Archers are not the most dynamic athletes (outside of ski biathlon!). We walk to the line, we shoot our arrows, we walk to the target, collect our arrows and stroll back. People will tell you its hardly a triathlon, MMA bout or grueling gym weight session … but its surprising just how much fitness, endurance and strength is required to shoot your bow especially in competition. Archers walk around eight kilometers (five miles) each outdoor competition they shoot in and can burn between 100 and 150 active calories every 30 minutes. A 35lbs bow drawn 150 times = nearly 2.4 tons! So being as strong and as fit as you can be is going to be nothing but beneficial to your archery.
The physical act of drawing the bow requires a great many muscles to work together to complete a shot. The muscles in use are all over the upper body but the main ones are …
The Back Tension group, the Rhomboid and Trapezius which you engage in your back as you are bringing your shoulder blades together on the draw/hold/expand.
The Deltoids for holding the bow steady at full draw.
The Latissimus Dorsi, the muscles over your ribs in your back – your core strength.
The Rotator Cuff muscles in your shoulder used for drawing and holding.
Finally, the Biceps somewhat on the draw and the Triceps on pulling through the clicker.
Now while shooting your bow or doing reversals are a couple of the best ways to physically improve your strength for archery, there are gym exercises that can work those areas. It can be difficult to work out which exercises will be beneficial as archery workouts aren’t usually something gyms are up to speed on (although my gym got wise pretty quickly after a 10 min chat). But this website … Muscle Wiki … takes all the guesswork out of choosing an exercise. Select gender, select manner of exercise (exercises with weights, stretches, body weight or kettlebells), click on the body part you wish to work out and hey presto … 2-4 drills for you to work that body! There’s even instant video for you to appraise.
If you prefer, you can also download some archery specific exercise PDF’s from our free guides page. These were created by Tim Goodwin (a personal trainer and archer) and KiSik Lee (USA Archery Team Coach) if you would like something more specific. These are working to the requirements of archers so have in some ways been tailored to better fit our requirements from whats normally seen in gyms.
An article in Bow International (issue 151) listed 5 basic exercises for archers using weights/body weight … The Plank, The Press-Up, the basic Dumbbell Hold, the Rotational Lift and the Cross-Body Lift. Their final piece of advice was for a simple reversal – draw and hold your bow at anchor for 5 seconds then come down. 20-30 seconds rest then do it again for 25+ reps which will really help you on those 6 arrow ends.
Being archery fit doesn’t mean looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime** but you do need to commit to more than just shooting your bow once a week for an hour to improve your archery. Hopefully the above will give you a step up to the next plateau but at the very least you will definitely get benefits to your health and that can’t be a bad thing.
(** in fact being too muscular might cause some problems with your draw where there’s no room for the proper muscular motion. I saw a “Korean?” dude at a come and try, who I can only describe as a clone of OddJob from James Bond’s Goldfinger, struggle to draw an 18lbs training bow because we think … he was TOO muscular!)