One of the things we all strive for in our archery is higher draw weights. It’s that tantalizing goal that you can never quite satisfy your need for … If you could only get a couple of more pounds, your archery would be fabulous. Unfortunately, it’s not quite than simple and its fraught with dangers so let’s have a chat about it.
Higher draw weights mean that more energy is transferred into the arrow on release. This higher energy status will mean the arrow has the potential to travel further, faster and resist winds better. Specifically, higher poundages mean you can move your sight pin higher on the sight’s elevation bar for the same distance or reach out further on that same vertical setting. Your arrow will be less susceptible to drag from headwinds and windage on your sight pin will need to be moved less as the arrow is punching through any crosswinds better. HOWEVER, you physically need to be able to handle the extra strain on your body which brings us to overbowing.
Overbowing, the term for having too high a draw weight, is a major problem for archers whose eyes are bigger than their musculature. If the draw weight of your bow is too high, you will struggle to fully draw the bow to clicker, anchor or valley. You will fatigue faster, potentially being unable to complete rounds. Finally, you may injury yourself quite badly to the point of being unable to shoot your bow again! (We can see our editor shudder just thinking about that final point). The sort of injuries would be impingement in your shoulder (see our Vice-chair for details) or rotator cuff problems both of which may need surgery to correct. More commonly, strains in the back’s muscles and tendons which usually mean weeks of rest. But how do you know if you are overbowed?
If you are wobbling about and unable to get stable at full draw … you might be overbowed! If you are hunching your bow shoulder to the point its up round your ear … you might be overbowed! If you get horrible tension in your neck, grit your teeth while drawing or have massive neck pain/headaches after shooting … you might be overbowed!
…… joke format copyright Jeff Foxworthy
So how do you get to higher draw weights safely?
While reversals are good for endurance, three good exercises for increasing draw weight are bench press, row and vertical press. All three can be done on machines, but its actually more useful to use a barbell or dumbbells with the vertical press and especially with the bench press. This is because when your arms are extended upwards, your muscles need to stabilise the weights from wandering about which works the muscles that stabilize your bow arm helping your sight stay on target. With machines you don’t need to stabilize the weights wandering as the machine does it for you. Start light-ish in weight with 3 sets of 8-10 reps and slowly increase the weight till you find a weight you can manage but is making you work to get the full set done. DON’T go for a level of weight that makes you struggle – that’s just overbowing by another name! Once the set seems easier, ease up another 1-2kg with the same number of sets/reps. Rinse and repeat. Yes its dull, but it will make those higher poundages more accessible and less likely to hurt you.
Somethings to remember for that New Year gym membership!
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