Archery Technique – Are You Over-Bowing Yourself?

For the traditional archer, the temptation to shoot a high poundage is large. The higher the poundage, the more inconsistencies you start to remove from your archery as your arrows travel faster (with wooden arrows you really notice the difference). Today though I want to talk about the dangers of “over-bowing” yourself.

Unfortunately, many archers ignore the preparation needed to build yourself up to a higher poundage – and without this preparation you’re likely to do yourself far more harm than good. I guess preparation just isn’t as much fun as shooting! It is important though, and I recommend:

  • Firstly, making sure your technique is solid. To start with, you’re going to need to be holding the extra weight using your much stronger back muscles rather than your weaker arm muscles.
  • Try to build up to the higher poundage. If it helps, try to get hold of a formaster (basically a large elastic band that mirrors the tension of the bow). Many archery stores sell them, and the real value of them is they allow you to build up your strength by practising just a few minutes a day – without setting your bow up and scaring the neighbours! Try attaching the formaster to your elbow rather than holding it on your fingers, and try to build up to holding at full draw for 30 seconds without shaking.

Unfortunately, this build-up is not a regular part of archery training, and many archers continue to struggle shooting a bow that actually may be too heavy for them. If you’re over-bowing yourself, there are often a few tell-tale signs:

  • You may start to shoot “through your face”. From hard experience, I can say that this can be both extremely painful – and highly unnecessary, and results from pressing your anchor point too tightly against your face (so the string catches it on the way past). This can happen to varying degrees, and is amazingly common.

    I’ve heard archers say that this is simply a sign that you are referencing properly. I strongly disagree with this – you shouldn’t be damaging your face when you shoot, and you can achieve good back tension without doing this.

  • If you shoot point of aim for example, try to make sure you reference by simply touching the side of your mouth.
  • If you shake at full draw. It may just be that you haven’t shot for a while, but if it continues then it’s time to consider a lower poundage. You may also find that your shoulder hurts for a long time after you shoot. This is very bad – tell someone if this is happening to you.
  • If you forward-loose regularly, this might be a sign that at your current poundage you can’t maintain the necessary back-tension.

Quite often the answer comes down to regular practice, but before you shoot make sure you warm up your upper body. Everybody warms up differently, but I recommend as a minimum a range of ‘windmilling’ with your arms, then stretch your arms behind your back.