To the onlooker, archery may not seem like a physically demanding sport. While it’s true that the bow does a lot of the work, practicing archery at a high level does demand that certain muscle groups be conditioned and adapted to the sport. Having a strong upper body in general is of particular importance.
Exercises for archery aren’t just limited to physical strength and conditioning, however. To get the most out of your shooting, it’s also crucial to practice and refine your technique as much as you can. One of the best ways to do so is through the use of special archery exercises.
If you’re looking to develop your archery technique or work on your muscle strength, then this guide may be just the thing for you. We cover both sides of archery exercises and give some advice on how to take your archery training to the next level.
Table of Contents
What Muscles Do You Use in Archery?
Before diving into some of the exercises we can use to better condition our body for archery, it would be helpful to establish which muscles we most use when shooting a bow. As mentioned above, the muscles of the upper body in general play the most important role in archery. More specifically, the core muscles and structures of the upper arm, like the shoulder blades and trapezius muscle, are crucial for stabilizing and drawing the bow.
We do use some other muscles when shooting the bow, however. Major muscle groups that are part of the kinetic chain, like the glutes, are also important for the quality of our shot. And while we shouldn’t rely on them too much when drawing the bow, strengthening the muscles and tendons in the forearms is an important part of preventing injury.
Strength and Conditioning for Archery
One of the best ways to improve your shot in archery is by developing and conditioning the most heavily-used muscle groups for the sport. The following strength training exercises focus largely on your core and arm muscles, including the back, and shoulders. Practicing them regularly should help make your shot stabler and more powerful, as well as letting you work with a higher draw weight.
Single-arm Dumbbell Row
Single-arm dumbbell rows are a fantastic way to strengthen the latissimus dorsi muscle, which has a key role in stabilizing and supporting your back, core, and shoulders. When it comes to archery, having strong lats is key if you want a consistent, dependable shot. Stronger lats will also help you have a more powerful shot and be able to use bows with higher draw weights.
If you want to practice single-arm dumbbell rows, you’ll need a flat bench and a dumbbell. Place your left hand and knee on the bench; the idea here is for the bench to support most of your weight. Your opposing knee should be slightly bent. Then, holding the dumbbell in your free hand, raise it slowly until it’s in line with your chest. Hold for a second and then lower the dumbbell back to starting position. Once you’ve done your chosen number of reps, repeat the exercise on the opposite side.
Planks – Side and Front
While not strictly speaking an archery exercise, planks are a simple and efficient way to improve your core and arm strength. Front planks target the muscles in your chest, shoulders and core in particular, while side planks are an excellent way to build your interior and exterior oblique muscles. You’ll probably want to use a yoga mat when practicing planks, or at least do them on a soft surface like a carpeted floor.
If you want to try a front plank, start in a pushup position with your hands under your elbows and shoulders and your feet roughly shoulder width apart (your weight should be on the balls of your toes). Make sure that your hips aren’t sagging or too high. Then, simply hold the position for anywhere between 30-60 seconds.
Side planks are also fairly simple but can be somewhat trickier to hold. Start on your side with your forearm perpendicular to your body, and put your weight on your elbow and forearm, as well as the foot on the same side of the body that you will be performing the plank on. Make sure to keep your body as straight as possible and lift your hips off the ground. Then, hold the position for 30-60 seconds.
Dumbbell Rows in Plank Position
Why not combine dumbbell rows with the plank? Start in plank position with a dumbbell in each hand. Perform single arm rows or even single arm rows with a twist into side plank (shown below), for an extra emphasis on strengthening the shoulder muscles.
This exercise is one of the best to mimic the action of drawing a bow whilst putting extra pressure on your core.
Single-arm Dumbbell Raise (Lateral)
This exercise is a great way to strengthen your deltoids and lat muscles. With your feet shoulder width apart, grasp a dumbbell and let your arm hang, so that the dumbbell is level with your waist. Then, raise the dumbbell so that it is level with your shoulder. Hold the dumbbell in this position for 5-7 seconds and then lower. Repeat 10-15 reps for a full set.
Cardio and Cross Training
Training cardio to improve one’s archery may not seem like the most obvious thing to do. However, you’d be surprised by the incredible benefits that some forms of cardio can offer your shot and overall performance in archery.
Swimming is one type of cross-training that is especially popular among archers. This is likely due in large part to the way it strengthens the upper trunk, as well as the relatively low impact it has on the body in general.
We’d also like to emphasise that, while we love archery, the sport doesn’t generally offer the health benefits that you can expect from regular cardio. So, we encourage archers to engage in some level of cross-training for the health benefits alone, regardless of any potential impact it may have on your archery performance.
While archery is not the most physically demanding sport, these strength and conditioning exercises can make an enormous difference to your shot and overall performance. We would recommend incorporating them and any other exercises you find to be beneficial into your training routine in order to see the best results.