How to practice archery without shooting

Although archery is all about firing the arrow with awesome precision, sometimes you just want to practice without shooting any arrows. Whether you want to train at home or when you are traveling it is good to know a few exercises which help you maintain and improve your skills. Although many people believe archery is all about aiming, technique is way more important. Luckily this technique can be easily practiced without even firing an arrow. In this article I will discuss what you can do to train your archery skills without shooting.

In this article I will first discuss some ways you can train your muscles, form and shot sequence. I will also discuss a training program which is used by professional archers, the SPT. At the end of this article I will discuss some products that make you able to completely mimic the shot process even with the release of the string.

Training your muscles

Archery is an intense sport for the upper body, especially for the shoulder and back muscles. If these muscles are not sufficiently trained shooting accurately will be very hard. When your bow is too heavy you will start to shake while aiming, resulting in less accurate shots. Therefore it’s a great idea to train your back muscles regularly, especially if you can’t shoot for a while. Luckily training your back muscles can be done easily with cheep equipment.

Although I like to go to the gym to train my back muscles, you can also use resistance bands. I have dedicated a full article about how to train your back muscles, so I highly advice reading that article for more information. I have also added a lot of exercises you can do with these resistance bands. This way you can even train your muscles when you are traveling.

‘’How to train your back muscles for archery’’

Training your draw stance/form

The draw is an essential part of the archery sequence. Although it seems straightforward a bad draw will result in a lot of issues. One mistake many archers make is by leaning backwards when drawing. This is natural reaction to the weight of the bow, but negatively impacts your accuracy. You are also more likely to get muscle strain, therefore a good form is essential.

Drawing your bow in front of a mirror is an excellent way to improve your overall form. Don’t dry fire, however, this is very bad for your bow. You should slowly relax the bow after each draw. This will feel weird when you first do it, but this is the only save way to practice your draw with your bow. You can also use a resistance band if you prefer, but since it doesn’t do a great job simulating a bow, it will be less effective.

When you want to make sure you are using the right technique, an excellent way to check your form is by using a mirror. When you are confident that you use the right technique it’s good practice to film yourself. Between every draw you can check whether you are still using the right technique. When you are out on the field you don’t have the luxury of checking your form in the mirror. Therefore you should only use this to get familiar with the technique, while checking your technique by recording yourself.

If you want to know more about improving your draw, I would recommend to read my article called ‘’7 tips to improve archery yourself’’. Especially tip 3, 5 and 6 are very relevant if you want to train without shooting arrows.

Training the shot sequence

Although the draw is a very important part of the shot sequence, the release is equally important. If your draw and stance is 100% spot on, but your release is abysmal, you will still shoot very bad. Most archers will have a decent release just from the start. When your scores are improving you can, however, gain a lot by training your release. Since you can’t dry fire your bow, training your release isn’t really possible without shooting an arrow. Luckily there are a few devices which make you able to dry fire without causing any damage to the bow.

The first product is the Astra Shot Trainer. This device is attached to your arm directly to the string with a sleeve. When you release the shot, you string will catch onto the device, thereby preventing a full dry fire.

Another product with an entire different approach is the Accubow. This device closely resembles a compound bow, and enables you to train at different draw weights. With the laser you can also check how much you vibrate and work on your balance. Since it is a thick elastic strap you can safely dry fire the device.

In the ‘’products for training’’ section, I will discuss these devices and a less well known product in more detail.

SPT – specific physical training

SPT is a specific training program for recurve archers that want to build up their muscle strength and endurance without shooting any arrows. The training consists of four important parts called: endurance, power/strength, flexibility and structure. Professional archers do these exercises everyday for a full hour. Although that might be a bit extreme if you are a hobbyist, you could try these exercises and see what works for you. In the next for sections I will discuss the four parts of SPT in more detail.

Endurance

You draw the bow to your normal anchor point, using the technique you are used to. You should hold the draw of the bow for around 30 seconds to 1 minute. Take a break of at least 1 minute and repeat this process about 10 times. The draw should feel very heavy after the 7th rep. If this is not the case, you should do additional repetitions until your muscles start to feel heavy.

Don't worry if you can't make it till 10 repetitions, this exercise is supposed to be really though. So you might have to start will less reps and work your way up.

