Why is archery stance important?

In Archery, Archery Tips, Bowhunting, Compound Bows, Longbows, Recurve Bows, Traditional Archery by Vineet Jain16 Comments

Proper archery stance makes the difference between a good and bad archer.

We’ve heard this before, but what does it actually mean? Let’s look at the following to understand how and why stance is most important, and how you can master it:

  • What exactly does proper stance mean?
  • What should a proper stance entail?
  • How to seamlessly have proper stance every time you pick up a bow?
  • How to have a good flow to your shots every time?

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What exactly does proper stance mean?

Proper stance. Courtesy: World Archery Iceland

Now proper stance should not be confused with “perfect” stance. Archery has many forms and many uses. One stance does not define the entirety of archery. And of course, even in a single discipline of archery there can be many ways to master the art of archery.

For example, Korean Olympic archer’s stance may be drastically different from USA’s archer’s stance. Both are proper form though.

Proper stance means there are no form faults and glaring problem that may hinder in your accuracy, performance, or consistency. It also helps to avoid injuries you may get in case of wrong muscle usage or stress on wrong part of the body.

Read: Recurve Technique Guide – Stance & Posture

What should a proper stance entail?

A good stance is when an archer is standing straight and relaxed with feet shoulders width apart. Weight is equally distributed on both the feet. Back should be straight – that is archer should not be leaning forward or backwards.

Let’s breakdown all the components of a stance and look at the correct form.

1. Lower body:

i. Feet:

There are two ways for an archer’s feet position or stance.

Square stance

a). Square stance: This is the most common stance taught because this is consistent and easily reproducible. This gives minimum variation to your shots because you are able to easily replicate it every time.

To do this put your feet perpendicular to the target with each foot on the either side of the shooting line. Keep your body straight.

This is arguably a better stance because your body gets a natural twist when you draw the bow which provides the back tension required for proper draw.

Open Stance

b). Open stance: This is relatively easy to do. This provides more balance to your body. In fact, this is very common stance in other activities as well like martial arts. It is a more natural stance in general. 

To do this open your target facing feet a bit (15-30° angle) towards the target. This provides a much more comfortable and stable stance.

ii. Hips:

Hips in-line

In both the feet positions make sure that hips are not twisting towards or away from the target. They should be comfortable and in-line with your feet.

iii. Weight distribution and Leaning:

The idea here is that an archer should be straight for a good stance. So, there are 4 directions an archer has degree of freedom to move. Towards the target, away from the target, forward, and backward.

Majority of this can be remedied by distribution of weight on your feet.

a). For towards the target – away from target lean you can correct this by distributing equal load on both of your feet.

b). For forward-backward lean, you can correct it by putting more weight (60-70%) on the ball of your feet (or towards toes), and 30-40% weight carried by the heels of your feet.

This is very simple and natural thing to happen. If you are putting more weight on your front foot, you will be leaning towards the target, and vice-versa. If you are putting more load on your toes, you’ll be leaning forward, and vice versa.

Balancing your legs make sure that you are straight and upright.

Read: Basic Archery Step 1 – Archery Stance

2. Upper body:

iv. Core:

Engaged core

Core muscles are most versatile muscles of your body and get engaged in any complex movement you are doing with your body. They do get engaged when you do archery as well.

Core will automatically contract or relax when you will draw the bow. However, doing it unnaturally or deliberately is going to give you inconsistent results.

What you do need to focus on is your core stays aligned and straight when you are drawing the bow. That can be easily taken care of by keeping your hips and back in line.

v. Back:

Back taking the most load of the shot

This is the most important muscle group you use for archery. Not only it provides stability and balance, it is the main muscle group you use to pull back the string of the bow.

Needless to say, keep the back straight. When you are drawing the bow, keep your elbow in line with your shoulder and you will be able to engage back muscles in that position.

TIP: try pulling back your shoulders, and then tension you feel in your back is the same tension you should feel while you are drawing the bow.

vi. Chest:

Dropped chest

Any unnecessary tension here will reflect in your shot.

There are two ways to keep a good form when it comes to chest area.

First is to keep it straight and uplifted. When you breath in and lift your chest, you can also get some support from your pectoral muscles while pulling a shot.

Second method is to drop your chest. When you deflate it and breath out, your chest drops automatically. This is not only more comfortable and natural, it also gives more clearance to the string of the bow. Thus, it reduces the string scrapping through your clothes or body parts when you release the arrow. This is very useful especially for women.

vii. Shoulders:

Shoulders like barrel of the cannon

This is the body part that gets you most in trouble. The reason is it is easy to mess up the form with any unnatural alignment of your shoulders.

