How to draw a bow

If you are using the right technique and form, drawing a bow should be quite easy. You just use your back muscles to get to full draw. This is something most archers don’t even think about. But if you are just getting started, properly drawing a bow might seem difficult. Therefore, I will make it as simple as possible.

To draw a bow, you should be using your upper back and shoulder muscles. Keep your bow arm straight and draw the bow with your other arm in one fluid motion towards your anchor point. Make sure to check your form and align your shoulders at full draw.

That makes it seem easy right? Well, in practice I still see a lot of things archers struggle with. In this article, I will discuss these pitfalls so you can avoid them.

Before we start

Although I try to make this guide as complete as possible, it’s not possible to cover all minute aspects. Therefore, this guide aims to give you the basics. If you are serious about archery, I would highly recommend taking an archery course or hiring an archery coach.

I understand that hands-on coaching is not always available for everyone. Luckily there is a great (in my opinion even better) alternative – following an online course from the Online Archery Academy. With video examples and detailed explanations, these courses are a great way to improve your archery. I can personally vouch for them, as I have also taken the courses.

Readers from this blog will get a discount of 20% if you use the discount code IYA at checkout. If you don’t think the courses help you improve your archery, you can always use the 100-day money-back guarantee.

How it all builds up to the draw

Essentially, drawing the bow just involves pulling the string back towards your anchor point. If you are standing correctly and you can find your anchor point, you only have to make the motion. Everything you do before the draw is just to make keeping the bow at full draw easier.

Therefore, I would highly recommend reading my article about archery form. A lot of archers that experience issues with their draw, make mistakes with their form.

Archery stance and posture – form guide with pictures

How you draw a bow

While you are drawing your bow, you should keep your bow arm straight (the arm you hold the bow with). To draw the bow, you start pulling the bow towards your anchor point. When you have reached your anchor point, your bow is at full draw. From that point, you can start aiming and fire the bow.

To draw your bow, you should be using your back muscles. If you stand correctly, you will be doing this automatically. Although this is relatively straight forward, there are some things you should consider while drawing the bow. Let’s discuss these one by one.

Align your shoulders

Make sure to align your shoulders when at full draw. If your shoulders are not properly aligned holding the bow will be more difficult. The alignment makes sure that most of the weight of the bow goes through your bones.

To align your shoulders, you should pull your shoulder blades towards each other. As mentioned earlier don’t overdo it, your chest should stay in place. From above it’s easy to see when your shoulders are not properly aligned. So, it may be helpful to let someone film you from this position to troubleshoot this issue.

Draw smoothly

When something is heavy, we want to get it done as soon as possible. Therefore, it’s a common mistake for archers to pull the bow back too hard. Although it might seem harmless, there are some clear reasons why you shouldn’t do it.

Drawing the bow back to fast can be harmful to your bow limbs. They are simply not made to be pulled back very fast. Although it will not break your limbs the first time you do it, it might reduce its lifespan in the long run.

Drawing back the bow can also cause muscle strain. Think for example of going to the gym. If you lift heavy weights, you have to pull them up fast. This makes you go beyond the limits of your strength. Although muscle strain is harmless (in most cases), it makes shooting accurate very difficult.

When you work out or run your heart rate will rise very quickly, this is due to the fast movements that require a lot of strength. When you have a high heart rate it’s more difficult to control your muscles and aim steadily. So, if you pull back too fast, your heart rate will rise which will make it more difficult to aim. This is one of the reasons why aiming is much more difficult in run archery.

Check your technique

Before you shoot your arrow, you should check your technique. Don’t do this when you are aiming because you don’t want to get distracted. Therefore, it’s a great idea to do this while you are drawing the bow.

Drawing the bow is relatively simple. It doesn’t require a lot of thinking, especially when you get more experienced. So, make it a habit to quickly check whether your arm is aligned and whether you are standing correctly. You don’t have to analyze this thoroughly. Just ask yourself ‘’am I standing correctly’’ while drawing the bow.

It also makes sure that you are focused on the shot. When you are at the range there are a million different distractions, but you should focus on the shot. Focusing on your technique can be a great help to improve your concentration before the shot.

Extra note for compound archers

Recurve archers can draw directly to their anchor point, but that isn’t the case for compound archers. Since compound archers shoot with a release, you must be extra careful. Although accidental discharges are rare, they do happen. It might be that the release wasn’t clipped incorrectly, or you might hit it the trigger accidentally. The latter is especially common for new archers.

When you are mid draw you are using a lot of muscle strength to draw the bow back. If your release goes of your hand will fly backward, because you can’t respond to this in time. If you draw directly to your face you will hit your face when this happens. Therefore, you want to draw away from your face. When you are at full draw and you feel the let-off, you can move your hand towards your anchor point.

If you draw a compound bow with a release don’t draw directly to your face. You may hit yourself in your face with your hand when the release goes off accidentally.

How far you should draw

When I shot my first bow at 10 years old at a medieval fair they told me to draw till your ear. They probably told this because most people tend to draw too short. But you shouldn’t draw to your ear either if you want to be accurate.

You want to draw your bow to your anchor point, which is a specific point on your face at which you hold the bow at full draw. Your anchor point differs per shooting style. Recurve archers tend to anchor below their chin, while traditional archers often anchor on their cheek.

One of the priorities of new archers is to find an anchor point and train to keep it consistent. Without a consistent anchor point, it will be near impossible to shoot your bow accurately. Since your hand isn’t in the same place every time, you can’t aim your bow correctly.

So, make sure that you have a consistent anchor point. Read the article below for more guidance on this:

Finding and maintaining your anchor point – tips and tricks

Keep your draw consistent

Archery is all about consistency. If you do everything the same way the arrows should land in the same spot. Therefore, we need to train to be as consistent with our form and technique as possible.

