An archery training regime is a great idea if you want to push yourself to see how good you can be. Planning a training regime allows you to organise archery and gym sessions in advance, so you’re more likely to complete them and they’ll be more efficient.
Without a training regime, it’s all too easy to skip a session when you’re feeling tired or fancy watching television. On the other hand, if you’re great at motivating yourself and want to train more, sticking to your regime will make sure you don’t overdo it. After all, overtraining can cause injuries and hinder your progress.
The best way to improve is to follow a plan, so we’ve put together 5 steps to help you plan your archery training regime and be the best archer you can be.
1. Determine which areas you want to improve
With a plethora of skills required for archery, even the most skilled archers have areas they need to improve. If you want to see real progress, it’s vital to work on the specific areas that are holding you back.
To determine what these areas are, record a video of yourself shooting. This way, you can make precise observations without relying on others, but remember to put the camera at eye level for an accurate portrayal of the angles you’re shooting from.
When analysing the video, you should ask yourself questions:
- If you can’t shoot properly is the bow too heavy? If so, you should prioritise improving your strength.
- Is your back arching? If so, you should focus on your posture.
- Are you struggling to open the bow properly? If so, your set position is probably too closed.
Does your release lack accurate direction? If so, maybe your full draw or shoulder alignment need work. Once you’ve scrutinised your performance and determined what needs work, you should decide which areas need to be addressed first. You shouldn’t start to try and improve the technical areas if you’re not physically strong enough yet. If you begin bow training with a poor technique, it’s highly likely you’ll injure yourself. That’s why it’s a good idea to start with strength and conditioning.
2. Set your goals
When setting goals, keep in mind that precision sports like archery require more focus on the process than the outcome.
Process goals are the individual steps that will enable you to shoot better. Here are some examples:
- Stand up straight and don’t stick your neck out
- Have an open bow position
- Hold the bow arm until the end when shooting
- Be powerful and shoot confidently
If you make outcome goals, make sure they are unambiguous. Use the popular mnemonic S.M.A.R.T. to help you shape your goals into something achievable and less daunting:
For more information on how to set a SMART goal, check out this YouTube video. But remember, goals are not set in stone. They should be looked at consistently to make sure they’re still working for you. If they’re not, change them up.
3. Decide how you’re going to improve in these areas
Now, you need to ask yourself how you’re going to achieve the goals you’ve set yourself.
What drills or activities can you implement to ensure you’re working on your problem areas – and are these drills making a difference? Often, your goals can be split into two very simple categories: build strength and improve technique. You might have to work on both or just one, depending on your weaknesses.
As previously mentioned, there’s no point skipping a step and starting with your technique if you’re not strong enough, because this will result in injury. Building muscle will also result in injury if you start to lift heavy weights before you have basic strength. Instead, use light weights or just your bodyweight with more reps. Perform the movements slowly and in a controlled manner to ensure you form is correct.
As an archer, you should concentrate on actions that target the back, shoulders, and core muscles. The back muscles are key to holding the bow at full draw and ensuring the correct shot execution. Strong shoulders enable you to pull the bow more easily and strong core muscles improve shooting posture and stability.
The strength and conditioning exercises you should incorporate into your workout are essentially regular gym exercises, but with a focus on those key areas of the body (see the link above for more insights). Below are some common examples of strength and conditioning exercises for archers and the main areas they target:
- Forearm plank – core stability, strength and endurance
- Dumbbell side raise – shoulders
- Single arm dumbbell row – shoulders and upper back
- Dead bugs – core
- Press ups – triceps, shoulders, lower back and core
- Rowing machine – works all the primary muscle groups required, and improves muscular endurance
For more ideas on what exercises you can do to improve your archery muscles, check out this article by Archery 360 with examples from the pros.
However, the world’s finest archers don’t simply limit their training to the gym and the range to build strength and stability, they take to the yoga mat as well. Yoga gives you the mental focus and steadiness required for precise aim. If you want to give it a go, there’s plenty of yoga videos on YouTube like this one that’ll help you build strength in your shoulders and core.
