When I first started archery, my friends asked me many times if archery was really a sport – we all know it is, and one of the greatest sports! But many people from outside the sport wonder if we actually do any exercise or give our muscles a good work out firing a few arrows. People often believe that if you’re not running or swimming, your body is not being stretched. I don’t buy it and neither should you
Will archery build my muscle? Yes. Just by practicing archery, the simple act of shooting will strengthen the muscles in your upper body, common muscles used for archery are the rotator cuff muscle group and muscles in your shoulders and upper back, including levator scapulae, trapezius, deltoids, latissimus dorsi and rhomboids.
Is archery a good workout?
As a matter of fact, it is. But, as with any other sport, it requires extra training and a healthy lifestyle. When you train for soccer or basketball you don’t just play the game; you do weights, stamina training and other physical training to condition the body for greater energy demand to improve your all-round game. The same principle applies to archery.
You could start with a 24 pound bow, but if you want to shoot at further distances and improve your accuracy, you’ll require a more powerful bow. To pass from 24 pounds to a 30 or 34 pound bow, you must physically strengthen yourself to handle the extra draw weight.
Before starting archery, my entire fitness routine was centered around running and playing basketball. When I found out that I was good enough at archery to start competing, I left some of my basketball training behind since I wasn’t playing regularly anymore. Since then, my upper body has been getting stronger, and I haven’t gained any noticeable weight other than some extra muscle.
What muscles does drawing a bow work?
There are a lot more muscles than you might first imagine – the human body has over 600 muscles in, rather than list them all out let’s take a look at muscle groups.
First, the arm that’s holding the raiser is working on the wrist all the way up to the shoulder and the chest.
The arm that draws is working straight on your forearm through the bicep, into the shoulder and your triceps. It also focuses a lot of stress on your back and abdominals.
Of course, before you start shooting and working on all these muscles, you must warm up and stretch. This is really important since you’ll be doing some heavy work on specific muscles and it could lead to serious injury if the muscles aren’t loose and ready for use. Take your time before you start shooting several rounds.
Can you lose weight doing archery?
It depends is the short answer. You can lose weight by just walking. So yes, you will burn calories when practicing archery but it won’t necessarily be like running a marathon. Archery training must be combined with warm up exercises and twice a week physical training after archery practice.
My coach makes me do a hard routine of push-ups, abs and core strengthening after every practice, follow but a small run around the shooting field. I have run 10k races, but it is really exhausting to run a couple laps after a handful of archery rounds the push-ups. It just destroys your body, but believe me, it pays off once you’re in a competition as you won’t get tired after you survive an intensive first round, just to repeat it with less people in a second round.
Just to consider, according to The World Archery metrics, an archer can burn around 100 to 150 calories every 30 minutes when in a tournament or training. Because of the shooting and walking sessions to get your arrows back.
To summarize, archery itself, as the act of shooting does burn calories and will make you lose some weight; but it won’t get you completely in shape since you still need complementary training like cardio and strength. Don’t base your entire training routine just on archery. Trust me, you will see and live the results and be thankful for the time put on the extra training.
Is archery bad for your shoulder?
Every sport can be bad for the part of the body when it’s stressed in the same ways over and over again. In the case of archery, when it’s not done properly it can be bad for your shoulder.
If you don’t warm up and stretch before shooting, you can get injured and have a lot of pain in the shoulder. In that case you’ll probably require a doctor and therapy to fix your arm before shooting again.
In some cases, people do warm up and stretch, but still get hurt when drawing their bows. Don’t worry, this usually means that your bow is too powerful for your arm strength if you don’t have any other injuries causing the pain.
Try getting a pair of limbs with a lower draw weight and practice with those for some time to get your body used to it. Once you’re able to draw your bow with no problem, you can go back to your previous limbs and practice with those. Another good exercise before doing archery is to practice with stretch bands. They are a really good way to practice a good stance and warm up your arms for the right movements you’ll be making during training.
Here, Mackenzie Brown from the USA archery Team shows us some tips for working out with stretch bands.
Is it physically demanding?
If you’re shooting just to have fun and only fun; it is not too demanding.
You can easily use a bow with less draw weight and just start shooting, increasing weight as you wish or feel comfortable. There is also no need to do the physical part of the training in this scenario. I have some friends who are not interested in going to competitions, so they just stick to a weight they are comfortable with and a distance that best suits them. They have a lot of fun and use archery as a stress relief exercise.
On the other hand, if you wish to compete like I am, yes, it is physically demanding.
As said before, it requires physical training to increase the draw length on your bow and to be ready to physically last an entire competition. Your body must be trained to survive all the way through, from the first rounds to the finals. I wasn’t prepared to last for more than the first round, as a surprise, in my second competition I survived the first elimination round and had to do it all over again, but one hundred times more tired than at the beginning. Safe to say, it didn’t go well.
Can you practice archery at home?
Yes, you can. It will be different depending on your conditions and spaces at home. Please, don’t even think about shooting in your living room, it is dangerous and you’ll most likely destroy something. Nevertheless, if you have a garden, you can shoot at close range to train your body and accuracy with smaller targets. Printing a target on an A4 paper makes it harder for your aiming and it’s a good exercise.
In the case where you don’t have space to shoot, you can still do physical training with push-ups, abs, and training with stretch bands. You can also practice with your bow, but without arrows. Assemble your bow and do some draws until reaching your knocking point several times, 3 rows of 15 draws will be enough to get your muscles working hard, but don’t ever release the string without an arrow, it will damage your bow.
As you can see, archery as a sport will build muscle. It is going to be an excellent workout as long as you practice it next to other physical training. There are several tutorials on YouTube like the one I linked to above with different training for all kinds of situations, especially for those who are at home, like me. Just remember to warm up, stretch to avoid injuries and most importantly, be safe. Choose a safe environment to practice either with bow or without it.