Building Upper Body Strength for Archery Season
My dad and I decided to take up archery together 7 years ago. He had shot archery in some years past, however this was my first experience with a bow. It seemed like my goal of reaching the Oregon minimum 50 pound draw requirement for elk was going to take forever, not to mention the ability to accurately shoot distances of up to 50 yards! Having special ordered my first compound bow with a 40-50 pound range, I was determined that upon its arrival, I would easily be able to come to full draw.
I started out shooting a youth bow set at a mere 18 pounds with a 25”draw length, aiming at a target only ten yards away. Starting with a light draw weight not only gives you an opportunity to learn where your anchor point is it also gives you an opportunity to practice how to steadily and accurately hold your bow on target. A physical injury can potentially ruin an entire archery season, so taking this process slow building upon each success one victory at a time is very important.
When I was able to comfortably and accurately shoot targets up to 20 yards, I moved my practice sessions outside to my parents’ farm where my dad and I practiced in the evenings. Practicing outside allows you to safely continue to expand your range and poundage, while learning how to shoot in the same types of uncontrollable elements that you may encounter in the field.
Supplementing your practice sessions with strength and cardiovascular training allows you an opportunity to expand on your physical strength, enhancing your overall in field performance. To build the strength required to draw a bow at legal weight is not difficult, but it takes a disciplined approach to the specific fitness of the muscles of the back and shoulders.
Nothing done in the gym is a replacement for practice with your bow. The muscles that are engaged when shooting are difficult to replicate in the gym.
There are many exercises that will help make picking up your bow for hunting season preparation easier and more comfortable with less result in injury.
For intense overall body conditioning, join a crossfit class 3 days per week for at least two months before hunting season starts to enhance your infield performance.
Pectorals (Chest), Deltoids (Rounded contour of the shoulder), Forearms, Triceps and Back.
Lie chest-down with your hands at shoulder level, palms flat on the floor slightly wider than shoulder width apart, feet together and parallel to each other. Look forward rather than down at the floor. Straighten your arms as you push your body off of the floor. Try not to bend or arch your upper or lower back. Exhale as your arms straighten out. Slowly, lower your body to the floor keeping the same form.
For an easier push-up, you can lower your knees so that they rest on the floor, keeping your back straight, proceed with the exercise normally. This decreases the amount of weight and pressure on your arms.
The wider your hands are the more it works your chest, the closer the hands are, the more it works your tricepts.
Lats, Back, Bicepts, Forearms and Shoulders.
Begin with arms extended above the head gripping a fixed pull-up bar. Plams should be facing out. Pull the body up until the bar touches the upper chest. Then lower the body until your arms are straight.
Most gyms feature a chin up machine reducing the amount of actual body weight being lifted. You can also “kip” where your legs and back help aid in the momentum of the exercise.
Many beginners start with a negative pull-up where you are assisted to the top and you slowly descent into a straight arm position.
Seated Rows Cables or Machines-
Lats, Bicepts, Forearms, Shoulders and Lower Back.
Sit on the platform and grasp the cable attachment. Slide hips back and make sure that your knees have a slight bend to them. Start with your back slightly curled forward, then pull the cable back towards your stomach while straightening your back and pulling your shoulders together. I always imagine pinching something between my shoulder blades. Then slowly, return to the starting position.
Wide Grip Lat Pull Downs-
Lats, Bicepts, Forearms and Shoulders.
Grab the bar as wide as possible, palms facing away from you, then sit down on the machine. Pull the bar straight down in front of you until it is even with the middle of your chest. Then return the bar to the start position. I like to feel a slight stretch at the return position to ensure that I have a full range of motion during this exercise. Repeat.
Dumbbell Lateral Raises-
Shoulders, Lats, Trapezius and Wrists.
Grasp the dumbbells in front of your thighs, palms facing together. Bend slightly at the hips with your knees bent. With your elbows being slightly bent, raise your arms to the sides until your elbows are at shoulder height. Slowly lower the weight to the beginning position and repeat.
Seated Dumbell Shoulder Press-
Front and Rear Deltoids, Tricepts and Bicepts.
Position one dumbbell to each side of the shoulders, palms facing out, and elbows below the wrists. Press the dumbbells so that the arms are extended above the head. Slowly, lower to the starting position and repeat.
For all of my efforts that first year, I finally reached my 50 pound 50 yard goal. Having my father at my side for many archery practice sessions, I am thankful to also have had him at my side when I took down my first self guided, public land, branch bull elk. It was truly one of the most memorable days of both of our lives. I have been blessed many incredible seasons since I began my journey of learning what really lies behind gaining, More Power and Performance for Archery Season and I am looking forward to many more to come.