Strength

Draw the bow to your standard anchor point, using the technique you are used to. This time you only hold for about 5 to 7 seconds and slowly let the bow down afterwards. Do this exercise about 10 times for 3 sets. Be sure to take rest between different sets. Again, you should feel that your muscles are getting tired. If this isn’t the case, add additional sets.

Flexibility

This exercise is only relevant if you are shooting with a clicker. This exercise focuses on training the last push through the clicker. If you want to know more about how to master the clicker, I would recommend reading the following article:

‘’How to master the clicker’’

Nock an arrow and draw to your usual anchor point. Slowly pull the arrow through the clicker and hold for 5 seconds after you hear the clicking sound. Since your instinct is to immediately fire the shot, you should be aiming at a save backstop, like an archery mat. Do this exercise about 10 times in two reps.

Gently pull the arrow through the clicker
Hold at full draw for 5 seconds (make sure that the point of the arrow stays in the same position)

Structure

The last exercise from SPT trains your back muscles to attain the right position, while at full draw. This exercise will feel really strange at first, but it is very effective to train for good form. Instead of drawing the bow, in front of your head, you draw it behind your head. When you do this exercise you will feel your back muscles tensioning when at full draw. With this exercise you force yourself to tension your back muscles.

I wouldn’t recommend doing this exercise daily. It’s an exercise you want to do when you notice that you are not using your back muscles. Doing this exercise for a while will help you feel how you should use your back muscles.

Products for training

If you want to do certain exercises, you will need some tools to do so. In this section I will discuss these tools in more detail and I will give advice in which situations these tools are most effective.

Resistance bands

If you want to train your back muscles, resistance bands are the cheapest and easiest option. I would buy a pack with multiple bands since this allows you to increase or decrease the poundage. You can simply use multiple bands if you want to increase the poundage or switch to a heavier band.

Shot trainers

Although the resistance bands are excellent to train your back muscles, you can’t train the entire shot process. For this reason multiple brands have developed devices which enable you to safely dry, while mimic the feel of a normal shot. The three shot trainers that I will discuss are: Accubow, Astra Shot Trainer and Dry Fire Pro.

The Accubow mimics the feel and form factor of a real compound bow. Instead of a normal string, this device has a thick rubber band which creates the draw weight. You can change the draw weight by turning the lower circle which puts the band under pre tension. You also add a sight or phone and you can check your vibration with the laser. This product is not really suitable for recurve archers, since the band does not closely simulate the string. For compound archers, however, this is a good option, although it is quite pricy.

The Astra Shot Trainer is a device that allows you to dry fire your own bow. The strap connects the arm sleeve to the string of the bow preventing a full dry fire, after you fired the bow. The advantage of this device is that it completely mimics your shot with your own bow. This, however, is also a disadvantage because this means you have to completely assemble your bow every time you want to train. This device is also not suitable for compound bows due to the let-off. On a video on the Astra YouTube channel the following disclaimer is presented in the description:

WARNING! -- DO NOT USE THE SHOT TRAINER WITH A COMPOUND BOW. DUE TO THE WORKINGS OF CAMS ON COMPOUND BOWS, ANY USE COULD RESULT IN SEVERE BODILY INJURY AND DAMAGE TO YOUR BOW.

The Dryguy Fire Pro is similar to the Accubow, since it’s also a rubber powered standalone device with adjustable draw weight. It also allows you to add your own sight and stabilizers but it doesn’t have a built in laser. An advantage this device has over the Accubow is that you can also use this to train for recurve archery. With a separately sold Masan adaptor, which mimics a real bowstring, you can use your own tab to train with this device. The last benefit of the Dry fire Pro is that it’s less expensive than the Accubow.

Final thoughts

A common proverb in archery is: ‘’the best way to learn archery is to actually shoot’’. In most part I agree with this statement, some archers over obsess too much over certain exercises. Although exercises are great to learn the technique, train your muscle memory and strengthen your muscles, actually shooting does this as well. So you shouldn’t see these exercises as a replacement for a regular shooting session, it’s only additional training.

I hope this article was helpful. If you have any questions or comments, please let me know in the comment section down below. I will respond as soon as possible.

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