While archery can be a relaxing sport, it also requires a lot of strength training exercises. Archery demands incredible strength of the mind and body. As you focus on the target, clear your head and get ready for the release, you engage numerous muscles all through your body that need regular training.
As a beginner or seasoned archer, incorporating functional strength training into your routine is crucial to improving your shooting accuracy. Strength training exercises vary greatly and mainly depend on individual capability and the muscles you want to work.
Archery Muscles To Focus On During Strength Training Exercises
At first glance, you may think only the arms are involved in drawing and holding the bow, but there are about a dozen major muscles all through the upper body working together each time you draw the bow. Some notable muscles involved include:
- The shoulder’s deltoid muscles
- Teres major, teres minor and latissmus in the back
- The arm’s biceps and triceps
- Pectorals in the chest
Also, as you take your stance, your core and abdominal muscles are activated, helping you maintain your position. Hence, most of the best archery exercises focus on the upper body muscles and core.
Why Strength Training Exercises Are Important For Archers
To be an effective archer, you need to have impressive upper body strength. A lot of archers who have issues with accuracy tend to work on focus and aim or their shooting techniques in general, overlooking the physical, strength training aspect of archery. And if you don’t work on your core strength, you could end up dealing with sub-optimal performance for as long as possible.
Some Strength Training Exercises For Archers
Now that we understand the importance of strength training exercises for you as an archer, let’s consider some simple routines you can incorporate into your archery exercises to improve your game.
Any and All Forms of Cardio
Regardless of whether you’re into bowhunting or target archery, cardio helps you build the stable footing and stamina required for accuracy and endurance. Archery competitions can be extremely long and tiring, and bowhunting often requires going on long-distance treks to track down a game.
We’ve listed cardio as our #1 archery exercise because it’s absolutely crucial to your success as an archer - a fact we all seem to forget. There are countless forms of cardio exercises, so we recommend one of running, swimming, and rowing. Swimming and rowing are low-impact options you can opt for. You can use a rowing machine at home or the gym. Running, even for a short course, provides full-body engagement and a higher impact level.
Repeatedly drawing back the bow and anchoring requires a lot of stamina and strains your biceps. Bench dips are one of the easiest archery exercises you can incorporate to increase your tricep endurance, which is great, especially for compound bow archers.
This versatile strength training exercise works on your core strength and upper body, allowing you to improve these two crucial body areas.
How to perform bench dips:
- Get a bench (or a table or chair) and sit with your leg bent at a 90-degree angle.
- Grab the bench’s edge, but keep your palms facing forward
- Legs fully extended, walk your feet out about hip-width apart until clear of the bench
- Lower your body just until your elbows hit an angle between 45 and 90
- Slowly push back up to the start position and repeat, remembering to keep your legs straight
Tips: As with all archery exercises, you need to take things easy, particularly when you’re just starting out. Do not go too far, as lowering yourself too far down can result in a shoulder injury, which doesn’t sound good for an archer.
Archers tend to focus more on the arms and back, forgetting the super essential core muscles. Planks are a great exercise to improve strength, endurance, and core stability for archery.
Planking is one of the top core strengthening exercises because it develops:
- the Transversus abdominus (the foundation of all your ab muscles) - and thus, helps improve the stability of your core,
- the Obliques which assist in twisting your waist, helping you hold a steady positioning as you draw your bow, and
- the Glutes which support the back and help improve your posture - a key aspect of getting your shooting technique right.
To do a plank:
- Place your forearms on the ground (or a softer surface like a yoga mat) directly under your shoulders
- Get on your toes and raise your body or your elbow and forearms (your toes and forearms should be the only point of contact with the ground)
- Keep your shoulders, back, hips and knees aligned
- Tightly squeeze your abdomen and glutes
- Hold this position for as long as you can, taking a 60 seconds break between each lap
There are other plank variations, such as high planks and side planks, which target different parts of your core.
To adjust to a high plank position, extend your arms and move up from your forearms onto flat palms, ensuring your whole body remains straight.
From here, you can adjust to a side plank position by twisting to one side, onto one hand, and holding that position with an extended arm.
Tips: Plank is one of the archery exercises that is initially tough but gets easier with time. When doing planks, focus first on your form. As you build more strength, add more variation and time to your planking.
Push-ups target the triceps, pectoral muscles, and the muscle groups in the shoulder back - muscles considered most important to archers. Push-ups are a great archery exercise option because they increase upper body performance while boosting core, shoulder, and hip stability.
The how-to of push-ups:
- Place your hands on the ground, a shoulder-width apart or slightly wider, your fingers spread out for stability
- Lower your body with your arms until your elbows are at a 45-degree angle
- Return to the starting position, keeping your core engaged all through the exercise
- Repeat as many times as you can
Tips: For functional strength training, doing one push-up with great form is more effective than three pushups with poor form. To maximize your outcome, you should initially work towards perfecting your form instead of trying to do more push-ups.
Single-arm dumbbell row
The single-arm dumbbell row is the closest archery exercise on our list to imitating actually drawing a bow. This workout strengthens the latissimus dorsi in the middle back - the same muscle engaged as you draw your bow and helps to improve your draw strength, making it possible for you to shoot longer. It also engages your lower body and core, providing stability to your torso.
To perform single-arm dumbbell rows;
- Lean with a knee over a flat bench and place your arm on it
- Keep your back parallel to the ground and ensure your core is engaged
- Grab a dumbbell with your free hand and hold it while your arm extends out
- Pull the dumbbell towards your ribs while maintaining your posture
- Lower the dumbbell until you’ve fully extended your arm
- Repeat the process up to 10 times, then switch to the other arm
Tips: Single-arm dumbbell rows pair well with a rowing machine. You could try it out.
Dumbbell side raise
This functional strength training exercise helps build up your deltoids, dramatically improving bow support from your forearm, boosts your strength as you draw the bowstring, and bolsters your shoulder strength so you can maintain a steady stance while drawing and aiming. In the long run, you will be able to better stabilize and draw your bow more smoothly and precisely.
You can perform the dumbbell side raise like this:
- Stand upright while holding a dumbbell in each hand (can be done using a single arm or both arms simultaneously)
- Bend your knees slightly while keeping your back straight
- Bend your elbows slightly, then raise each dumbbell until it is parallel with the ground
- Slowly lower the weights to the starting position, ensuring your arms remain straight
Tips: Go easy. Choose a lighter weight. You have greater chances of improving muscle stamina by going more rounds with lighter weights.
No Pain, No Gain
It’s easy to believe you can become a better archer only by mastering the rules and getting the right gear. And, to be fair, both are very important as well. However, your shooting accuracy also depends strongly on your ability to handle the gear correctly. And with archery being a very sensitive sport, your body must always be in control.
Hence, just as you would be meticulous with finding the right archery gear or learning how to maintain a good stance, be sure to include some strength training exercises into your routine as well. Your body and your archery skills will thank you for this in the long run.