Do I need a training plan for my archery practice?
Before you get started, you should find out whether making a training plan is really for you. I’d recommend reading our Archery Goal Setting Guide first if you haven’t already done so. You should use this to clarify what your goals are and how much work it will take to get there. Before you dive in, make sure to read our Recurve Archery Basics guide if you haven’t already, and our How To Train for Recurve Archery guide.
You might not need a training plan, it is really dependent on what you want from your archery. If you’re shooting as a hobby and just like going to your club and shooting some arrows with friends, a training plan might not be for you. If you want to really push yourself to see what performance level you can reach, you will need a training plan.
Making a training plan is key because it allows you to create your archery and gym sessions ahead of time, when you’re thinking logically. Firstly, it will then be easier to simply read the plan and stick to it, whether you’re tired or whether you want to do more. If you haven’t planned your sessions, it’s extremely easy to slack off and go easy on yourself. Secondly, if you’re feeling particularly enthusiastic you can easily train too much and over do it. It might seem like a good idea to shoot for hours, but it can compromise your training for the remainder of the week or even cause an injury.
The best approach is to make a plan and stick to it. Obviously you do need to adjust plans sometimes. In this case, you must make sure to do this outside of when you’re training. It’s important to do this when you’ve got enough time and brain space to think logically about adjusting the plan correctly.
Now, let’s assume you’ve already read our goal setting guide and decided on your goals. Now we’ll start creating a training plan for your archery sessions and any other exercises you might need to do.
The goal here is twofold: you want to make sure you identify key areas for improvement and have a starting benchmark for these areas that you can later compare against.
There are endless benchmarks that you could us. However, in this post we’ll be focussing on assessing technique. In an ideal case scenario you would take a video of yourself shooting from the 3, 5, 7 and 9 o’clock angles.
If you’re not familiar with these angles you can see them demonstrated in Fig. 1. The clock face positions are determined from overhead, with the target being at midnight or 12 o’clock. The video in this post is taken from a 6 o’clock. This clock face system is very useful for communicating what angles are useful to see certain technique elements.
In this case we’ll be looking at an archer that needs to work on a lot of different areas, so the general angles at 3/5/7/9 o’clock are perfect for this. Obviously, if there was a specific area to work on, then a different angle might be needed.
When you take these videos, it’s a good idea to try and keep the camera at eye level. You’re normally familiar with seeing archers shoot from eye level. Sometimes, a strange angle can make certain technique areas look slightly odd if you haven’t got much experience of using video feedback or haven’t been shooting for very long.
Unfortunately we only have a video from 6 o’clock for our example below, but you can see enough in the video to get a clear idea of what needs to be worked on.
Save years of frustration and improve your technique and scores today. Without spending thousands on equipment or travelling hours for coaching. Plus OAA readers get 20% off.
Expert step-by-step guidance, lifetime access and a 100 day money-back guarantee, no questions asked.
We will use the video above for our example. It’s actually a video of myself shooting 10 years ago. Watch the video through a couple of times to identify the key areas you think need work.
You can see the key areas to work on below.
You can clearly see the bow is too heavy and the archer is nowhere near strong enough to shoot properly.
The overall body posture is poor. The neck is sticking out and the shoulders are in a poor position. Although you can’t see the archers back in this video, it is arched.
Although you can’t see it in the video, you can tell the set position is extremely closed and doesn’t allow the archer to open the bow properly. You can see this because of the way the archer comes to setup and draws the bow from setup to full draw. The hook is not good, and the draw wrist and forearm are not connected to the back at all. The bow hand is also not positioned correctly.
This position is not good. Almost no shoulder alignment has been done by the time the archer reaches setup. The string is too close to the bow shoulder at setup and the draw side connection is completely lost because the wrist is kinked and the whole arm is disconnected from the back.
Full draw is possibly the most obvious area for improvement. The anchor position is almost not reached at all, the hand is extremely far from the neck and there is a huge gap. The shoulder alignment needs a lot of work, too.
Crucially, the expansion is extremely soft and lacks proper direction. Because the full draw position isn’t reached it’s almost impossible to expand correctly. The expansion looks as if it is actually along the 5 o’clock direction rather than around the back of the archer along the 9 o’clock direction.
The release is very soft and lacks direction. The bow arm is not directed to the target properly and the draw elbow does not lead the draw hand at all.