If you would be 100% consistent with your form, technique, and anchor point, an inconsistent draw shouldn’t cause you any issues. But sadly, even the most experienced archers can’t keep this all 100% consistent, that is simply not human.

Having a consistent draw makes it much easier to keep your form, technique, and anchor point consistent as well. Markus Wagner mentions in Archery Focus that you should have your own melody while you are drawing your bow. This means that you want to draw at the same speed every time in the exact same way.

Why drawing a compound bow might feel wrong

Drawing a recurve bow feels quite normal. For every inch you pull the bow back the draw weight will increase with a certain amount of LBS. This means that you have a very smooth increase in draw weight till the end of the draw.

The relationship between draw weight and draw length on a recurve bow

Drawing a compound bow is a whole different story. For most archers, it feels weird. I have also seen some archers that were startled by the sudden decrease in draw weight at the end. Especially if you have shot recurve bows before, this might feel strange.

The draw weight of a compound bow increases fast, much faster than a recurve bow. Then the bow hits a point where the draw weight keeps flat for a few inches. Therefore, the draw weight doesn’t increase or decrease. This is in the middle of the draw.

A few inches before you are at full draw the let-off kicks in. This dramatically decreases the draw weight in just a few inches of the draw. This just feels strange until you have shot the bow a few times.

The relationship between draw weight and draw length on a compound bow

Although it might feel strange shooting a compound bow for the first time. They tend to be easier to shoot due to the limited holding weight. A compound bow is also more efficient which increases the arrow speed as I discuss in the video below:

Building draw efficiency

Some archers believe that drawing a bow becomes much easier once you have built up your back and arm muscles. Although that is true, I believe there is much more to gain by training muscle memory.

Training your muscles takes a lot of effort and takes a long time. Since you still need to be able to aim your bow, you can’t draw a bow to full capacity. I can for example draw a 60 LBS bow, but I can’t shoot that bow accurately. If you use your muscles at full capacity your movements will be less controllable. Therefore, archers often train their arm and back muscles besides with other exercises. For more information, read the article below:

How to train your back muscles for archery

When I haven’t shot for more than a week, I tend to have more trouble drawing the bow. After about 20 rounds I notice that I can’t shoot anymore. Muscles don’t build up or go away that fast. So, what is happening is that I am drawing less efficiently. You might think this is farfetched but hear me out.

If you lift some bricks while holding them far away from your body the bricks will feel heavy. If you would keep them close, however, they will feel much more manageable. The same thing happens subconsciously which is called proprioception. Your muscles are all working together to pull the bow, the more they do it the more efficient they will get.

Issues you might experience

While drawing your bow, you might experience any of the following issues. If you have trouble drawing your bow and you don’t know what’s causing it, leave a comment down below. I would love to help you troubleshoot the issue.

The draw weight is too heavy

By far the most common issue for new archers is that the draw weight is too heavy. If this is the case, you will have a hard time keeping the bow at full draw or you might start to shake. You can decide to train your muscles or to just suck it up and keep shooting. But in most cases, that isn’t the best option.

If you keep shooting you will develop bad shooting habits which might haunt you for a long time. Therefore, decreasing the draw weight tends to be the better option. Especially if you experience issues after you only shot a few arrows.

This might involve getting a new bow or replacing the bow limbs, but it will instantly increase your enjoyment and accuracy. In the articles below, I explain in more detail how to choose the right draw weight per bow type:

The bow starts to stack (recurve only)

When your bow is too small it might start to stack at the end of the draw weight. This is only relevant for recurve bows though. Stacking is the exponential increase in draw weight that happens at the end of the draw. Stacking only occurs if you overdraw the bow, which means that you draw the bow further than it’s designed for.

So, make sure that the bow is suitable for your draw length. Otherwise, your bow might stack which makes it harder to keep the bow at full draw and makes the bow less efficient. Read the article below for more guidance on stacking:

Stacking – what it is and why it’s bad

You can’t reach your anchor point (compound only)

Compound bows can’t be overdrawn because at the end of the draw you will hit a hard stop. We often refer to this as the wall. If your bow isn’t correctly configured it might be the case that you hit this wall before you are at your anchor point.

To solve this issue, you must change the settings of your mod, which is a small piece attached to your cams. On some bows, you have to place a different mod on the bow but on most, you have to adjust the placement of the mod.

You must loosen one or two screws and turn the mod. Most compound bows will have some numbers printed on the mods. These numbers refer to the draw length in inches. Others might have some other codes like A, B, C, etc. Consult your owner’s manual for information on what these codes mean.

The shot cycle

Drawing the bow is one of the most intuitive steps of the archery shot cycle. To master the entire archery technique, make sure to check out the other articles too:

How to shoot a bow (an overview)

Final words

I almost didn’t write this article, because most of the archery technique happens before and after you draw your bow. So, if you do that right, there isn’t much that you can do wrong. But there are still some things you should consider, especially when you are just getting started. By practicing you will improve your draw. You will build up muscle memory and your muscles will strengthen.

Before you go, don’t forget to use the coupon code IYA if you are buying one of the courses from Online Archery Academy. As mentioned earlier, I highly recommend taking a structured course. As this will greatly deepen your archery knowledge and skill.

If you have any questions, comments, or feedback, please leave them down below in the comment section. I will respond as soon as possible, and you will receive an email notification once I replied.

Tim van Rooijen

For as long as I can remember, I have always been fascinated by archery. First due to its historic significance but later because I like being outdoors. With this blog, I share my knowledge about Archery and how you can improve your shot. More about author…

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