Although archery is great fun and awesome recreation, it requires training if you want to incorporate it into your everyday routines. Certain muscle groups must be worked to ensure you can shoot your bow to the best of your ability. If you don’t, you’ll feel the repercussions the next day. What can you do with your workout to get ready to hit the woods or step up to that shooting line?
For starters, overall strength training *really* matters. Nikki Haverstock, archer and coach, has a few recommendations: “Reverse flies. Squats & lunges, military press.” Daily planking, according to World Cup gold medalist Crystal Gauvin, is important. Australian compounder Lou Redman echoes Gauvin’s thoughts about the value of strength training: “Front support holds, push-ups (normal and serratus anterior), burpees, rows, lunge walks.”
Heigh Ho Cardio
A good cardio workout is great for your heart, and eventually lowers your resting heart rate. When you’re on guard in a tree stand or locked and loaded at the archery range, a strong heart and calm nerves are keys to success.
Paralympic hopeful Kinga Kiss-Johnson suggests swimming as a good form of cardio. “Swimming works for me as a para athlete, since it is easy on my body but it gives a total body workout without the gravity that hurts out of the water.”
“Elliptical…because while my upper body can handle things, my lower body and legs get tired at field shoots and tournaments. I also have to stretch more and more as I get older. Finally, swimming seems to help EVERYTHING,” attests coach and archer Kari Jill Minton.
Livestrong informs us: “Studies demonstrate a greater impact through interval, aerobic and resistance exercises.” For instance, swimmers engaged in interval training significantly lower their heart rates through maximum dynamic exercise. Further, regular aerobic exercise such as jogging, running or biking often decrease a person’s resting heart rate by five to 25 beats per minute.
Row Your Way to Workout Sucess
Rowing and kayaking work the lower trapezius muscles, a major group used in archery. Not everyone has access to a lake or waterway where they can regularly row or kayak, but several exercises mimic these motions, such as a gym’s rowing machine or its lat pull-down machines. Livestrong also offered this insight: “The latissimus dorsi is the largest muscle of the back and is one of the main muscles in the body used in archery, primarily during the drawing motion of the bow.”
The rowing motion also works the rotator cuffs, which Canadian archer and physical therapist Alana McDougall recommends: “Any sort of remedial rotator cuff exercises. Internal and external rotation of the shoulder joints at various angles with resistance bands.”
Hit Those Weights
Beginning archers should also train with exercises that develop leg, core and arm strength. Contrary to what you might think, beginners should not concentrate on the biceps, because they’re not the primary muscles used in archery. Archers can strengthen their legs, core and arms by lifting weights, or with exercises that use their own body weight, such as push-ups, lunges and squats.
There’s no need to feel pressure to go balls to the wall right out of the gate. You can start by adding in one new exercise at a time. American recurve archer Sean Chang says that he “got out of my ‘slump’ and shooting how I wanted to after just starting to do pushups. I honestly wasn’t able to do them at first but after some persistence gained strength to do quite a few.”
Helen Claudio, a fitness buff who loves shooting her longbow, recommends: “Overhead squats, deadlifts (standard, sumo, and snatch grip), front squats, thrusters, push-ups, burpees, cleans, plants, various flavors of rowing, and push-presses and overhead presses.”
These exercises let you target multiple muscle groups. As Livestrong shares, archery uses several main muscle groups, including the triceps at the back of your upper arm, the deltoids in your shoulders, and the latissimus dorsi in the lower back.
The Livestrong article says “dumbbell one-arm lateral raises” target those muscles, and it describes this exercise and others in detail.
Adam Holt recently shared a workout routine in Bowhunter. He points out that most bowhunters would never go hunting without precisely tuning their bow, but they seldom train their body before a hunt.
BowhuntingMag recommends dumbbells. Why? “Dumbbells force you to use smaller auxiliary muscles and use fine motor movements. Recruiting these small muscles helps refine your strength by emphasizing control and balance — very important for a steady hold.”
The article’s author, 3-D archery champion Randy Ulmer, recommends drawing your bow multiple times after each practice. “I try to use the same movement to pull the bow back as I’d use in a hunting situation,” Ulmer wrote. “I extend my left arm in front of me and pull the string straight back to anchor. I use my release aid rather than my fingers to pull the bow back. You must never do this without an arrow on the string. The last time I pull my bow back, I remain at full draw, aiming at a target. I hold this position as long as possible until I’m about to collapse.”
Yoga is excellent for balance, which can be a pivotal skill in archery. If you’re sneaking along a field edge and suddenly see a deer, you might have to stop and quickly draw. If you’re standing on a branch at that moment, being able to balance on that spot might mean the difference between a hit and a miss. Yoga is also great for clarity and focus, key factors in precise shooting.
Claudio also adds, “Balancing work of some sort is also helpful, whether it’s from a martial art or various unstable surfaces (BOSU, rubber pads, etc) or working on movements such as pistol squats.”
The exercises don’t have to be hard on your muscles in order to be effective. Leigh Walmsley, a Paralympian from Great Britain, says “As an archer with a systemic disability, stretchy bands are my bff! Lots of slow, gentle repetition is the only way I can warm up.”
If you want to reach Hawkeye’s level of expertise, try practicing these exercises regularly. You just might find yourself one step closer to success the next time you’re on the range or in your tree stand.