Aimlessly shooting arrows isn’t very efficient. It’s crucial to make your archery training sessions count. A simple Google search should pull up some examples of how you can improve specific skills. To help, we’ve included some examples of areas you might need to improve in and how you can do so.
The first fundamental of good technique is the correct stance.
To perfect your stance, start by placing one foot on either side of the shooting line, shoulder width apart. They should be parallel to the shooting line. With a straight back, put your chin over the shoulder or your bow hand. Make sure your back is flat and your hips are tucked by squeezing the gluteus. Push your shoulders, chest and ribs down so that you’re more grounded.
For a better archery stance, practice this for at least two or three training sessions. Keep repeating this archery stance to build muscle memory, strength and stamina. Remember to remain focused on your stance for each arrow you shoot, so that it remains effective. You could shoot without a target face so that you’re not distracted by your score and this will also make it easier to focus on your stance. Once you’ve mastered the correct archery stance, you’ll be more stable, reliable and accurate.
- Set Up and Draw
Starting off on the wrong foot is bound to tarnish your performance, so raising the bow right is critical. First, check your grip is right by making sure your fingers are hooked at the first knuckle and then ensure your stance is correct. Lengthen your bow-arm forward, then raise it up a tad above nose level and aim at the target. Make sure the forearm is parallel to the arrow shaft. When you put your bow up, move your upper body so that it is parallel to the arrow.
Alternatively, you could do Formaster Drawups with a band or a light bow as shown here.
- Follow through
The follow through is sometimes neglected, but it’s important to teach your muscles to make better shots. Even once you’ve released the arrow, your muscles should retain muscle memory and strength. You should focus your sight on the same place and not be tempted to follow the arrow. Once you’ve mastered the follow through, it should look the same for every arrow you shoot, as demonstrated by Olympic medallist Jake Kaminski.
Timing is critical in archery, so if your timing is a bit off, it’s time to tackle the problem. According to World Archery’s 10 practice methods to shoot better arrows, Danish archer Martin Damsbo uses a technique that might work for you. Instead of taking the designated 40 seconds to shoot one arrow, you should practice by using just 20 seconds. As Damsbo says, this strategy will not only help perfect your timings, it’ll pay off when you’re shooting in the wind and have smaller windows in which to shoot.
4. Determine how to measure your progress
By now, you’ve worked out which areas need work and have identified the steps you’ll take to improve them. But how do you know if it’s working? Let’s talk about how you can measure your progress.
If your focus is to improve your strength and conditioning in the gym, it’s simply a numbers game.
If you do a strength circuit, you might increase the number of times you complete the circuit to see if you’re getting stronger. If you do sets and reps, you might gradually increase the number of reps or the weight you’re lifting. You should see improvements, whether it’s in number of circuits, amount of reps, amount of sets or the weight you’re lifting. If you don’t, somethings wrong and you need to either change your programme or use lighter weights.
Measuring your progress is not as straightforward when it comes to technique. How can you tell if all the hard work is paying off?
The best way is to take progress videos, watch them back regularly and scrutinise your technique. You should see your technique improve over time. If you don’t, ask yourself why, take a trial and error approach and try something new to see if that works.
Alternatively, if you have the funds, get some regularly archery lessons or even just a one-off session with a coach. They can analyse your technique and provide valuable expert advice. A google of ‘archery lessons near me’ will provide you with coaches in your area, or you can find an archery club near you here.
5. Create your regime
Once you’ve completed all the steps above, it’s time to put them into a plan. Obviously, your plan will be tailored to your specific needs and there any many different ways you can create one. But as a general rule of thumb, you should decide how long you want the regime to last (for example, six or eight weeks), what to incorporate (for example, a core circuit, skill work with bands or bodyweight, and bow sessions) and how frequently each area will be included.
To help you create your archery regime, take a look at this great example regime from the online archery academy. In addition, to keep track of your progress and learn at a quicker pace, it’s a good idea to keep an archery training diary too. You could use this training diary template to make your life a little bit easier.
Once you’ve planned your archery training regime, there’s only one thing left to do – take out specialist archery insurance to give you peace of mind on the field.
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