Muscle strain is a common problem amongst all athletes. In most sports, you will notice it a few hours after you have practiced the sport. But with archery, you can notice it while you are shooting. If your muscles start to shake, you are probably straining your muscles, but you don’t feel the muscle pain yet.
Archery requires a lot of upper body muscle; therefore, muscle strain can seriously hinder your archery performance. That’s why I will explain what you can do to reduce muscle strain and prevent it in the future. We will also take a deeper look at how your muscles get strained and how it hinders your archery performance.
Reducing archery muscle strain with 3 tips
If you are currently experiencing muscle strain due to archery, you might want to reduce it. If you severely strain your muscles, it could take up to a week for the pain to go away. But in most cases, the pain will dissipate within two or three days. If you experience pain for more than a week, I would visit your local physiotherapist or doctor.
Warm up your arms with a heat pack
One of the best ways to reduce muscle strain is with heat. You can take a warm bath or take a long hot shower. The heat reduces pain and stimulates the blood flow, which helps to increase the speed at which your muscles heal.
The most convenient and long-term solution is to use a heat pack, which you can heat up in a microwave. You can then warm up your muscles while watching TV, sitting behind the computer, or while eating.
I recommend getting a clay heat pack, such as this heat pack from Thermi Paq. Clay heat packs retain their warmth for longer compared to bean bag heat packs. They also dissipate the heat more evenly over your muscles and are more comfortable in my opinion.
Use a compression brace or sleeve
Not only heat can relieve muscle pain, but compression can also achieve the same effect as well. The external compression on the skin helps improve the blood flow and stimulates the nerves. This helps for pain reduction and helps heal the muscles.
So, if you are experiencing pain in your shoulders or arm you might want to consider buying a compression shoulder brace or arm sleeve. Below, I have listed two products I would recommend.
Shoulder brace with heating pad
If you have muscle pain primarily in your shoulder, I recommend this neoprene shoulder brace. The benefit of this shoulder brace is that it provides compression and retains body heat. Neoprene is a good insulator which means that it traps a lot of body heat. You can also configure the amount of compression with the Velcro straps.
If your muscle pain is primarily located in the arms, compression sleeves can be a big help. Just like a shoulder brace, these sleeves provide compression and retain body heat. You can even use these sleeves while shooting your bow!
I recommend these sleeves from CompressionZ since they have a lot of good reviews and are from a reputable Compression sleeves brand.
Keep your arms moving
Although it’s not a good idea to keep straining your muscles if you are experiencing muscle pain, you should keep your arms moving. Muscle pain can cause your muscles to get stiff, which can even cause more issues.
It can be quite difficult to find the balance between moving enough and preventing further muscle strain. Therefore, you should do exercises that require little muscle power. If you are looking for some good exercises, I would recommend reading this article.
Although these exercises are meant as a warming up, they are also very useful to keep your shoulders and arms mobile while experiencing muscle strain.
Shoot a lower draw weight
Probably the most effective way to prevent muscle strain is to lower the draw weight. If you are experiencing muscle strain after each training session, your muscles are probably not strong enough for the current draw weight.
The most effective way to solve this issue is to lower the draw weight and increase it once your muscles get stronger. I know that a lot of archers don’t want to do this, but if you get constant severe muscle strain, this is basically the only option.
Trust me, you will enjoy archery a lot more with a bow that you can comfortably shoot! You will be way more accurate and train more frequently.
Train your muscles at home
In most cases, lowering the draw weight of your bow is not that easy. Especially, if you shoot a recurve or traditional bow, you have to make a significant investment to do this. You will either have to buy new limbs or a completely new bow.
So, if you are not strong enough for your bow yet, there is an alternative. It will require a lot more work, time, and effort.
Training your archery muscles is pretty easy, you only need some resistance bands. I like to use this pack of 5 resistance bands because you can mix and match to get different draw weights. In the article listed below, you will find some easy exercises for training your archery muscle groups.
It’s important to note that it will take quite a while to build these muscles. It will take at least 6 weeks of regular training before you see any difference. So don’t think that this is a quick fix!
Do a proper warm-up
For your muscles to function optimally, they need to be warmed up. When your muscles are cold, they will not be as strong, which can cause muscle strain.
Since most archers do not shoot at top of their muscle strength, a lot of archers don’t do a warming up. They simply don’t need their muscles at full strength for the first few arrows they shoot.
To prevent muscle strain, however, it’s a best practice to do a proper warming-up. Although it doesn’t make a huge difference in my experience, it’s worth a shot. So, try to incorporate a warming-up routine into your archery training. In the article below, I show some exercises I like to do as a warming-up.
Why muscle strain is not always a bad thing
I briefly mentioned in this article, that minor muscle strain is not necessarily a bad thing. Of course, severe muscle strain can be harmful and should be avoided. But minor muscle strain is just your body telling you that your muscles are tired.
To build up muscle we need to tire out our muscles. When this happens, micro-cracks will appear in your muscle fibers. Your body will react to this by filling in the cracks with additional muscle tissue. This strengthens your muscles, which is beneficial in the long term.
Therefore, muscle strain is a normal and healthy response from your body. It tells you that your muscles need time to heal. That’s why you shouldn’t strain your muscles further. Otherwise, the micro-cracks might start to tear, which can cause severe issues.
How muscle strain can hurt your archery performance
If you experience muscle strain for a long time you should work to reduce it. Muscle strain can cause quite some issues, I discuss these issues in more detail below.
Rushing your shot
When your muscles start to hurt, you will either consciously or subconsciously rush your shot. Since your body is in an uncomfortable position, it wants to return to a normal position as soon as possible. This is a common issue amongst archers, even for archers that don’t experience muscle strain.
Rushing your shot will cause you to make mistakes in your form, release less smoothly, and aim with less precision. That’s why I highly recommend decreasing your draw weight if you experience muscle strain regularly.
If you start to shake during your shots, your muscles are probably getting strained. This can obviously cause you to be less accurate and will ruin the archery experience. In addition to a lack of strength, shaking can also occur due to bad form. I explain how to solve this issue in more detail in the article below.
Shooting fewer arrows
If your draw weight is just a bit too high for your current muscle strength, you can probably shoot the first 30 arrows without any issue. But once your muscles are getting tired, you start to experience issues. This makes it quite tempting to shoot fewer arrows since the next arrows will be significantly less accurate.
This will hinder your performance, however. Professional archers shoot hundreds of arrows per day because this builds muscle memory and technique. I understand that this is not feasible for most archers.
When archers ask me for tips to improve their performance, my first tip always is: ‘’shoot more arrows per week’’ You can add another day to your training schedule of course, but it’s often easier to shoot more arrows per session.
So don’t compensate for your strength issues by shooting fewer arrows. If you want to perform well, shooting more arrows should be your top priority.
You might think, why should we trust this dude’s tips? What authority does he have over a complicated issue such as muscle strain? That’s why I wanted to explain in a bit more detail, where I get my information from.
As you have probably read, I am an avid archer. Although I am not an archery coach, I do have a lot of experience with nearly all aspects of archery. I also frequently speak with other archers and coaches to verify my own experiences and tips.
Apart from archery, as of writing this archery, I am working in the orthopedic/sports branch. Although I don’t have a medical degree, I work on a lot of consumer content, so I know a lot about muscle strain and how to treat it.
That being said, don’t take any of my tips as medical advice, just like any other website. If you experience serious muscle pain, make sure to consult a doctor or a licensed medical professional.