archery muscles than shooting your bow? Shoot often, but not enough to fatigue yourself to the point of injury. Fatigue and strain also lead to bad form. There are also great resources online with instructional videos to show how to perform certain exercises for the muscle group you want to target.
Archery, just like any sport, requires coordination and physical strength to perform optimally. Choose a strengthening regimen that best suits you and what you would like to accomplish. You’ll soon realize that you’re holding the bow steadier, and able to hold full draw longer, which will help immensely with shots that require you to hold for an extended amount of time.