Build shoulder strength to enhance your skills and minimize risk of injury.
By Trent Jonas
Archery engages a number of muscle groups but it’s the shoulders, along with the obliques, that probably bear the brunt of the drawing and shooting motion. For this reason, it’s important to maintain your shoulder strength so that you utilize the correct form, to prevent soreness from taking multiple shots, and perhaps most importantly, to prevent injury. Here are five simple at-home workouts for improving your shoulder strength and getting you in shape for the field.
An important consideration for archers is maintaining a steady bow arm on the draw. The muscle group responsible for this are those in your scapular regions—that is, your shoulder blade muscles. John Dudley, an archery athlete and founder of Nock On TV, recommends these shallow pull-ups from a hanging position to strengthen these areas of your back and shoulders. Start by gripping a pull-up bar—or the functional equivalent—hands above your shoulders, then raise your feet off the ground, so you’re hanging from the bar, knees bent. Then, using only your scapular muscles, not your arms, lift yourself slightly higher off the ground. You should feel a compression in the center of your back as your scapular muscles flex. Do 10 reps per session and you’ll start to feel the difference in your bow arm.
Australia-based musculoskeletal therapist Dom McKay recommends an exercise fittingly called the “archer’s draw” to condition your rotator cuffs and strengthen your shoulder muscles. Using a therapy band attached to a sturdy anchor spot at the level of your shoulder, extend your arm to grip the band, placing your weight on the opposite foot. Then rotate your hips to transfer the weight back on to your other foot, as you do so, draw the band back across your chest to your shoulder, as you would draw a bow. Do this exercise on both sides—not just using your drawing arm—to strengthen your shoulders evenly.
Another great shoulder strengthening exercise for archers is the dumbbell side lateral raise. This exercise will help you condition and build strength in your deltoid and trapezius muscles. To perform this exercise, stand with your legs shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, and your chest out. Hold a dumbbell at your side, extended down. Keep your other hand at your waist. Then, slowly lift your extended arm to shoulder level and slowly return it to your side. Do 10-12 reps, then switch arms and repeat the set. You can also perform this exercise with both arms at the same time if you prefer not to alternate between sets. If you don’t have dumbbells readily available at home, you can also use a one-gallon container of liquid, like water, milk or antifreeze for the weight.
Yep. Push-ups. This simple exercise that we’ve all done at one point or another is terrific for building strength in your shoulders, as well as your chest. The muscles you exercise during push-ups are many of the same that you utilize when drawing your bowstring. The main consideration when performing this exercise is to keep your back straight so that you are not relying on its muscles to push up. To do so, keep your chin up, your core tight and grip your glutes together.
Floor presses are a great exercise for archers because, unlike bench presses, they isolate the workout to the fronts of the shoulders, which are the muscles initially engaged when you start to draw. Strengthening these muscles contributes to solid archery form which, in turn, helps to prevent pain and injuries. To perform these presses, lie on your back on the floor with a dumbbell in one or both hands. From your shoulder, extend the arm(s) holding the dumbbell straight into the air, over your chest. Do 10-12 reps per set.