Archery demands mental toughness, and physical strength and conditioning for you to shoot your best.
Building archery-specific muscles doesn’t require heavy weightlifting, CrossFit memberships, or countless hours at the gym. Most archery-focused exercises can be done at home, and through high reps with light weights to condition muscles and build strength without significantly increasing their mass. The primary muscle groups to train are those in the back, core and shoulders, all of which aid the draw cycle, shot execution and overall stability when shooting.
Single-Arm Dumbbell Row
This exercise works the Latissimus Doris muscles in the middle of the back. Pulling the dumbbell in this exercise improves pulling strength when drawing a bow. The lower body and core support and stabilize this movement, just as they provide stability while shooting.
What you’ll need: One dumbbell, one flat bench.
To perform single-arm dumbbell rows, place your hand, knee and foot from the same side atop the bench, and plant your other foot flat on the floor beside the bench, with the knee slightly bent. Your free arm hangs to the side of the bench, dumbbell in hand. When positioned correctly your back should be flat and parallel to the bench, with your core firm for support. Start with your arm fully extended, and pull the weight in a straight line to your chest. Pause at the top and return to full extension in a smooth, controlled movement. Your forearm should only work to hold the weight, and not help raise it. Repeat until tired and then switch sides.
Single-Arm Dumbbell Lateral Raise
This movement strengthens the Deltoids, located on the side of the shoulder. These muscles provide strength to support the bow in the front arm and help draw the bowstring.
What you’ll need: One dumbbell.
The single-arm dumbbell lateral raise is a simple movement, but posture and stability are critical. Place your feet shoulder-width apart with your knees slightly bent. Keep your back straight and core tight to provide stability, and keep looking straight ahead. Grip the dumbbell in one hand and let that arm hang to your side. Place your other hand on your hip. In a slow, controlled motion, lift the dumbbell away from your side while keeping your arm straight and the palm of your hand facing down. Pause when your arm reaches 90 degrees and slowly lower the weight.
Core strength helps stabilize the body while shooting archery. A solid core provides the foundation for proper posture and shooting form. Side planks develop and improve core muscles in the abdomen, and the exterior and interior obliques. This exercise strengthens the quadriceps.
What you’ll need: A flat surface (yoga mat optional).
You’ll have two contact points with the ground when performing side planks: the forearm and outside foot on the same side. Your forearm on the ground should be perpendicular to your body, with the elbow directly beneath the shoulder and bent at 90 degrees. Your head, neck, trunk and lower body should be directly in line and pitched upward at the angle created by your supporting arm. Place your other arm alongside your body in a relaxed position. Engage your core and glutes. Hold this position for a predetermined time goal or until failure.
Yoga is an excellent all-around exercise. It incorporates physical aspects critical to archery, such as stamina, flexibility and core strength. Other elements of yoga lend themselves to archery’s physiological side, like body awareness, mental focus and controlled breathing.
What you’ll need: one yoga mat and instruction.
If you’re new to yoga, classes are the best way to start. Take them at yoga studios, or explore yoga online from the convenience of your home. Two of yoga’s most beneficial disciplines for archers are Hatha and hot yoga. Hatha focuses on basic moves done slowly and controlled. Hot yoga features more active moves and could be viewed as a more traditional workout that stays true to yoga’s focus on mind and body control. Also, it’s not called “hot yoga” for nothing. It’s done in a heated studio that helps get blood flowing and sweat pumping.
Several other exercises benefit archers who want to improve their physical strength. These four exercises, however, provide well-rounded training to build strength and shoot straighter.