Physical Preparation to Become a Good Archer
Once used solely for hunting and defense, archery has gone to become an Olympic sport and popular recreational activity enjoyed by countless people around the world. The use of bows and arrows date back tens of thousands of years, with civilizations including the Chinese, Egyptians, Persians, Greeks, and Japanese all adopting archery into their cultures. Japan’s introduction to archery may date back as far as 500 BC, the martial art of archery being known as Kyūdō.
Bow hunting, as opposed to using a firearm, requires much greater skill. Bow hunters must possess exceptional tracking and stalking skills, and mastering a longbow or recurve bow can take a great deal of time. For this reason, compound bows may be an easier option for those just starting out with bow hunting.
Today’s bows may be equipped with accessories like fiber optic sights and stabilizers for increased accuracy, but becoming a bow hunter or archer also requires you to condition your body properly. Handling a bow often takes some generous amounts of physical effort and endurance. Therefore, to better improve your skills as an archer, we have gathered some physical preparations that will allow you to use a bow more effectively.
Choosing the Right Bow
Before you start getting your body in shape for archery, it’s important to consider why it is you wish to learn the skill so you can choose the right bow. There are many different types of bows and which one you should ultimately purchase will depend on what activity you wish to enjoy whether that be hunting for deer or competitive target shooting.
Whether you’re looking for a great survival bow to channel Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games or are looking to train for a gold medal at the Olympics, you may want to look at a recurve bow. While classic recurve bows were made of wood, today’s bows may be made of materials such as fiberglass or carbon.
Recurve bows can be difficult to master for beginners, but thankfully there are easier alternatives such as compound bows and crossbows. Compound bows are a great choice for beginners looking to use a bow for recreational shooting, bowhunting, or competitive archery. They are much easier to use than a recurve and are designed to be extremely accurate. A crossbow is one of the easiest bows to draw and is equipped with a mechanical trigger. Precise aiming can be further achieved by adding a magnified telescopic sight.
Studies have shown that having a lower heart rate can make you a better archer. One of the best ways to achieve a lower resting heart rate is to regular engage in cardiovascular activities.
A healthy resting heart rate for an adult falls in the range of 60 to 100 beats per minute. If you find your rate is much higher, you may want to try some cardio to lower your resting heart rate over time. Some great cardiovascular exercises include running, stair climbing, swimming, biking, elliptical trainers, rowing, dancing, and even simple walking if your mobility is quite limited. A lower heart rate will allow you to stay calm when you need to make those crucial shots in a competition or while hunting big game.
Proper Diet and Nutrition
Fortunately, archery doesn’t require extreme physical fitness and going on highly restrictive diets. You should, however, pay close attention to what you are putting into your body to keep your overall mental and physical health in check. Maintaining a well-balanced diet is key. As an archer, you don’t want to over-indulge on carbohydrates and protein like weightlifters or extreme athletes often do, as this can simply lead to unnecessary weight gain. You also need to be cautious of taking supplements as some may be banned when talking about competitive archery events.
Archery is a moderate fitness sport that doesn’t present the same strict demands of aerobic sports. You don’t need tons of muscle or extremely low body fat to become skilled with a bow. Instead of choosing foods high in energy, it’s better to choose more nutrient-rich foods and stay away from the sugary and high-fat snacks. Avoid alcohol and sugary drinks and instead opt for water to stay hydrated which will keep your mind sharp.
Archery does require you to build and tone certain muscles in your body. Upper back and shoulder muscles are used to draw the string, lower shoulder muscles to maintain control over draw range, and arm muscles to fully extend and stabilize the drawing arm. As you train these muscles, you should avoid building mass and instead focus on conditioning the muscles for endurance.
Most archery activities simply require moderate levels of fitness and stamina, however, competing in some pro archery courses can be more grueling. For most archers though, having too large of muscles can impede achieving proper form. Resistance training exercises are great for building endurance in your back, shoulder, and arm muscles. Condition your muscles and achieve the proper amount of strength necessary for archery by focusing on lifting low weight while doing more reps. Developing your muscles will help you to better draw your bow and have the stamina to consistently aim more accurately. Some great strength training exercises for archers include bench dips, pull-ups, push-ups, and using dumbbells.
Yoga doesn’t have to be all about meditation and reaching out to your inner self. Archery enthusiasts often turn to yoga to gain increased flexibility and to learn ways to better control their breathing. Having muscles that are too tight can affect your accuracy and make you more prone to injuries. In addition to practicing yoga to increase your flexibility, you should also make a habit of stretching before an archery event or hunt.
Learning how to control your breathing is important because you will then be able to breathe in and out at the right times when drawing your bow and releasing, so as to not affect your accuracy. Breathing at the wrong time or in the wrong way can make a world of difference when it comes to hitting a small target. Breathing exercises learned through yoga will also allow you to stay calm under pressure while using a bow during competition or while hunting.
Injury Prevention Techniques
Fortunately, archery is a non-contact activity, so, there is no need to worry about violent interactions with other objects or people. But continual practice and use of a bow does carry some physical risks. The first step to avoiding injuries is to make sure you have chosen the right bow and equipment for your own individual strength and ability.
Always warm up before archery so as to avoid shocking your body with sudden physical activity. Failure to stretch could result in injuries to your rotator cuff or may lead to developing tendonitis. It is equally important to properly rest your muscles and attend to any injuries after a hunt or event.
Avoid injuries from bow string slap by investing in an armguard. You may also want to wear a pair of archery gloves in the beginning if you have sensitive hands. You want to make sure you are placing your fingers on the string in the proper position and avoid using excessive finger tension. Women may want to wear a supportive sports bra and possibly some kind of chest protection to avoid string slap injuries to this sensitive area. And remember, a loose grip on your bow is more effective than a grip that is too tight.
Don’t forget to take breaks while shooting and treat any inflammation with proper care after partaking in any archery activity. Always give yourself time to heal if you do happen to incur an injury from the use of a bow.