The Archery Stance: First Things First

Hello and Welcome! You're reading Step #1 of my "How to Shoot a Bow and Arrow" series. In this post, we'll go over the proper archery stance for beginners. We'll start at your feet and go all the way up to your head, detailing exactly how you need to hold yourself to shoot with precision and accuracy.

The Square Stance: Best for Beginners

There are actually a few different stances that archers use, but the best one for beginners is called the square stance. It allows beginners to perfectly re-create a solid base, firmly draw the bow, and aim accurately. Here's how you do it:

Archery Stance Instructions

(One quick note: It's probably best if you try this a couple times WITHOUT a bow, just to get a feel for it.)

What to Do with Your Feet

Step up to the shooting line at your range, and place your feet on both sides of the line (if your range has a "both-feet-behind-the-line" policy, do that instead!). If you're right-handed, your left foot will be your front foot; if you're left-handed, your right foot will be your front foot. Shuffle your feet until they are shoulder-width apart, and totally parallel to the shooting line. Then, relax.

What to Do with Your Knees

Give your knees an ever-so-slight bend. You want to make sure that they're not locked, because that'll rob you of some of your stability and control. Then relax.

What to Do with Your Hips

This one is easy: don't do anything with your hips! Just make sure they're facing forward. Then, relax.

What to Do with Your Lower Back

Make sure your lower back is flat. You don't want your lower back to be arched, with your butt and/or your shoulders sticking back---that's bad form, and it could lead to injuries. Check to make sure your lower back is in place, and then relax.

What to Do with Your Torso

This is important. Your torso should be facing straight forward, so that it's perpendicular to the shooting line (and to your target). Stand straight up like a tree, but don't puff your chest out. Also, new archers sometimes have a tendency to lean towards or away from the target (and sometimes even lean back) and that can mess with your shot---and do a number on your back. Relax.

What to Do with Your Shoulders

This is SUPER important, because it's something many, many archers get wrong (I did, when I was first starting!). You should need to be---you guessed it, relaxed---and not drawn up high. Shoulders are a very important part of the process, and if they're out of whack, your shot and accuracy could be compromised.

What to do with Your Head

So, you're standing there, your feet are parallel, your knees are slightly bent, your hips are relaxed, your lower back is relaxed, your torso is facing forward, and your shoulders are calm and low. Look straight forward, and now---if you're right-handed, keep your torso forward but turn your head to the left, so that you can see your target; if you're left-handed, keep your torso forward but turn your head to the right, so that you can see your target. Then...

Congratulations! Your archery stance in just about right and you're ready to move on to the next steps.

In Other Words...

It seems like a lot, but all you're really trying to do is stand with good posture, while your feet are pointed in the same direction. That's it.

Also, you may have noticed that I wrote the word "Relax" an irritating number of times. There's a reason I did that: your best archery shots---all those thousands of bulls eyes you'll get in the future---will likely be made when you're relaxed and focused. The more effort and oomph you put into a shot, the more likely your shot is to miss. As an archer, you're always trying to attain calm efficiency. "Work smarter, not harder," as they say.

The Open Stance: The Other Stance I Mentioned Above

So, why didn't we discuss this other stance (or the other ones, like the closed stance and the neutral stance)? Because those are a little harder to reproduce time after time, and that makes them very difficult for beginners. When you're using a square stance, your feet are in the same place, every time.

When you're using an open stance, your back foot may be in the same place every time, but your front foot has a tendency to drift (this is true even for seasoned archers). People who use an open stance need to be very, very careful that they're open foot is in the same place every time they shoot. That's a little much to ask a new archer to think about.

After a short while shooting with a square stance, you can read up on the other stances, and find out which one works for you.

Make Sure Your Stance is Consistent

For whatever reason, people forget that just like every other part of the draw, stance is a habit, and needs to repeated again and again. If every aspect of your draw is PERFECT, but your stance is slightly different every time you shoot an arrow, you'll never shoot accurately or consistently. So be mindful of not only using the correct stance, but using the correct stance every time you shoot.

If You're Feeling Overwhelmed...

This is a lot, I know. When you're just starting out, it may seem like you have to think about every muscle in your body just to shoot a single arrow, and that can seem a little burdensome.

Here's the good news: after doing this for a very short while, you'll do most of this without thinking about it.

Most archers have "perfect spots" and "trouble spots." Some archers stand perfectly upright without thinking about it, but they lock their knees; others are relaxed in every muscle group except for the shoulders. You're likely to do a number of things correctly without thinking about it, and you'll only need to pay attention to your "trouble spots."

On to Step #2, "Nock Your Arrow!"

Gregory Johnson

With almost 20 years of archery experience under his belt, Gregory founded the Complete Guide to Archery website in 2019. His purpose has been to spread knowledge about the hobby and sport to anyone willing to learn.