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Heavier Poundage Bows and Weightlifting for Endurance


The above two shots were done earlier today with a 1975 Browning Wasp traditional recurve bow (50 lb draw weight), at a distance of 20.5 yards. Not bad for an antique bow.

The bottle itself is easy enough to hit with a light poundage bow, especially if you are accustomed like I am at shooting at relatively small moving targets.

However getting that level of accuracy (the cluster is the size of a dime) with a higher poundage bow is a true challenge because it becomes a matter of physical strength to be able to pull - let alone hold steady - a 50 lb bow.

That means that the Herculean effort of pulling 50 lbs and then holding it steady is a matter of both STRENGTH and ENDURANCE.

Hence the title of this post, Heavier Poundage Bows and Weightlifting for Endurance.

Now I have talked previously about the issues of weightlifting for the purposes of doing archery. If you want to read more on this topic I recommend reading the following posts:

10 Weightlifting Tips for Archers, Part One

10 Weightlifting Tips for Archers, Part Two

Archery as an Alternative to Weightlifting

And while those posts do talk about the benefits of weightlifting for the purposes of doing archery, it does not really talk about the issues of higher poundage bows - like those in the 50 to 80 lb range, and how to train your body to be able to pull the heavier poundages, and then hold it steady.

Thus here we go...

10 Tips for Building Strength and Endurance for Heavier Poundage Archery

Tip #1. Get a variety of different kinds of dumbbells.

Don't bother with barbells, dumbbells is what you really need for this. You need the dumbbells so you can focus on the individual muscles, both left and right, without having one side of your body compensating for the other.

You also need a variety of different sizes so you can focus on building different muscle groups, which will often require different weights in order to challenge you properly. If they are too heavy you will be less likely to execute the exercises using proper form, if they are too light they won't be challenging you properly. Thus you need a range of different weights so you can both challenge yourself and focus on your weightlifting form.

Tip #2. Like archery, weightlifting is all about form.

It might not look like it, but professional weightlifters are focusing their attention on making sure they are performing the exercise properly so they can maximize their muscle growth. If they use improper form to lift/move the weight then it is the wrong muscle(s) doing the work, which means that won't be getting the full benefit.

Take the simple dumbbell bicep curl. Done correctly the elbow is kept relatively close to the body. A common beginner mistake is for people to curve their elbows outwards to make it easier, which means they are using different muscles to help lift the weight. Done correctly, it is only the biceps doing the work.

Right: Sample image of a bicep curl. Note how the elbows are kept close to the oblique muscles on the sides and aren't sticking out to the sides.

Note - Good form also includes GOOD BALANCE. Keep both feet on the floor and stay balanced!

Tip #3. While lifting, focus on doing it SLOWLY.

A common beginners mistake when weightlifting is to do 10 reps very quickly, like it is some kind of race and you just want to get it over. However that doesn't actually help when you are trying to build endurance (or strength for that matter). Instead your goal should be to lift the weight slooooowly, hold it there, and then go back down slooooowly. This way you are building endurance more.

Doing weightlifting slowly also gives you more time to focus on the quality of your form. Like archery, shooting too quickly will effect your form. Your goal here is the same, to lift it slowly, focus on your form, and perform the exercise properly. You don't get the reward like hitting the bullseye like you do in archery, but you will see the rewards as your endurance and strength goes up after only a week or two weeks of doing the exercises.

Tip #4. Expand your focus so it covers multiple muscle groups.

"Don't put all your eggs in one basket."

Don't just exercise your back muscles. While it is true that your back muscles are important for doing archery, they are not the only muscles that archers use.

Archers use their upper back, their shoulders, their triceps, their biceps, forearms, finger muscles, their lower back, their abdominal muscles, and even their pectoral (chest) muscles. Some are definitely used more than other muscles, but that should not discourage you from exercise them. The muscles of your lower body (legs / etc) are also used for balance and standing still. Thus there is a good argument that archers should embrace a full body workout for improving their overall strength and balance.

Focusing on only one muscle or one muscle group (the upper back for example) may be helpful with one task, but creating too much emphasis on the back muscles will cause other muscles to become overly dependent on that one muscle group and the quality of your accuracy as an archer could actually go down as your shoulders and other muscles cannot hold steady when placed under the strain.

Note - It also helps to learn the anatomical terms for the different muscles. That way when you look for exercises that help your shoulders, you know that you are looking for deltoid exercises.

Thus you need to deliberately pick and choose exercises which will boost the following muscle groups:

Rhomboids (Upper Back)
Front, Back and Upper Deltoids (Shoulders)
Pectorals (Chest)
Triceps (Back of the Upper Arm)
Biceps (Front of the Upper Arm)
Forearms + Finger / Hand Grip Strength (this will mean using Hand Grips and learning how to use them properly)
Abdominals (Belly)
Obliques (Sides)
Legs

Doing all the above means you will be doing a wide variety of exercises and you should try to spread your attention across all of them equally so that the muscles are building in an uniform manner. A common mistake people do is to focus on a single muscle, which will grow up to a limitation - in order to get it to grow further, you need to spread your focus across the whole muscle group so that they all grow as they work more effectively as an unit. To do this properly however means you need to be doing individual exercises which target the individual muscles, and then to do many different exercises so each muscle or muscle group gets its fair share of exercise.

eg. Chest Flyes are really good for the pectoral muscles, as demonstrated here by Arnold:


Tip #5. Pay Attention and Avoid Sports Injuries.

