10 practice methods to shoot better arrows

Almost every coach out there will tell you that shooting valuable arrows in practice – rather than just a lot of arrows – is extremely important. But how can you make your practice sessions count?

These exercises are some of the techniques implemented by world-class athletes (and coaches) to get the best out of their shooting.

1. Timing

Danish compound archer Martin Damsbo endorses practising timing routines for matchplay. 

Rather than taking the full 40 seconds per arrow assigned in qualification, only using 20 – like in a match – and waiting each alternate 20 while an imaginary opponent shoots.

“It can also help you in the wind, when you know you’ve got smaller windows to get an arrow off,” says Damsbo.

2. Aiming off

Windy conditions often force athletes to aim off, either to compensate for strong gusts or when they’ve moved their sight and then the wind stops. It’s literally just pointing the sight pin at a point on the target that’s not the middle.

“The problem with aiming off is that your body wants to aim in the middle,” says Ron van der Hoff, head coach of the successful Dutch men. 

“If you need to aim in the edge of the nine, you want to go to the 10, so you have to practise aiming off.”

3. Blank boss

Short-range target mats with no targets installed are mandatory at international events for athletes to warm up early in the morning. It’s a set-up that’s also used by some coaches when making alterations to technique.

“It allows them to focus on the things they’re working on,” says Slovenian coach Matija Zlender.

4. Quantity

Many archers shoot six, 12 or 15 arrows per end day-to-day. It gets a round done quicker, and gives a better opportunity to see groups on the target and get into a rhythm.

“And you don’t have to walk as much to collect arrows,” (semi) jokes Mike Schloesser.

5. High total

“We don’t shoot that many arrows in a day in competition, so practice should be broken into multiple sessions,” says British head coach Richard Priestman.

Even if you’re putting in 250-300 or more arrows each day, that should be broken down into different periods of 100 or so shots.

That allows each practice session to include a full warm-up, warm-down and mental relaxation in between, and ensures concentration is kept on technique and making sure the quality is high – rather than shooting numbers for the sake of numbers.

“If you shoot three sessions like this a day, five days a week, you’re getting 15 days’ worth of practice,” adds Priestman.

6. Stretch bands

Before every shooting session, the Korean team are among those warming up with stretch exercise bands – and they’re used heavily as archers learn, too.

It’s because it’s an easy and effective way of simulating muscle movements, without having to worry about equipment, location and where an arrow might land.

7. Situational archery

It’s difficult to simulate the pressure of competition shooting and that’s why many archers will say there’s no substitute for shooting a lot of tournaments. 

Australian coach Shih Ya Ping puts her team in imaginary scenarios.

“For this practice match, they’ll need to only shoot 28s. I give them goals, so they understand the pressure in real life,” she says.

8. Foremaster

A loop that hooks around the elbow and attaches to the string of a recurve bow – it can be used to practise drawing form, or shoot arrows (stopping the string after a short journey).

It teaches proper tension in the shoulder and back drawing muscles, because if those parts of the anatomy aren’t activated properly, archers collapse after the shot.

9. Control

Contrary to some popular wisdom, often top recurve archers choose when to execute their shot. A practice technique seen on the line at world events involves the coach telling an archer a number before they lift their bow.

Once at full draw, the coach starts counting from one, expecting the archer to release when they hit the number picked before, indicating complete control of the archer’s clicker and execution phase.

10. Effort

“There’s nothing better than just shooting arrows…”

…and Mike Schloesser should know. He shoots between 150-200 a day, an increase on the indoor season because he, in his own words, wasn’t feeling like he was practising enough.

But each and every one of those arrows is shot with maximum effort.

The first stage of the 2018 Hyundai Archery World Cup takes place in Shanghai, China on 23-29 April.