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10 Weightlifting Tips for Archers
Physical Strength is all important when it comes to the physical ability to string a bow, draw a bow, and hold it steady. Balance is great for holding your body still while trying to aim, but if you can't even draw the bow and hold it steady your sense of balance will be somewhat useless. (And your mental game even more useless if you can't draw the bow.)
Thus to make any use of the bow you first need to be able to physically draw the bow you are using. For this reason it is best to start with a bow you can already draw. The bow in question may not be that powerful or accurate, but at least you can draw it and hopefully hold it steady.
Progressing to a more powerful bow is a stepping stone for many archers. It shows that they have worked very hard, grown more muscle mass, and now have the physical strength to draw a more powerful bow. In ancient mythology only the strongest heroes were able to string and draw such bows.
An archer can become stronger simply through regular practice in archery, but lets pretend they only visit the archery range once per month or once per week. Well they aren't going to get stronger very quickly then, will they?
No, they won't. But if they complement their archery practice with a weightlifting regimen (especially during the winter months) they can continue to grow stronger and stronger and reach a point where they can draw the more powerful bows and hold them steady.
#1. Always lift something at least 10 times. If you only lift it 5 times you won't get much benefit from it in terms of endurance. Aim for 10 to 15 repetitions and do 5 sets.
Note - It is important to practice proper weightlifting form when lifting so you are targeting the muscles properly. Whatever weightlifting exercise you are using, research it so you know how to do it properly. This is beneficial both for faster results, but also to prevent injuries.
#2. If you are struggling to reach 5 you are trying to lift too much. Choose a lesser weight.
#3. Don't ignore basic old school exercises like push-ups and pull-ups. Those are both very handy. Sit ups won't help you much because that is targeting your ab muscles, but push-ups and pull-ups are great for targeting the muscles involved in archery.
#4. Don't do only one kind of exercises. Do a huge variety of exercises so you can target multiple muscles groups. Yoga is an excellent example because the different poses target different muscles.
#5. If you start feeling pain in one muscle group its time to switch to a different muscle. "No Pain No Gain" is only partially true. Too much pain means you are overdoing it.
#7. Don't forget stretches. I have an older post on Archery Stretches you will find useful. Isometric Stretches and Body Weight Exercises are very handy for increasing your strength while simultaneously maintaining your flexibility.
#8. Aim for exercises you can use for cross-training the same muscle groups that are used during archery. eg. Boxing and rowing both use pulling motions with the arms and a tensing of the upper back, which will improve both your triceps and back muscles (rhomboids).
#9. Over time you will want to increase the number of repetitions you are doing of each exercise. If you start off doing 10 reps of each exercise you will want to gradually raise the number of repetitions to 20. After you reach 20 continue doing that for 2 weeks and then increase the amount of weight you are lifting and start back at 10 repetitions.
#10. Remember to have recovery periods between sets of repetitions and also between days when doing weightlifting. You have to give yourself time to grow new muscle tissue. Overuse of the muscles on a daily / constant basis will cause muscle fatigue.
BONUS! Remember to focus on the following muscle groups which are commonly used during archery:
upper back and shoulder muscles to draw the bow;
upper and lower shoulder muscles to control the draw arm;
arm muscles to extend the bow arm;
finger muscles to hold the bowstring.
The finger muscles will be most difficult to strengthen. You will need to pull things using those three fingers and hold them in a steady position. In theory one of the best ways would be to string your bow at home and practice pulling the bow and holding it steady every 2nd day.
ANOTHER BONUS - Remember to include both right and left hand sides to maintain a balance of muscle strength.
WAIT, ONE MORE! - Do squats and similar exercises to improve the upper and lower leg muscles which are used to control balance, do twists and yoga to improve the lower back and waist muscles to control a steady stance.
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