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A Steady Relaxed Hand on your Compound Bow

What NOT to do - over-gripping the bow.
A very common beginners mistake for new archers is gripping the bow when you don't need to. Gripping the bow tightens up the forearm muscles and causes people to torque and/or jerk the bow, as well as increasing unnecessary vibrations and micro-jerking.

The best solution for preventing this is to completely relax the hand and forearm. Not even the thumb should be tensed. Everything should be relaxed. Fingers, hand, thumb, forearm, and elbow should be relaxed. Even the bow shoulder should be reasonably relaxed.

Hand position is a matter of debate however. My preference is for the base of the hand (the palm) to be bracing the bow as that reduces the chance of torquing the bow.

Some archers however prefer to angle their hand slightly diagonally, which increases the chances of hand torque. As an instructor I try to steer people away from that and I consider it to be bad form if a student is doing it because it is robbing them of more accuracy. However some archers swear by their chosen hand positions (archers are sometimes a superstitious lot) and choose to ignore physics.

The above hand position will tend to cause left-ward torquing.

Some archers also like to tuck their fingers up on the side of the handle, which again tensed up the forearm and increases the chances of jerking the bow mid-shot. Even micro-jerking (so small the human eye can barely detect) will rob accuracy. Again, some archers swear by this hand position and choose to ignore the laws of physics.

The fingers are too tense and will cause right-ward jerking.

Close, but if the fingers are too stiff, they can still cause jerking of the bow.

Another problem is people who have their fingers facing forward but they are still making them stiff or making claw fingers. Any amount of tension is going to hurt accuracy. Ideally what you want should look more like your hands do when you are standing and your hands are relaxed at your side. Or comparatively, the shape of your hand when you reach out to shake someone's hand. A nice relaxed, natural position.

Another common mistake is when archers relax only three fingers, and then pinch their thumb and index finger together. Again, any amount of tensions robs accuracy.

Please don't pinch your index and thumb together.

Claw hand plus even a tensed up pinky finger can rob accuracy.

Ideally you are going for the nice relaxed handshake position, with the base of the palm bracing the bow (not the thumb, the thumb area used as a brace increases hand torque). See the above photo and several of the photos from further above from people who favour bracing the bow against the lower "drumstick" of the thumb.

Some people only seem to have a basic understanding of what hand torque does to their shots and cannot be bothered to try fixing the problem.

Common Mistakes
  • Gripping the Bow.
  • Tensing the Fingers.
  • Tensing the Thumb.
  • Pinching Thumb and Index Finger.
  • Claw Hand.
  • Rotating the hand and bracing on the Thumb "drumstick".
  • Holding the Handle too far to the left or right (aka, not centering the hand on the handle).

HOT TIP

Comfort also seems to be a big factor for accuracy. If someone doesn't like the handle of the bow they are using, that lack of comfort will often cause them to tense up their hand when they should not be. Having a good comfortable handle therefore allows the person to relax their hand more and allows for a more comfortable, relaxed and accurate shots.

Notice above how many of the people in the photos are using the bare handle and haven't added anything to the handle to make it more comfortable. That is because they don't know any better.

What people are supposed to be doing is purchasing a better quality grip and then attaching it to their bow. Some people even make their own. Like the two examples below.


Another alternative is to wrap the handle, as desired by the user, with leather or faux leather. Some people also use braided para-cord and have experimented with other materials.

To learn more about how to shoot compound bows you can sign up for compound bow archery lessons in Toronto.

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