It is also the most important body part for accuracy of the shot.

Think of your arms as barrel of a cannon. The longer is the barrel, the more accurate it is. Now in terms of archery, the barrel is from your bow arm to shoulder to chest, to the arrow holding shoulder to the elbow. The straighter it is, the more accurate you’ll be.

That’s what you shall be trying to achieve. If any of your shoulder is raised up, moved back, or slumped down then you will lose accuracy. Furthermore, it will put uneven stress on wrong parts of your body causing injuries.

Basic Compound Archery Form

How to seamlessly have proper stance every time you pick up a bow?

A proper stance is like a flow; it feels more natural without any awkwardness.

Most people develop their own shot rhythm OR flow naturally after some practice. It becomes more like a muscle memory. When you are first starting out you may not know about this. And many people still are inexperienced to know what a good shot rhythm is.

Shooting is a process. And if you structure it well and follow it, you will see a good consistent result over and over again.

So basically, it is the steps you follow (kind of like a checklist) to complete a good shot.

Checklist helps you check your form before a shot

If I were to compare it to something, it is like pilot going through a checklist before flying an aircraft. Every pilot has (or is given) a checklist that they follow to ensure a safe flight. Same thing happens when a surgeon is going for a surgery. They have their checklists too.

In fact, many sports and sportsmen have their own set of preparation before and during the game. A tennis player may be following a certain routine to ensure their best serve.

Even in archery all the professional archers stop for a second to consolidate their own form before going for a shot. They go inside and just like a pilot for an airline check each and every thing before releasing the arrow.

Of course, they have a lot of practice, thus they are able to perform this check very fast. With practice they can also bypass or shorten some of the steps in their checklist to take a shot a bit faster.

How to have a good flow to your shots every time?

By this point you might have guessed that archery is not about mindlessly shooting arrows, or holding your position for hours to have a “perfect” shot.

Consistency in shot process makes you a consistent archer

Archery is about consistency. It all boils down to having a consistent process so that you have a fair amount of control over your own consistency. That’s what differentiates good archers from the rest.

A good archer is someone who can shoot with same consistency regardless of the terrain, distance, size of the target, and other varying factors like wind and elevation.

Whether you are staring out, or experienced, having a mental checklist of your entire shot process helps to ensure you are able to shoot your best shot most of the time. It lets you check whether things in your shot are going right or not, and correct them in time.

So, if you are trying to improve your archery and stumbled upon this article, it means you want to be more consistent and shot rhythm is going to help you do just that.

Read: Being More Effective: The Benefits of Using Checklists

Developing Your Own Shot Rhythm

  1. A good shot should flow very easily. A good rhythm helps the shot flow naturally. It helps optimize your muscle usage and control.
  2. Have a list of items that are crucial for your shot. You can write them down or have a mental checklist for yourself.
  3. Start small. Don’t try to focus on every part of the shot process when you are starting out. Just pick a couple of them and then when you are comfortable with those items, add more to the list.
  4. When you are going for a shot, just think about the best practices you have learnt for that particular step, muscle or area. And then correct yourself in case you are not complying with them.
  5. Practice. It will feel awkward at first, but with some practice you will find it is actually easier to shoot because you automate the process of shooting. You will find you are much more consistent between your shots.

TIP: Refer to the section above to identify areas you can pick to focus on. The stance section has breakdown of all the body parts used in archery and how to use them properly. You can further research or consult with your coach/mentor/trainer to guide you on proper usage of muscles in that area.

Archery | Shot Rhythm

Conclusion

I like the principle of constant-and-never-ending-improvement. However small, a slight improvement daily results in massive change in your efficiency.

We are naturally conscious when we start with any new activity but with time we stop thinking about it after some time. It becomes routine and that’s when we stop our improvement in that area as well.

Think about when you learnt driving a car, compared to now. I bet now you don’t even realize when you sat in the car and drove it from point A to B. This is what happens with everything in life.

However, I have some bad habits while driving and if I paid conscious attention to them I’ll be able to improve in those areas. Same goes with the archery.

If you follow the process outlined in this article, you will realize you don’t have to do any extra work. You are out and about, shooting your arrows anyways; you just need to be conscious of what you are doing and it will make a world of difference in your archery in long term.

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Comments

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