Perfecting Your Practice

By Larry Yien


Any seasoned archer will tell you that great shooting is a result of practice, but once you accept that, the next question is how to practice. Simple. String up your bow, grab a bunch of broadhead tipped arrows and shoot till you get tired. Right? Although many of us practice by just shooting arrows and accept that as practice, there are certain types of practice routines that produce better shots. Better shots makes us better archers and ultimately better bowhunters.

First make sure your fundamentals are correct. Coaching by a certified instructor or coach can be helpful. Reading books and watching videos can give insight to fundamentals. A helpful hand from a fellow archer can sometimes prove beneficial. If an archery instructor is not handy in your area, there are some instructors that will accept a video tape of you shooting and coach long distance. I will address some fundamentals in future articles, but in this article I will focus on practice.

I divide my practice sessions into a few categories, mental, endurance, and fine motor movement.

Mental practice is perhaps the lost element in modern day archery. We are so intent on hitting the kill, or shooting the spot, that we spend all our time shooting. We neglect working on mental imagery, and concentration. Granted , archery is very physical, the archer in first place is usually the archer who had his best mental game that day. The same thing goes for hunting at that moment of truth when that bull is one step away from a perfect broadside shot, our mental game has to be operating. There are mental programs out there, and many more books on the subject. I like to work on mental imagery, visualizing fluid shots. I also visualize my arrows hitting the spot. Another good exercise is done while shooting, staying in the present and not dwelling in the past. The past arrows I shot are gone, good or bad, they are over. The only shot I focus on is the shot at hand.

Endurance training has a few elements. I do cardiovascular work at least every other day. I try to get a minimum of 15 minutes of cardiovascular work per session, either hiking, running or mountain biking. I prefer to get 30 minutes, and two hour workouts on the weekends. Sit-ups and push-ups are a daily routine and I am working on my pull ups. You can set up your physical training program with your schedule and current health in mind, the goal is to be fit, toned, and flexible. Strength and flexibility keep me strong throughout the tournaments, and the hunt.

I picked up an endurance technique from Don Rabska, in his article in Archery Focus. Don is an active Olympic style archer, coach, and engineer at Easton. Don talks about 'long drawing times', draw the bow back to anchor and hold at full draw for 20-60 seconds. The key is to never stay static, rather, continue pulling with your shoulders and back muscles. The arrow should not be drawn more than 1/2" past your anchor. When doing this exercise, build up to about 10 repetitions per session. An occasional check by looking in the mirror to make sure you are staying active in this drill is helpful. I use a 30 second timer to measure the intervals. If your bow poundage is too heavy to do this drill, start with a lighter bow and work up to your bow. Focus on using your back muscles.

Try incorporating these elements in your practice routine. In my next column I will introduce some exercises where we actually shoot some arrows, as we work on more mental, endurance and fine motor elements.

In the mean time, enjoy the shot.

Gap Shooting
String Walking
Perfecting Your Practice
What's the point to shooting?
Shooting on Target
Tabs and Gloves for shooting
Bridging the gap
Finessing Your Arrows

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