It’s that time of year when the weather keeps us from going outside to shoot our bows. Some archers shoot fall and winter tournaments so they stay in shape year round. Others work, travel or don’t have an indoor place to shoot. Don’t let the weather stop you from staying in good archery shape.
LG and I practice a few exercises to keep our archery muscles tuned up when we can’t go outside, or to the indoor range, to shoot our bows.
The primary muscles we want to strengthen are the shoulder and back muscles. These include the deltoids, trapezius and latissimus dorsi groups. These muscles are what we use to hold the bow up and at full draw. It is helpful to build strength and endurance so we can draw a fair amount of weight. It is also ideal to hold steady for long periods of time, as we wait for an animal to appear from behind cover. Below are my exercises and tips on how to stay in shape for archery.
How to train for the perfect bowshot
In order to prevent injury, it is important to strengthen these muscles in a balanced fashion. Archery is a unilateral sport, meaning that it primarily requires one side of your body’s muscles. When you use these muscles again and again, they become strengthened; however, the other side remains underdeveloped. Balancing our muscle growth will help keep our skeletal structure aligned and prevent injury.
It can obviously be a problem to draw a bow with your left hand, especially if you are right-handed, or vice versa. Not only is it awkward, but also, if your draw weight is set high, it can be dangerous. With the aid of household items, or exercise devices, you can keep our muscles in shape and balanced.
Tools to use at home and stay in archery shape
Weights and dumbbells – An archer can invest in a variety of dumbbells. It is a good idea to test them at the store to see which size weights will be the correct ones to develop your muscles used in making an archery shot.
Bow Trainer – The Bow Trainer is a resistance-training tool. It is designed to help archers increase stamina and muscle strength. It focuses on the muscles used to draw the bow and has a variety of resistance bands to accommodate all strength levels.
Latex workout bands – Latex or flex bands are simple, flat bands that are used as resistance tools. They can be used in a number of exercises to focus on a variety of muscles. LG and I like latex bands because they easily fit in our backpacks, satchels and suitcases. They can be taken anywhere.
Canned goods – A great option for archers who don’t want to invest a lot of money in weights or tools. A jug of water or cans of green beans can easily be used as weights, as long as they can be firmly held in the archers’ hand.
Exercises to stay in archery shape
Practice your draw – With the Bow Trainer or latex bands, you can vary the amount of resistance while creating back tension. In archery back tension is the final step, when the shoulder blades squeeze together, before the shot. This motion requires use of the deltoids, trapezius and latissimus dorsi muscles.
Simulate the draw, pulling back on the Bow Trainer or latex band. Hold the full draw position for 60 seconds, or until your muscles are too fatigued to maintain proper form. Repeat this exercise 10 times.
Lateral raises – Also known as side lifts, lateral raises will develop the deltoids, trapezius and latissimus dorsi muscles. This exercise builds endurance to hold the bow while at full draw. Increasing stamina in this muscle group will allow the bow to be held up, steadily, for long periods of time.
Use dumbbells, a jug of water or a latex band to perform a lateral raise. Begin with your feet positioned shoulder-width apart and hands relaxed, at your hips. Raise your arms straight out to your side. Hold your arms horizontal to the floor for 60 seconds. Repeat this exercise 10 times, or until your muscles are too fatigued to maintain proper form. You may do one arm at a time, or both at the same time as long as you’re standing up straight and not leaning to support the weight.
Upright rows – Standing, upright rows strengthen the deltoid and latissimus dorsi muscles. Using dumbbells, canned goods or a latex band, stand up straight with your feet positioned shoulder-width apart. Holding your tool, face the palm side of your hand toward your body. Bring the hands, together in front of the abdominal area. Raise them directly up to the center of your chest. Hold for 60 seconds or as long as possible. Repeat 10 times.
The motions should be repeated with both the right and left hands to promote muscle balance.
*Always consult your physician for approval prior to beginning any exercise regimen.