I am getting into writing stuff down recently so I want to share it with you.
I outline the best exercises in a step by step guide for those of you who haven’t used your longbow in a while (and this could mean the past 2 or so weeks!) – the last thing you want to do is pull a muscle!
So please get ready for some archery embodiment for this interactive read 🙂
I finished my last post with “Breathe with a smile and mediate for a while” – please apply this while you get into it.
Start by holding your arms out to the side, horizontal to the ground and then bring them forward into an enclosed circle – imagine you are hugging a tree – keeping your elbows up.
Now you would not usually keep your elbows up and horizontal to the ground when hugging (whether it be a tree or a person), so it might feel a bit unnatural to start, but stick with it. In doing this you will start to develop some muscle tone in the shoulder muscles (deltoid, trapezius and teres). These are muscles you use when shooting the bow.
From the ‘hugging’ position, imagine you have a bow in your hands. Keep your arms up in a horizontal line with your shoulders while drawing back the imaginary bow. Remember to move your draw arm back and at the same time move your bow arm forward slightly. Your bow arm is about 95% straight, with elbow remaining bent.
The shoulder muscle groups are now engaged and being used more than those in your arms. This is what you want. The shoulder muscles work best when you use both simultaneously as described above to draw back the elbows.
Work to keep your upper body straight, chest out, chin slightly down and centre aligned so that you don’t bring your bow arm shoulder too far forward (as this results in the string snapping back into your forearm). Keep your shoulders engaged.
Imagine holding your bow and repeat the movement at least 20 times to the point where your shoulder blades are getting really close to each other. You will find that you have increased blood flow in these muscles.
This is the perfect warm up for the body before you begin your shooting practise. This exercise will also help to develop the ‘feel’ in the muscles that is so important when shooting, particularly when you want to move into the instinctive shooting method. [Read more here: My Learnings on the journey into archery]
- The elbows are both moved back by rotating the shoulders.
- The bow hand is pushed towards the arrow direction. The draw hand is pulled back by the elbow and shoulder movement toward the corner of the mouth (the anchor point on the face).
- The draw hand will get closer to the anchor point on the face with the elbow significantly bent, but the bow arm elbow should remain only slightly bent, even at full draw. (Don’t move your head towards the hand.)
- The shoulders are now taking most of the draw weight.
- The draw hand will anchor at your chosen point on your face after a steady draw, directed by your elbow.
And here is a testimonial from a participant who based on his experience as a physician, explains the importance of the muscles when bow shooting and this is also what Krishnamacharya was asserting to. It is about the anatomy of the shoulder blade retraction while shooting a bow:
A bow draw with good form is performed with scapular retraction and depression. This type of motion is essential to proper function of the shoulder and thoracic spine. Ideally one would have equal strength in the muscles of scapular retraction and depression. This can be achieved by shooting with both the left and right hands.
Luke Gentry PTA
The validity and practice for everyday use of a bow is obvious.
What about your stance?
Your feet should be hip width apart, knees bent (imagine you are at the beginning movement of sitting down) with your buttocks out. Your torso and shoulders can be slightly angled to make it a more stable posture.
The classic yoga ‘horse posture’ is the perfect position to create a solid stance. There is also the Side Warrior Posture (Parsva virabhadrasana – find some extra explanation from Yoga master Simon Borg Oliver here) if you have some yoga experience.
You have a natural draw length, so don’t try to draw any further than this. Firstly because overdrawing can cause injuries but also because you will have more control of the shot and you will therefore shoot more consistently.
Aim small – miss small.
Practise big – celebrate big.