Olympic champion Chang Hye-Jin of Korea shoots with a flat, neutral lower back you can’t help but admire. She ain’t no hollow-back girl.
A “hollow back” loosely refers to archers who shoot with a big arch in their lower back. That arch means they’re overusing their lower-back muscles, causing a distinct curve as their butt and stomach stick out in opposite directions. When viewed from the side, these archers look like a giant “S.”
An imbalance between muscles in the stomach and lower back cause most hollow-back problems. In brief, these archers must strengthen their core muscles. Back muscles are stronger than stomach muscles and, therefore, tighter. That causes them to pull on the pelvic bone’s rear side and draw down the front side.
As the front of the pelvis gets pulled down, stomach muscles stretch to accommodate the motion, causing the lower back to arch. An arched back hurts a recurve archer’s form because they tend to use the wrong back muscles when expanding through the clicker. With too much tension in their back, they struggle to isolate the proper muscles.
The problem rests with imbalanced muscle strength, so we should strengthen the abdominal muscles and put our focus on the lower abdomen. We also must make the lower back more flexible.
Daily stretching can go a long way to increasing flexibility. Do a basic internet search to find stretches you can do, even if you have mobility issues. Start stretching after your body has already warmed up with some physical activity, such as archery practice. A great way to hold yourself accountable is to do your stretching after your daily practice. If you prefer other sports or physical activity first, stretching afterward will still help you improve your mobility.
Strengthening your abdominals does not have to be arduous and painful. Again, an internet search will find plenty of exercises and YouTube demonstration videos. While increasing strength, give your body time to recover. Don’t exercise daily at first. Try exercising twice weekly for a few weeks, and then three times weekly, and then four, and so on.
Don’t exercise more than six days weekly. You must give your body time to recover. If you can set aside part of your day to work out, then doing even a small amount before bed each night will help you achieve results within weeks. I often challenge people to do a 5-minute plank before bed each night. That doesn’t mean five straight minutes. Try five minutes total.
Proper everyday posture helps solve an arched back. Standing and going through everyday life with a neutral, flatter back helps balance your core muscles. Check in with yourself each hour to see if you naturally stand with an arched back. Make body awareness part of your mindset.
Making it habitual helps you catch yourself when your back starts arching and creeping back into your posture. You’ll recognize the problem and fix it right away. Also keep your shoulders back, and don’t let your upper back “round out” into a slouch or hunch. Good posture helps you improve your body awareness, and delivers many fine years of pain-free archery.