Having proper alignment while you shoot is important for the longevity of your shooting session, and ultimately, your shooting career. It can take a lot of fiddling around until you find that perfect position that makes your shot feel smooth and effortless.
First, let’s talk about what alignment really means. Disregarding alignment in the equipment, alignment for recurve archers refers to how your shoulders and arms line up to the arrow while at full draw. Simply put, your shoulders and arms should form a triangle while at full draw.
Imagine looking at the scene from above. The long side of the triangle should extend from the point of the arrow through the nock and to the string-side elbow. The short side of the triangle should be the length of arm from the string-side elbow to the string-side shoulder. The remaining side of the triangle should go from the string-side shoulder through the bow-side shoulder and bow arm, ending at the bow hand.
The formation of this triangle is important because of how strong this makes the archer at full draw. Strength doesn’t mean using more muscle; it’s about alignment. The triangle helps you take the draw weight of the bow solely on the bone structure through your arms and shoulders, which helps to offset the poundage. With the draw weight taken by the bones, you can focus on the minute details of which muscles to use when expanding through the clicker zone.
Getting into this position can be tricky. An archer’s instinct is often to do a potentially career-ending shoulder adjustment to get into this position: he or she will try to roll the front shoulder toward the arrow while at full draw. But this can do more harm than good because of the stress it puts on your bow-side shoulder. Your shoulders work best in pairs; if you want to move one shoulder back, help it by moving the other one forward. In this case, if you want to move your front shoulder toward the arrow, accommodate it by moving the string-side shoulder the opposite way. This will help get you into alignment. It will also lengthen your draw a little further.
Checking for this alignment is pretty simple, especially with the electronics we have at our disposal. Get a friend or coach to take pictures at various angles to confirm your alignment is correct. A couple things will also happen if your alignment has improved. Your draw length will extend, pushing you through the clicker early. Also, the draw weight will feel slightly easier to handle, because it’s now being loaded onto bones instead of muscles.
Achieving proper recurve alignment doesn’t have to be hard. You just need to practice and be vigilant in achieving your alignment goals. Remember that everyone is not built the same. Everybody has a different amount of flexibility. Do your best to achieve good alignment, and this will lead to decades of archery fun.