Movies make archery look simple: Nock an arrow, draw the string and shoot your target. You might need mere seconds to nock an arrow and release it, but that sequence involves many steps for making good shots.
Proper archery form involves a series of steps that align your body for making the best possible shots. From your stance to follow-through, this sequence improves your form, prevents injuries and keeps you consistent. Let’s review these shooting steps:
- Hook and Grip
- Set up
- Draw to Load
- Transfer to Hold
What is ‘Transfer to Hold’?
For some archers, the “transfer to hold” step needs some explaining, and might get overlooked in practice. When you watch archers shoot, you might not notice the transfer to hold step. It’s vital, however, for improving form.
Although it can appear that archers use their arm muscles to draw a bow, the primary muscles involved are in the upper back and the lower trapezius behind the scapula. The draw process is basically a rotation around the spine.
To engage your back muscles while drawing, imagine a string tied to your elbow and someone standing behind you pulling the string and rotating your elbow around your head. You’ll feel tension in your back as the scapula moves toward your spine. If you mainly use your arm muscles to draw, you risk injury and fatigue.
Once you anchor, you transfer to hold, which means transferring any remaining weight in your forearm, biceps and hand to your back muscles. Removing this tension lets archers use their skeletal system to hold the bow’s weight.
Unlike other shooting steps that are obvious to see, the transfer to hold is a slight movement that’s barely noticeable. Ellison said this movement improves your alignment and gets you in the strongest position to shoot. Ellison said the transfer to hold isn’t as much about movement as it is feeling the draw weight transfer to the back muscles.
Larry Wise, a longtime instructor, said the transfer to hold requires the right draw weight and equipment that fits your body. In his video explaining transfer to hold, he says archers must be able to raise and draw their bow levelly to properly transfer the weight to hold. If your draw weight is too heavy, you should lower it until you can draw levelly. If you have questions about your draw length or weight, visit an archery shop for expert help.
If you transfer to hold and properly hold at full draw with your back, your release hand will end up behind your ear after you release the arrow and follow through., Wise said if that’s how your follow-through looks, you’ve mastered the proper dynamics for the best possible shot.
As you practice, don’t focus on tight groups and hitting the center, Wise said. Instead, work through the steps for each shot. By mastering those steps shot after shot, including the transfer to hold, you’ll draw and shoot your bow more efficiently. That process prevents injury and fatigue, and ultimately improves performance.
Training with a certified coach is the best way to learn and master shooting’s 11 steps. If you’re a beginner or you need a refresher course, visit an archery shop and find a certified instructor.