Years of practicing archery can make your body lopsided. You will still gain strength, but it will be on different parts. For example, your non-dominant shoulder will be more muscular, and your dominant side’s back muscles will be firmer.
There’s a chance your non-dominant shoulder muscle will grow more significant than the dominant shoulder. That’s because it’s in charge of holding and pushing the grip of the bow. It needs strength to stabilize the hold.
Meanwhile, your dominant back muscles will have more muscle definition because they are helpful when you draw the bowstring.
Your fingers on the dominant shooting hand will be a bit larger than the other hand. The same hand can be rougher due to the repeated pulling back of the string.
But you shouldn’t worry about getting a lopsided body if you’re into archery. Scroll down to know what you should know.
Misconceptions of repeated archery use
You might hear a non-archer saying that archery is only an arm-based sport. Non-archers will see that an archer will place the arrow on the bow and pull the bowstring back. Then, they will aim and release it to hit the target.
Another fallacy is that if you repeat the archery form for years, the result would be an imbalance of arm muscles. One arm would look more significant than the other one.
Arm strength will surely help with your overall capability to shoot arrows. But the majority of the load from pulling a bowstring is from your back muscles. Your shoulders are essential to stabilize and maintain an accurate shot.
While archery needs a definite level of strength, you don’t need to be enormously strong to be an archer. The sport relies on your ability to control your body to have an accurate shot.
If you think your strength is a concern, choose a bow that doesn’t need a heavy draw weight. You don’t have to pressure yourself to shoot a heavier variety.
Medieval archery wasn’t archery-friendly
Skeletons of archers recovered from the sunken warship Mary Rose in the 1500s had deformities on their shoulders. They had over-developed shoulders and arm bones, which compensate for the muscle growth around those parts.
The deformities were visible because archers back then were young men and teenagers forced to train themselves to draw heavy bows. They need to pull their bows at around 100-200 pounds, which is a lot for longbows.
If you’re still at a young age, shooting that high weight will cause you skeletal and health problems.
Modern archery is different
Unlike medieval times, today’s archers use the sport for hobby and recreation, where they can choose to use any draw weight. They can also decide when they will shoot their bows.
Archery isn’t heavily relying on your arms. It would help your upper back and core muscles to have an effective shooting form.
Most archers aren’t full-time professionals. They also have other physical activities in their spare time. These can create a balance for their muscle development. So they aren’t just relying on archery as their main exercise.
Even professional archers practice cross-training. They don’t depend on archery alone to stay in tiptop shape before a competition or during the offseason.
Blaming archery isn’t a great idea if you see any irregularities or differences in strength between your muscles. You may be doing something else in your daily routine that causes imbalance.
Weight training and archery go side-by-side
A combination of compound and isolation exercises will balance your muscle development on both sides. If you find any imbalance in your body, weight training is your way to go.
Here are a few tips before choosing your workout:
- Use a unilateral exercise, which uses both sides of the body but works independently. Instead of barbells, use a dumbbell workout. Examples of these are the dumbbell bench press and squats.
- Using a unilateral workout, you may begin to train your stronger side first. The weaker one may struggle to keep up if you start on the dominant side. Instead, start on the more vulnerable side to fix a muscle imbalance.
- Progressive overload is another critical method to work the weaker part of your body. That means you will increase the weight lifted, reduce the resting period, or increase reps. It’s all up to you. The goal is to increase work capacity on the imbalanced body part to keep up with your overall physique.
Keep in mind that fixing an out-of-proportion part is a long-term process. You will need to work hard to correct the imbalance for an extended period to get the best results.
Rushing won’t also help because it causes terrible form, injuries, and wasted time. Make sure to keep your workout at your own pace. Feel the burn as you progress in the next exercise.
Check out these dumbbells so that you can work out those archery muscles.
Invest in training programs
A responsible coach will provide you with a training program that will suit your needs in archery. They will train you in balancing exercises to keep a proper posture. They will help you improve your archery skills too.
They will also help you set better goals. They take time to assist you in achieving personal goals—both short-term and long-term.
Complement your weight training program with some exercise mats.
How does archery affect your body?
Archery affects your body by engaging your motor skills and muscles around the arms, shoulder, and core. That way, you will develop physical strength, hand-eye coordination, mental sharpness, and core stability.
Upper-body strength and core stability
Repetitive use of your bow and arrow allows you to stress your muscles, beneficial to muscle growth. Pair it with proper nutrition, enough rest, and resistance training (weight training) to get the most out of muscle development.
