Hello there! This is Step #5 in my “How to Shoot a Bow and Arrow” lesson. In this post, we’ll learn what to do with your bow arm. This one is pretty easy.
The Process and Where You Are
So, you’re on the shooting line and your stance is aligned (Step 1). You’ve nocked an arrow (Step 2). You know how to grasp your bow string (Step 3) and you’re gripping the bow properly (Step 4). Now you’re ready to raise your bow to the target.
Relax your shoulders, and then bring your bow up gently, so that it aligns with the target. You don’t have to hone in on the target—you’ll do that later—just get it in the general vicinity. Keep your other hand on the bow string, but don’t draw yet.
And… that’s it for Step #5! It seems simple, but it’s an important part of the sequence, and there are actually some things you’ll need to keep in mind:
A LOT of us hold a lot of tension in our shoulders. Not only at the range—we also do it when we’re out and about, leading our lives. That’s why it’s so easy to overlook that tension when we’re at the range.
So that’s why I try to remind people: when lifting the bow, make sure your shoulders are relaxed, and keep them as low as possible.
If you go to the range, you’ll see it: many archers bring the shoulder of their shooting arm close to their face. Here’s what I mean by “shoulder close to their face”—many people, when they’re asked a question they don’t know, make a shrugging motion, where they lift both shoulders at once. It’s like an “I don’t know!” motion.
New archers mimic that motion on their bow arm, and bring they’re shoulder close to their face. That’s something you want to avoid—you want to keep both shoulders as low and relaxed as possible.
So, relax! It feels good, and it’ll make you a better archer.
Maintain Proper Elbow Alignment
This is something else that often gets overlooked, even among some experienced archers: the angle of your elbow on your bow arm. The outside of your elbow and the inside of your elbow should be pointing at 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock. In other words, the inside of your elbow and the outside of your elbow should be parallel with the ground.
If you take a look at Olympic archer Brady Ellison in this photo, you’ll see that his elbows are in perfect alignment.
Very often, archers have a tendency of having their inner elbow point toward the sky at a 45-degree angle, and that’s something you want to avoid. For a very good comparison of an elbow that is pointed upward vs. an elbow that is at the correct 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock position, take a look at this image. You want your elbow to look like the bottom half of the image.
The “elbows at 9-and-3 rule” is a “best practices” sort of thing; you’ll find many archers whose elbows aren’t quite at 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock, and they’re fantastic archers. If you’re getting started, though, do everything you can to maintain that 9-and-3 position; it’ll bring a lot of consistency to your shot.
Be Careful With Hyperextended Elbows
If you’re double-jointed—that is, if you have unusually flexible joints—and you can bend your elbow so that it bends inward, that’s something you’ll need to be very aware of when you’re lifting your bow arm and drawing. If your elbow is hyperextended—in other words, bent inward—the bow string can make contact with your inner arm after you let it loose, and that can result in an extremely painful inner-arm injury.
Many think this is an issue solely for women archers, but that’s not true—I know plenty of male archers who can hyperextend their elbows, so be certain your bow arm is straight.
Do Not Bring Your Bow Above the Target
You’ll notice that I wrote, “Raise your bow so that it aligns with the target,” and that may seem obvious, but it’s important, because many new archers raise their bows way too high when they’re starting out. If you’re new to archery, when you raise your bow, you need to bring it to the level of the target, and stop there.
If you’re just getting started, you don’t have total control of the bow and/or arrow, and there have been plenty of incidents where a beginner archer aims too high and shoots out a light or hits the ceiling, and that’s obviously not a good thing.
Ranges usually have a rule about aiming, and it’s usually something like “Always keep your arrows pointed down or towards the target.
Keep in mind, it’s not always wrong to raise your bow above the target. If you watch this clip of the 2016 Olympics games (jump to 2:55), you’ll see that when Olympic archers raise their bows, some raise it above the target ever-so-briefly, and then drift down to scope the actual bullseye. That’s pretty common from among Olympic archers, but…
If you’re a beginner, it’s not what you should be doing. Raise your bow to the level of the target, keep it there for a short moment, and then get ready for Step #6, which is…