Practicing proper form while exercising isn't just a matter of maximizing your strength gain, it is a matter of avoiding sports injuries. When learning a new exercise, do it slowly, do it properly, and save yourself the trouble of developing a sports injury.

A common thing amongst archers is to improperly draw their bow and then adjust their bow shoulder and drawing elbow after they have drawn back. Ideally they should be pre-aiming, then draw back in one smooth motion. Constantly adjusting the bow shoulder and drawing elbow is bad for those muscles and can lead to sports injuries. In the case of the elbow it can lead to "Archer's Elbow, aka Tennis Elbow".

With weightlifting it is the same problem. Improper lifting and bad form leads to sports injuries. So pay attention and do it properly! Don't say I didn't warn you!

Tip #6. Do More Reps to Build More Endurance.

Remember how I mentioned above to do the exercises slowly? Well here is your next challenge. Do more repetitions - still slowly - and do more of them.

Week One start aiming to do 20 reps of each exercise.

Week Two up it a little by increasing it to 25 reps of each exercise.

Week Three increase it to 30 reps of each exercise.

Week Four increase it to 34 reps of each exercise.

Week Five increase it to 37 reps of each exercise.

Week Six increase it to 40 reps of each exercise.

Now did you notice what I did? At the beginning it started off with an increase of 5 reps per week, but after it hit 30 I reduced the increase to 4, and then 3, and then 3 again. Why did I do that? Because the constant equal amount increase in repetitions becomes unsustainable. Once you real a certain point when the number of reps seems like too much, decrease the incremental amount to a more sustainable level and gradually proceed from there.

Weeks Seven to Eleven increase the reps by 2 reps per week. Doing that allows for a nice slow incremental increase in endurance, allowing your body more time to play catch up with building new muscle.

Remember also that your goal is still to be doing the exercises slowly, you should not be racing to complete them. Also note that the above schedule is just a sample. It will not necessarily fit everyone's exercise routine, and they will want to customize their increase in repetitions to fit their own needs.

Tip #7. Eat Healthy to Build More Muscle.

Any true athlete also makes a solid effort to eat a healthy amount of vegetables and protein. Avoid the sweets. You will still need carbs for energy, but focus on eating healthy and you will see faster returns on muscle growth.

Also allow yourself a cheat day (aka, a High Carb Day) once in awhile that will boost your metabolism. A higher metabolism speeds up muscle growth and boosts energy levels. Having a High Carb Day once per week will keep your metabolism from crashing. The boosted energy levels once per week will keep your metabolism higher, while you are still building muscle and keeping your diet healthy and balanced.

Tip #8. Don't Weightlift Every Day when you are first starting out.

A common beginners mistake is to be weightlifting every day in an effort to build muscle faster. However the problem here is that you end up ripping muscle tissue (hence the term "ripped") and it takes 48 hours (sometimes more) to heals properly and build new muscle tissue.

Thus if you rip the muscle tissue, it repairs a bit and builds new tissue while you sleep, and then you rip it again 24 hours later when it is not fully healed and new tissue is not properly grown, what happens??? The answer is that any new muscle tissue rips again, and you've just wasted any growth you could have potentially had.

Instead here is what you should be doing. Weightlift every two days. eg. Monday, Wednesday, Friday. Give yourself 48 to 72 hours between weightlifting sessions so the muscles can heal and grow properly. A Monday, Wednesday Friday schedule for example allows you to be building muscle over 48 hour periods twice per week, and an extra long 72 hour period over the weekend.

Tip #9. Sleep!!!

Getting a good night's rest is extremely important for weightlifting and building muscle. Your body only builds new muscle tissue while it is at rest, and the most effective form of rest is sleep. If you are not sleeping properly, then you are not healing properly.

Tip #10. Motivate Yourself to Weightlift Regularly.

This is arguably the most important part of weightlifting regularly. If you only do it for two weeks and then stop doing it, then any gains you made will slowly disappear. Becoming an Avid Weightlifter is about making a lifestyle change so that weightlifting becomes part of your weekly schedule, so that eating healthy and getting a good night's sleep is also part of your routine.

Building strength and endurance will boost your archery accuracy with the higher poundage bows, and you will see benefits with your health, your emotional independence / confidence, and even perks for your sex life. (For both men and women.)

How you choose to motivate yourself to make archery part of your weekly schedule is really up to you. You could:
  • Hire a personal trainer who understands the value of weightlifting.
  • Hire an archery instructor who also teaches weightlifting techniques.
  • Listen to music while weightlifting.
  • Watch your favourite TV show while weightlifting. (My preference is Game of Thrones.)
  • Reward yourself emotionally after weightlifting. (Never reward yourself with unhealthy foods.)
  • Practice weightlifting with a friend or family member so you keep each other motivated.
Still need more ideas for how to Motivate Yourself? Good thing I have long list of posts on the topic for you to browse.

BONUS TIP

During the off season for archery (Winter) try to make an effort to do weightlifting to keep your body in good shape so that you are in excellent shape when Spring comes, and then once Spring does come make the effort to keep weightlifting so you can continue to improve your physical capabilities.

You don't need to do your weightlifting outdoors during the Winter like the fellow below, but hey, to each their own.

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