The core is more than just the abdominal muscles or the six-pack. But its actual definition is that it’s the center of your body that’s in charge of stabilizing the trunk while your arms and legs perform their normal function and movements:
- Your torso muscles (front, back, and side of your body), such as the back extensors, lateral trunk muscles, and abdominals (or obliques)
- Muscles that stabilize your spine, waist, and hips, like the lumbar erector spinae, multifidus, and quadratus lumborum
In archery, you provide tension to your core muscles, which is alright because you will have a stable core to prevent injuries and perform at your best.
Simple movements, like bending forward or side-to-side and rotating your hips, may hurt your back. But an improved core will prevent you from injuries.
You can do that by practicing archery because you don’t have to exert too much effort all at once. Archery needs you to take steady but effective movements as you master your form.
Practicing archery for at least 30 minutes a day teaches your mind to calm down and focus on your target. When you draw your bow, it’s dead silence. That is an advantage because you will learn how to listen to your body as you pull the bowstring and aim at nothing but your target.
Staying calm will help you to think and decide correctly. A clear mind allows you to focus on yourself to get consistent hits on the target.
Archery is also a form of meditation because it improves your mood and helps you against anxiety or depression. It teaches you to focus on something that you can control, such as the release of the string.
Consider archery as a mental break despite a busy day at home or work. That mental clarity you will develop will also be helpful in your daily living because you will learn how to stay calm despite stressful situations.
Archery lets you learn how to hit the right spot at the right time. Learning patience gives you an inner peace that no matter if you hit the target or miss the bullseye, there’s always time to improve. You know how to control your emotions and overcome frustration.
You can perform with your hands and eyes together with easy repetition through hand-eye coordination. As you practice more, you know how to stand and aim properly. You learn to find your center of balance, which ensures precision and accuracy.
The slightest mistake can knock off the arrow and miss the target. Archery challenges that hand-eye coordination skill by helping you establish a strong connection from your eyes to your brain to your hands.
Professional archers achieve superstar status because they have exceptional hand-eye coordination. For a non-competitive archer, it helps you to shoot at a moving or non-moving target with precision.
When practicing archery or preparing for your next competition, you will learn to be good at reflexes and reaction time. Never rush on improving this skill because every archer has different times for progress. Some may get it right away. Some may take some time.
Hand-eye coordination isn’t only for sports too. Your daily activities, like reading, walking, and writing, are depending on that skill. Any problem with this skill will affect how you perform those tasks every day.
Is archery good for your back?
Practicing archery is suitable for your back because it challenges your muscles to perform better. Archery helps your back to be more flexible and stronger. Therefore, your back will be able to prevent inflammation and injuries.
Drawing a bow back needs your body to stay balanced, and that is the responsibility of your lower back and abs.
Like lifting weights, increasing the draw weight is essential. That way, you will have a progressive overload. If you become used to that specific weight, you add a few more pounds. Repeating that, again and again, will help you tone your muscles.
In short, you can’t fully develop your back muscles if you only use one draw weight.
Don’t use heavy bows right away
You can use a more robust bow to gain more strength. You can also use it to shoot at longer distances. But if the bow is too heavy, your body forces you to lean back and bend your spine. That leads to sloppiness and poor form.
Forcing yourself to shoot an unnatural draw weight can also cause problems on your back. If you struggle with specific draw weight, you force yourself to push rather than back off.
Never rush in setting heavier poundage. You can form bad habits, like hurrying to release the string because you’re not used to the full draw.
If your bow arm shoulder collapses inward, you’re using too much weight. It would help if you held a bow in front of your torso and efficiently drew the string.
If you’re shaking at full draw, you’re using over your limit. If you find pulling the string tiring, ease off of it. Choose a lighter bow that suits your capacity.
You have to repeat the exact shooting form on heavier limbs. Otherwise, it would help to downsize the poundage because heavier bows will affect the poor condition.
Back muscles are one large group
Unlike the upper body muscles, which rely on small muscle groups, your back muscles are one large group. They are more robust and reduce wear on your shoulders.
Using your back (or back tension) in shooting prevents injuries and helps you have an accurate shot. That’s because you relax the forearm, leading to a quality release. To be specific, you’re using the rhomboid muscles or the shoulder blades.
Find your rhomboids by making a thumbs-up sign with your hand and putting it behind your back.
Start using back tension by using a resistance band or a lighter bow. Pull the band and stretch it as if the string ties with the elbow. Pretend that you’re pulling the bowstring with your elbow back around your head as you reach full draw.
As your elbow rotates, you should feel your shoulder blade moving closer to your spine. That is back tension. Once you get the hang of the stretch band, get your bow and try it.
You don’t have a resistance band? Find some of the coolest on Amazon.