Being successful at archery requires the ability to focus and block out distractions as you prepare for your shot. However, archery is just as much a physical activity as it is mental, and proper mental skills won't help you if your shooting muscles aren't strong enough to pull back the bow.
Stronger archery muscles allow you to use a more powerful bow, which means you can shoot arrows farther and with more punch. In this article, we’ll look at one of the simplest archery exercises you can incorporate into your workout routine to build your muscle strength over time.
The Muscles That Contribute to Successful Archery
Before heading into the archery exercises, it is worth understanding some of the prominent shooting muscles that come into play when it’s time to shoot a bow and arrow. Some of these include:
- Levator scapulae: Located in the upper back, the levator scapulae works with two other major muscles - the rhomboids and the trapezius. Together, these muscles pull the shoulder blade and help you steady the bowstring.
- Deltoid: This is the main shoulder muscle. It helps you to lift the bow, hold the bowstring, and keep the bow steady as you shoot.
- Latissimus dorsi: Commonly referred to as “lats,” the latissimus dorsi is a large muscle that runs across your back. It also helps with optimal bow stabilization.
- Triceps: Located on the back of your upper arm, the triceps help straighten your elbow, thus optimizing your shooting form.
- Rotator cuff: Your rotator cuff helps you to move your shoulder in a 180-degree motion.
A 4-Step Guide to Exercising Your Archery Muscles
Now, let’s get into the workout routine that can help improve the strength of your shooting muscles. These are actually some of the easiest archery exercises. All you need are:
- Stress ball
- Exercise gripper
- Parallel bars
- Chin-up bar
- Stool or bench
Once you get those, follow these steps:
To improve your form and deliver more accurate shots, your stationary hand that holds the bow needs a tight grip. Working your hands and forearms help you hold the bow steady. For best results, squeeze a stress ball or exercise grippers daily to help work your forearm muscles.
Hold your hand in front of you with your elbow at a 90-degree angle, then squeeze the ball or grippers ten times. Hold each squeeze for three seconds. Do three sets for each hand.
Perform bicep curls with your dumbbells to help to strengthen your biceps. On your stationary arm, these muscles help hold the bow steady for proper aiming, and on your pulling arm, they help pull the bowstring back as you draw the bow.
To do bicep curls:
- Stand upright, with your feet about a hip-width apart. Ensure to keep your abdominal muscles engaged
- Holding a dumbbell in each hand, relax your arms down your sides
- Your elbows should remain close to your torso with palms facing forward
- Keeping your upper arms stationary and shoulders relaxed, exhale as you curl the weights upwards to shoulder level while contracting your biceps
- Hold the weight briefly at shoulder height, then inhale as you slowly return to the start position
Do two sets of 10 repetitions for each arm, and remember to start with the light dumbbells before working up to the heavier ones.
You could also do parallel bar dips or chin-ups to build strength in your triceps. Usually, one set of 12 per workout should be sufficient.
Parallel bar dip instructions:
- Stand between a set of parallel bars. Reach out to the bar handles and grab them firmly
- Keep your head and chest up and look straight ahead as you take a small jump
- With your feet hanging straight beneath your body or behind you with bent knees, hold your body above the ground, ensuring your arms are completely straight
- Keep your elbows close together and your upper arms to your sides as you slowly lower your body without allowing your feet to reach the ground. Stop when your upper arms are parallel to the ground, and your elbow joints break 90 degrees
- Push back into the start position until your arms are fully extended - like you’re trying to get the parallel bars to come together
- You can aim for as many as four sets of about 8 - 12 dips each
- Grab a chin-up bar, with your palms facing you and your arms a shoulder-width apart or narrower to accommodate your body
- Engage your upper back and core as you lift your chest toward the bar. Pull yourself up until your chin is above the bar
- Slowly lower yourself to the start position and repeat
Perform dumbbell flys to build your shoulder muscles.
- Stand upright, holding your dumbbells at arm's length by your side with your palms facing you
- Ensure your feet are a shoulder-width apart and your torso engaged
- Extend both arms up and out to your sides, keeping your elbows slightly bent until your limbs are parallel to the ground
- With a controlled movement, lower the arms slowly
- Repeat for two sets of 10 repetitions each. Remember to start with the light weights and work your way up to heavier weights.
Exercise your rotator cuff and back muscles with upward bows.
- Stand straight, then bend over at your waist, slightly bending your knees.
- Hold a dumbbell in one hand by your side.
- Place the other hand on a bench or stool to stabilize your body
- Keep your back straight and pull your arm back slowly, bending the elbow and pointing it toward the ceiling
- Squeeze your back muscles between your shoulder blades at the top of the row
- Control the release as you lower your arm
- Do two sets of 10 repetitions, then switch sides
You can also perform this exercise seated on a bench.
- Bend your body forward, keeping your back straight
- Hold both hands down beside your legs, then pull them back in a row.
Exercise and indulging in healthy food habits are critical for you as an archer. You need your body in good shape if you hope to optimize your shooting, and understanding the important shooting muscles greatly helps with this.
Whether you go to a gym or prefer to exercise at home, the workout routine laid out above helps you to work on all the important shooting muscles. It’s one of the simplest archery exercises available and allows you to grow at your own pace.