What Do You Do When You Can't Shoot Your Bow?

by Adam Miller

Successful archery starts way before the actual shoot takes place and keeps on going on a long time after. Here are some tips that will help you make the most of your time, and enable you to become a better archer.

1) Using your bow without an arrow

Top tip: you must NEVER dry-fire your bow, as it can cause damage to the limbs and other parts of the bow. 

You can practice using your bow alone to give you uniform consistency. Here is how you can do it: 

Draw your bow back and settle your sight on a target face or a circle on a piece of paper, for as long as you can do it accurately. Once the sight starts drifting all over the place, let the bow down and take a break. Also, take note of how long you hold the sight steady to compare it later on. You can repeat the process up to sixty times a day for a couple of times throughout the week. By doing this, your body slowly starts to get comfortable with aiming without the pressure of shooting. By the end of your practice, you will notice you can hold the sight stable for a long time. 

2) Stretch bands

You could get yourself some stretch or resistance bands, especially if you have limited space to train. These Cartel bands are very affordable, and you can place both your hands inside them and draw the band back. Securely attach the band to the hand you usually hold the bow to prevent it from slipping.

3) Buy an alternative archery exercise device

There are many, many different archery specific devices that you can buy, depending on your budget. They will help you get the feeling of shooting without needing an arrow or a target. Here is a list of the most popular ones:

a) Accubow 

This is a great device. You can get the standard version or the 2.0 version to which you can attach a mobile phone and shoot at a virtual target. The draw weight is adjustable from 10 to 70lbs. You can buy a replacement band or a D-loop attachment separately.

b) Saunders - Firing Line Release Trainer

Saunders sells 2 versions, one for compound and one for recurve. This is a very good device to help you learn good form, the draw weight is only very slightly adjustable, and for compounds the draw length is also adjustable. You can also buy weights that attach to the device to help give the same feel as your bow.

c) Astra - Shot Trainer 

Asta's training aid does require a bow, but it will stop you worrying about dry firing it. You will learn how to shoot a strong shot without collapsing on the release.

d) Saunders - Power Pull Exerciser

This device is a good option as it has a bow style grip and has different weight bands attached to it. You can buy the rubber tubes sepparately and also add extra weights to the grip to help get a more bow like feel.

4) Archery specific exercises

There are many, many resources for finding more about archery exercises. Youtube or Facebook are great for this, use them as much as you can. 

For Youtube I would suggest subscribing to Jake Kaminski’s channel, as he has set up many videos on bow tuning, arrow setup and exercise. Jake is a well known American Recurve archer, with 2 Silver Olympic medals. 
Jake and his wife Heather have released a book called "Training for Archery: A comprehensive archery training guide with Olympian Jake Kaminski". This is worth a read, if you get a chance.

For Facebook, I would suggest looking at Patrick Huston, part of the GB archery squad. He has recently started a series of Facebook videos on archery training, and is definitely worth looking into.

5) Learning more about Archery

As most people now seem to find they have a lot of time on their hands why not watch some videos on archery?
The best place for this Youtube, and here are some cool channels:

World Archery - probably the best place to go for archery content, from WA matches to archery how to videos.
- Archery GB - some great videos on training, coaching and lots of tournament videos.
- Jake Kaminski - as already described above.
- Tripple Trouble - setup by Dutch archers Sjef Van Den Berg and Gijs Broeksma. They love to shoot and will show you tips on how to shoot, bow setup and how to just have fun.
- USA archery - a great place for knowledge and insight into the world of archery
- NockOn Archery - John Dudley maybe a compound archer, but he has years of experience and can teach everyone something new. He loves to shoot and to cook, but be warned he is also an avid hunter.
NUSensei - an Australian archer and coach, he likes to share his views on archery, does product reviews and will even review your own shooting videos.
Shore Shot Archery - a great place to go for product reviews and videos on some well known archers.

This is just a small list of channels available, have a look around, you'll be surprised what you find.

6) Equipment maintenance

You can't go out to shot? This is the perfect time to strip your equipment apart, clean everything, setup your arrows, wax your string and so on. It's also a good time to check all of your measurements like tiller and brace height, but most of all it is a good time to make sure you write everything down!

Keep a record of your most important information: your bow weight and length; what strings do you use, in what length and how many strands. Do you have a spare string? What about your pressure button, does it need to be cleaned? Are all of your arrows straight and do fletches need to be replaced? 

7) Mental training

This is something we don't talk about much, but is a very important part of our sport. There are many books on “the mental game” out there.

- By far the most popular one is Lanny Bassham's “With Winning In Mind”. Lanny is an Olympic Gold medalist in the sport of Rifle Shooting and has spent his life trying to teach people the importance of mental training in sports. His book is probably the best well known book on this subject. I would recommend this to everyone, there is an audiobook version as well. Get it if you can, you wont regret it.

- Another useful book is Jens Fudge's "Choose To Be A Winner". The purpose of the book is to help athletes understand why it can be difficult to perform under pressure and it contains a lot of real world scenarios and tools.

8) Podcasts 

This is a great way to learn more about archery. You can listen to these as you exercise, or build your new arrows. Here are a few suggestions:

- Easton Target Archery
- The Push 
- Cam Podcast
- Nock On 
- RCR archery 
- Archery Uncensored 
- Bow Archery Podcast 



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