Training for Archery: What Muscles Should You Train?

Improve Your Archery Game By Discovering the Best Exercises You Should be Doing and The Muscles You Ought to be Training

Since you’re here, I assume you’re looking to raise your archery game. But how do we do it? It’s easy to think that simply shooting more should do the trick, but actually, the best archers develop their bodies in ways that support their archery.

I’ve been getting inspiration from the experts about how to get more arrows into the center of the target and here’s what I’ve found out.

an image of someone with a bow and arrow ready to shootBeing a good archer relies a lot on having great skills, but being able to shoot consistently over a period of time requires muscles with enough strength for the type of shooting you do, and enough endurance to keep good form without tiring too soon.

The best archers have good all-over fitness, endurance and strength. Their edge comes from being able to shoot consistently all day long, even in difficult conditions. What complicates matters is that drawing a bow uses muscles that are often overlooked in typical workouts, such as in your shoulders and upper back, so to really raise your game, it’s important to develop a regime that includes them.

A good regime includes attention to strengthening and improving your upper body, core and legs, without focusing too much on any one area. Posture and flexibility on the field are more important than outright strength.

 

Getting fit for Archery

When we get tired, the first thing to go is our form. For archers, that means our posture, stability and focus begin to drift. Being able to shoot all day long means that when it really matters, we’ll have the conditioning we need to shoot at our best.

Getting archery fit is about being able to draw your bow at the draw weight you want, keep your accuracy and composure for as long as we need – especially important if we shoot competitively. As well as strength, we’re looking for good balance and coordination.

It also means that you’re prepared for whatever circumstances the sport throws at you – whether that’s wind, long days or generally tough conditions. Your preparedness will translate to you getting the luck more of the time, giving you a competitive edge.

 

Can’t I just shoot my bow more?

Archery targets with lots of bows around the different points on the target bullseyeWell, yes, but also, no.

Obviously, practice and repetition will make you a better archer because the sport is so skills-focused, but to really get results you need to focus on overall strength and fitness and work on the muscle groups that don’t often get trained in a typical workout.

Being able to shoot all day keeping up your consistency relies on all-over endurance training.

Having said that, shooting with a heavier bow than you normally do, shooting more arrows than you normally do, and working with a wider range of distances than normal will all contribute to improving your ability, in the same way that getting your mind and body used to running the 10km distance will improve your performance over 5km.

 

What muscles should you train for archery? 

Great archers work on strength all over. Your back, arms, shoulders, glutes and core are all important.

In your back, the latissimus dorsi plays a major role in the drawing of the bow. It’s also the largest muscle in your back and therefore is important to develop.

Taking into account the shoulders and you’re looking at the rhomboids, trapezius, deltoids, and the rotator cuff muscles, among others.

Obviously, your arms, shoulders and upper back are doing a lot of the work in archery. What’s less obvious is the vital role the rest of your body is playing in supporting your body – keeping you steady and balanced. To test this idea, try drawing your bow while sitting down with your legs in the air.

You’ll find your core working overtime to keep you upright, showing how much you rely on your legs.

In the legs, you’ll be working the quadriceps to improve knee extension, and in the hips, muscles like the gluteus maximus and semitendinosus.

To get a little deeper, it’s also important to be working the antagonistic muscles, too. Don’t focus entirely on bicep work while ignoring the triceps, for example. If you do, you’ll end up with less all-around strength and more importantly be susceptible to injuries.

 

What are the best exercises?

A great way to use your bow for muscle practice is to draw it and hold for five seconds, in sets of 25-50. As well as building muscles it’ll continue improving your muscle memory, improving your consistency and form.

To improve the steadiness with which you hold the bow, use grippers (or even a stress ball) to strengthen your hand. A tennis ball between held between the shoulder blades will also help you create the right tension in your back.

Because the barbell pullover works the triceps, deltoids and the important latissimus dorsi, it’s a really useful exercise for our purposes. Lying on your back with your legs bent, lift the weight up, keeping your hands in line with your shoulders. Once there, keep your arms straight and carefully lower the barbell so it ends up directly behind your head, and bring it back to its starting point.

You can also practice holding a dumbbell – or anything, really – that’s about the same weight as your bow at arm’s length. Make sure you don’t lean forward to maximise the benefits to your strength, posture and balance.

To round out your training, do work on the parallel bars or chin-ups, or the overhead extension to strengthen your triceps.

To work the back and rotator cuff, bend over at the waist while standing (with your knees a little bent) and hold a dumbbell out to one side. With your elbow pointing upwards, bring the arm steadily in and out.

Complement this with planks and pushups which help develop your shoulders, arms and core. That core strength is vital for keeping your balance when you’re tired or being buffeted by wind.

The rowing machine has a ton of benefits, and is great for archery because it gives you a full body workout, including the triceps, deltoids and latissimus dorsi.

Generally speaking, when using weights, aim for around 12 reps retaining perfect form – start at fewer and build up to 12 if you need to, but getting your form right is vital.

 

Conclusionman aiming and pulling archery bow back and aiming at target

Becoming a better archer means becoming a better all-around athlete. Work on your strength and endurance in all of your body – upper, core and legs.

Archery is very skills-based, but when a day of shooting becomes long, or when shooting in challenging conditions, the archers with better physical resilience will keep their form for longer, giving them a significant edge.

Don’t overlook the more unusual muscle groups and try to incorporate exercise that improves your flexibility, too. Most importantly, keep on having fun!

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