Important Archery Exercises You Should Include

Just like a quality-made Prime® bow, your body is a complex and intricate machine. For machines to perform at their full capacity, they should be highly-tuned. Countless tests, adjustments, and tune-ups are completed before they are considered ready to operate efficiently. In this respect, if you don’t include regular archery exercises in offseason practice, you’re cheating yourself of some serious potential. This is especially true if you don’t stretch out and warm up your body. Just like any other sport, without this preparation, you often run the risk of injuring yourself. There are several archery warm up exercises you can (and should) do before you shoot your bow.

But before you haphazardly start doing jumping jacks or awkward yoga poses, ask yourself this question:

Do you have any kind of existing archery warm up routine?

If not, including some simple exercises and stretches before you pick up your bow will help reduce the possibility of hurting yourself. Nobody wants to miss an archery season because they pulled a back or shoulder muscle. Here are some things you might want to consider for your warm up routine..

 Dave Cousins

Photo: TradTalk

Dave Cousins on Archery Exercises and Fitness

Prime® pro Dave Cousins, a 31-time national champion and 10-time world champion, explains how he tackles archery fitness and exercise.

“I believe the entire body being conditioned and strong is necessary to compete at the elite level. Targeting areas of the upper body are very important such as the triceps, traps, and deltoids. However, the lower body is not to be over looked. Essentially “don’t skip leg day”, a solid foundation is key to being steady and stable during the shot. Your legs are what get you from target to target and you have got to be strong enough to go the distance. The frequency of my workouts varies vastly during tournament season as I’m on the road 30-35 weeks per year with about 25 events per season. In the off season, it’s a daily routine, rebuilding from the wear and tear of a rigorous competition season. Mixing this in with actual archery practice makes for a very busy off season. When I’m in competition I don’t tend to stretch or warm up too much as I have been shooting a lot of arrows and that’s what my muscle memory is on, I prefer not to confuse my body by doing something out of the norm. I have been very fortunate with my shooting style and have not sustained any injuries during my 35+ years of shooting and competing professionally (22 years).” – Dave Cousins

Archery Exercises to Build Your Foundation

It’s hard to build a good bow without a solid structure to start with. Just like Prime’s super strong risers, you need to build up your body to be an effective archer. As Dave mentioned above, focus on both your upper and lower body so you don’t become unbalanced– that can lead to injuries down the road. To build muscle in your chest and arms, try different variations of pushups. The narrower your hand placement, the more stress is placed on your triceps. Of course, you need to do some kind of pulling exercises too. Pull-ups can build your back muscles and help you focus on retracting your scapula (important for archery). Bent over dumbbell rows most closely resemble drawing your bow, so take your time on them and exercise both sides of your body. Overhead presses and reverse flies will help build your deltoids and stabilize your shoulders. As for leg exercises, squats, deadlifts, and lunges are about all you need to build archery-relevant muscle. Be sure to check with your doctor before you start any kind of rigorous workout routine to be safe.

Archery Stretches to Warm Up

You wouldn’t start up your car in the below zero temperatures of winter and immediately take it for a spin on the freeway, right? Similarly, you need to warm up your body’s muscles before you start putting it under stress. You’ll notice above that Dave generally doesn’t stretch during competitions. But he’s also a professional archer and has shot more arrows than you probably will in your lifetime. When you only get to shoot your bow on the weekends, you’re much more likely to need stretching to avoid injuries.

Before you shoot your bow during practice sessions or when at an archery range, you should take a few minutes to get your body ready. Start warming up by doing some pushups, bodyweight squats, and/or light jogging. You want to get your blood flowing, which will make stretching safer and more effective. Once you’ve warmed up your body a bit, you can start the archery stretches.

The primary body parts involved in archery shooting are your shoulders and back. Start your routine at the top by rolling your head in a circle, which will stretch your neck muscles out. Do several rotations and reverse the direction. Then start shrugging your shoulders up and down, as well as rolling them forward and back. After finishing your upper shoulders, rotate your arms in a windmill fashion-forward and backward. Next, lean forward with a straight back and use your back muscles to pull your shoulder blades together. Hold it briefly and let go; repeat this exercise for 10 repetitions. Finally, stretch your lower back by keeping your legs straight and bending over (reaching your hands to the ground) until it’s just slightly uncomfortable. Rest in that position for 20 to 30 seconds or so. That sequence should be enough to properly stretch out.

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Applying These Archery Exercises to Hunting

Obviously, you can’t run through these archery exercises right before you take a shot at an animal in the woods. So how can you apply this pre-shot routine to a bow hunting scenario?

Before you head into the field, it will help to still run through these exercises and stretches. This helps keep your body in the routine. Once you’re officially bow hunting and sitting in the tree stand, try not to lock up and sit completely still for too long. If you’ve ever sat for too long and tried to draw your bow back, you’ll know that it feels like someone cranked up the draw weight significantly. This can cause poor archery form and that’s when accidents happen. Slowly rotate your shoulders and flex your back muscles while you’re sitting there waiting for deer to show up. If you are able to do so slowly, draw your Centergy compound bow back a few times and visualize making a great shot on a deer. If you can run through even a few of these steps, you should be much better off when the time for a shot arrives.

Want to find out what it takes to become a professional archer? The video below explores the world of Prime® pro Dave Cousins.