You don’t need to be strong like the Hulk to be a great archer. Although archery requires strength, it’s more about stability, great posture and even flexibility.
Stepping up your fitness game isn’t just good for you, it’s also going to boost your skills with a bow and arrows. Archery-focused exercises can help you draw a bow more easily, while building the stability and body control necessary for proper archery form. Those “upgrades” will help you pack more arrows into the middle of the target.
Shooting your bow is a great way to increase strength, but shooting won’t get you into peak archery shape by itself. To build stability and body control, the world’s best archers train on the range, in the gym and even on the yoga mat for complete archery fitness. The extra training gives them the needed edge to focus, steady their aim and outshoot the competition.
These pro archery exercises are for everyone, not just serious competitors. Whether you’re a brand new archer or even an aspiring one, these exercises will help you gain strength, improve your shooting technique, and even boost accuracy, whether you’re shooting at a bull’s-eye or 3-D target. These exercises are easily done at home and only take minutes to complete. You can even do them while watching TV or your favorite archery videos.
Jake Kaminski takes a total-body approach to fitness and strength training, and emphasizes overall wellness. The muscles used to draw and hold a bow at full draw are difficult to strengthen at a gym. Some exercises work these muscles, but nothing works them better than drawing your bow.
When you first start shooting archery, you’ll start with a bow that has a low draw weight, meaning it will be easy to pull back. This is important because you don’t want to strain to draw the bow, which can lead to fatigue and poor technique. As you progress in archery, you’ll want to increase your draw weight, because more draw weight means a faster arrow and the ability to shoot farther. You can speed up your progression by supplementing your shooting with exercises designed to work your archery muscles. One of the best exercises for increasing draw weight is Specific Physical Training, or SPT.
SPTs were developed by KiSik Lee, who coaches the U.S. Olympic Team for archery. SPT exercises are usually done using a bow, but any training device that mimics drawing a bow by using resistance bands will also work. For beginners, you can start with any resistance band – just loop it so you can “draw” the band with one hand, and hold it with the other.
“For increasing draw weight, SPTs are great,” Kaminski said. “Basically, what you do is draw back your bow and hold at full draw with good form for a minimum of 15 seconds and a maximum of 30 seconds. You then rest double what you held. So, if you held for 15 seconds, you rest for 30 seconds. Continue that for a half-hour to an hour. Doing that for an hour equates roughly to 200 to 250 arrows shot.”
For safety, if you do SPT with a bow, stand in front of a target with an arrow loaded, so if you accidentally trigger a dry-fire, you won’t damage your bow. Using resistance bands instead will let you do SPT workouts at home while watching TV or getting some fresh air and sunshine.
Kaminski takes a scientific approach to exercise and, most importantly, structures his training so he’s at peak performance for competitions. His book, “Training for Archery,” covers his system in-depth.
Shooting arrows a week doesn’t just require upper body strength. So try to focus workouts on core and leg strength. Some basics can including squats, planks, deadlifts and Romanian deadlifts.
Here’s how to do a basic forearm plank which is excellent for core stability.
- Place your forearms on the ground directly under your shoulders.
- Put your toes on the floor so the only points of contact with the ground are your toes and forearms.
- Keep your knees, hips, back, and shoulders aligned.
- Squeeze your glutes and abdomen tightly.
- Hold this position for 1 minute or as long as you can.
- Rest for 60 seconds, then repeat 1-2 more times.
If the basic forearm plank becomes too easy of a movement, there are many other variations to make it more challenging.
The Romanian deadlift, commonly referred to as an RDL, is a staple exercise for athletes from all backgrounds. As you’ll learn in archery lessons, your stability starts with your stance. A strong foundation for your shot means more accuracy and easier shooting.
Performing RDLs is a sure way to develop strong glutes, hamstrings, and lower back, which are all important muscles for your stance.
To perform an RDL:
- Standing upright and keeping a slight bend in your elbow, hold a barbell so it is in line with your hips.
- Be sure to keep your shoulders back and maintain good postural alignment in your back at all times.
- Bend your knees slightly and slowly lower the bar to the floor.
- Once the weight plates touch the ground return to starting position (do not bounce the weight off the ground)
- Repeat for 8-12 reps, then rest for 60 seconds and repeat 1-2 more sets.
Mental exercises can also sharpen focus for competition. After all, the mind is a muscle used in every shot, so it helps to make it strong.
A simple visualization exercise is to imagine yourself at a tournament or on the practice range. Walk through your shot process, focusing intently on each step. See yourself do each step and execute a perfect shot.
If you consistently see yourself succeed, you gain confidence and boost positive thinking. In turn, your concentration improves and you remove self-doubt.