Perhaps one of archery’s greatest strengths is also its deepest weakness.
It centers around the goal. They’re exceptionally easy to understand – the closer an arrow hits the center, the better the result – and they give instant feedback.
And therein lies the problem. During training, archers receive instant feedback on every shot. However, no archer has to work on the score sheet during training. The aim is to improve – not to win.
When focusing on the craft, a visual representation of performance can do more harm than good.
Therefore, it is often beneficial to remove the focus from the target while practicing. This does not necessarily mean that the target is completely removed or not assessed, but that the parameters of a session are changed with the help of exercises.
The world’s best archers don’t train by simply shooting hundreds of arrows per session. Many use different strength, control, and focus training programs to teach specific skills that will better prepare athletes for competition.
These are some simple examples of exercises anyone can incorporate into a single visit to the range – or as part of a larger exercise program – to improve their scores.
1. Card game simulation
How: Shuffle a deck of cards and shoot matches at the deck of cards, each card having a different value. Aces and face cards are worth 10 points and all other cards in the deck are worth their numerical value.
Draw three cards per end or set and leave them face down until your arrows hit the target. Shuffle the deck at the end of each game.
To increase the difficulty, simply remove cards of lower value from the deck.
- Leaving all 52 cards is an average arrow of 7.2 points.
- If you remove the two, three, and four cards, you get an average arrow of 8.5 points.
- If you remove cards two, three, four, fix, and six, you get an average arrow of 9.25 points.
Why: There is no better way to randomly simulate match play. The goal is to win seven games in a row – and win the tournament.
When: Use to prepare for competition.
2. Focus the compass
How: Use the effect of the previous arrow to determine which part of your technique to focus on on your next shot. For example, if the arrow lands high or low, focus on the anchor point. When the left or right arrow lands, focus on head position and posture.
Why: It helps maintain the importance of shooting many arrows in training and teaches you to choose a specific focus point when shooting. This can be useful in competition when you need to eliminate distractions or deal with a specific or changing problem – even something like the wind.
When: If you are shooting arrows for no other purpose, this is a good alternative.
3. Resistance bands
How: (Recurve Only) Wrap rubber exercise bands around the top and bottom of your riser and line, adding about 2 pounds of weight to the pull.
(Compound and Recurve) Tie the rubber exercise band around your wrist and foot for strain on holding the bow.
Why: When you are at the very edge of your ability to hold or draw a bow it is impossible to be in full control.
Exercising with resistance bands increases the strain just enough to push you out of your comfort zone, so that you feel stronger and more relaxed while losing weight – and can work on fine-tuning.
(Recurve archers can shoot with a ribbon or two around the riser and string. This shouldn’t affect accuracy too much during training, as the string moves faster than the ribbon when released.)
When: Shoot 12 arrows in, 12 arrows out, and repeat for a 72-arrow round to increase the power of the bow.
4. Click and drag
How: (Recurve only) Pull through the clicker, extend it an extra millimeter, reset it to the clicker point, extend it, reset it, extend it, reset it, and then release Come on.
Why: Control at the point of execution with a recurve requires strength and a strong understanding of the technique. Archers are often associated with the clicker and errors between clicking and releasing the string are lost. This exercise loosens the two and builds mental and muscle stability.
When: Six sentences, three clicks and moves, and normal shots, six times. This 36 arrow exercise can be added to any training session.
5. Pyramid ends
How: Shoot one end of six arrows, then nine, then 12, then 15, then 12, then nine, then six, then three.
Why: In competition, archers often have to establish their standard of practice due to external pressure. It’s impossible to repeat this – but removing the normality and consistency of the six arrow end can push yourself out of your comfort zone. Shooting 15 arrows from one end is not easy.
When: Instead of a 72-arrow lap.
6. Back to the basics
How: Simulate movements using a rubber band, a simple bow, and your competition kit.
Why: It’s never too late to get back to basics. There’s a stigma when seasoned archers handle low-end gear and training changes – but it’s the most efficient way to go.
Improve a skill by mastering it first with a resistance band and then a beginner’s bow before moving on to your competition equipment. And if it doesn’t work in the end, go back to the beginning. (This also applies to connections.)
When: Use this option when making changes to technology.
7. Empty bale – with one purpose
How: Empty bale shoots at a bale without aiming – and most people don’t set a target. Per Braden Gellenthienexplaining this concept in the video above has one thing in the background, but isn’t aiming at it.
Why: Shooting without aiming will help you work on your technique. It removes the sight pen and score from your priority list and makes the process more important. But it is so different from shooting with a target that returning to a normal setting often won’t help.
Keeping the target in the background normalizes the ability to shoot without aiming – off-center – and is a great tool for combating aiming panic.
When: Braden recommended doing this on a regular basis, especially as a compound archer, to maintain technique. Resetting it can be even more useful after a windy competition.
8. The arch lock
How: Instead of using a sling, have a trainer or seasoned friend kneel next to you and catch your bow after you release it.
Why: The pressure on the handle of the bow causes so many problems with arrow flight. This is why it is important for top archers to push straight through the bow rather than twisting it.
It takes some trust, but knowing that your bow can leave your hand and be caught by someone else prevents the subconscious from grabbing or manipulating the handle.
When: Use this option to improve technique – and repeat the process to keep running, once a month for a few ends outside of competition time.
How: Use a timer or clock. Count seven seconds to get one shot in your head and wait 14 seconds before raising your bow for the next.
Why: Simulates head-to-head shots. The rhythm teaches you both to shoot at constant timing if necessary and to wait before your next arrow rather than speeding it up. This is a trap many archers fall into while exercising.
When: Shoot matches, five sets for recurve or 15 arrows for compound and better prepare for match play in training.
How: Use the point of impact of your last arrow from the previous end as the target point for your next end.
Why: Aiming in the middle is an important skill in competition, especially when it’s windy. It is impossible to always move the sight, and a good archer always knows how to move his needle to a different location on the target. This exercise practices that.
Exaggerate the point of impact and, if necessary, push it further out of the center for more extreme conditions. Only focus on group sizes – against your normal ability – to measure the outcome.
When: Use to prepare for competition.
Do you have your own effective training exercise? Let us know about Twitter.