With so many areas to work on, it’s important to prioritise and realise what the key limiting factors are. The main thing which is clear from watching the video is that the archer needs to improve strength drastically. All the technical areas will be impossible to work on if the archer is still not strong enough.
This is not just a case of doing bow training either. Because of the poor technique, if this archer did a lot of bow training there is a huge chance it would lead to injury.
Remember, the best way to work on the improvements depends on the archers goals. In this case, I am the archer in the video 10 years ago. This provides a unique opportunity. Firstly, I know what my goals were at the time. I also know what I did to improve and with the benefit of hindsight, I have a better idea of what I should’ve done to improve more quickly.
At the time, I was already training with the goal of making the Olympic team and winning a medal in my mind. So this should inform how we make the training plan and what the focus is.
There are two main components to the training plan which this archer needs: strength & conditioning and skill development. At the moment, the archer would not be able to learn the proper way of shooting just using his bow as he is not strong enough. As I said, it’s not as simple as just doing lots of bow training either.
To improve archery specific strength we would need to start with general gym work. We need to build a foundational level of strength and conditioning before lifting heavier weights in the gym or increasing shooting volume. Learning the proper shooting technique will need less draw weight. To start with this would be just mimicking the actions and using a light rubber band. Then we could progress to a heavier band and a very light bow.
Below is a summary of potential activities and drills. In the same way as archery technique, for the strength and conditioning work it’s important to utterly prioritise proper form. This is especially true for young athletes. It’s safe to do weight training even from a young age. However, this is only if you have proper supervision, correct exercise form and slowly work up to increased difficulty.
For the example of myself shooting in the video above, I would start with bodyweight exercises to build a proper foundation of strength and exercise technique. We want to increase general strength and also improve core conditioning to help with the shooting posture.
A suitable program to start with would be a bodyweight core focussed circuit. Exercises that could be included are:
– Sit Ups
Some specific exercises to work on grip and forearm strength would also be beneficial for the draw side.
There are some key areas that need work, suitable ways to work on these would be:
– Posture: rubber band draw ups aiming into a mirror. Focus on raising arms and drawing without losing the connection to the core or arching the back. Read more about the Stance & Posture.
– Set position: Set Position Repeats Drill with a light bow, focus on hooking and connecting to back and correct bow hand position. Do this in a mirror too. Also, do this with a light bow and a formaster to learn feeling of connection to the back.
– Setup and draw: Formaster Draw Ups with a band to start. Then progressing onto a light bow with the formaster.
– Full draw and alignment: A lot of work is needed on this area. The archer needs to find a real anchor position and learn proper alignment. Draw ups in the mirror with a rubber band and light bow are essential. Combine this with delayed feedback from overhead and 6 o’clock angles. Formaster Holds can help with finding the full draw position, but do these with a light bow.
This part is crucial. When you work on a gym program it’s fairly easy to find some numbers to measure your progress. This might be how many sets of a circuit you can do, how many press ups you can do or how long you can hold a side plank for.
For your technique it might be harder to find some measures of your progress. You shouldn’t rely on your scores to measure your progress when you’re making large technical changes. Indeed, in this example the archer would ideally not shoot at competition distance for a year. It is possible to use short distance scores as a measure of progress, but it’s still not the best way. We want to prioritise technique above all else.
For most people it’s helpful to have a coach to judge and measure these technique areas. They should have enough experience to take you to the level you want to get to. If you have the right coach, they can really help you progress quickly. You can also use video feedback to judge your own progress as long as you know what you’re looking for. You should be able to find all the information you need on this website to learn what to look for in your own technique.
– Posture. Viewed from 6 o’clock.
– Alignment. View from overhead camera or 6 o’clock.
– Draw hand wrist angle through the shot. View from overhead or elevated 5 o’clock angles.
– Anchor and full draw position. View from 5 o’clock.
– Bow hand position and bow arm elbow rotation. View from 3 o’clock.
– Release and follow through balance and strength. View from 3 o’clock.
Now it’s time to create the training plan. There are infinite ways you can create a program, but something suitable might be the example below. You can see the logic behind the program.
– There is a strength and conditioning focus. The core circuit and wrist circuit are specifically put in to address the archers weakness.
– Skill work is done with feedback, bands and light bow exercises.
– There are lots of drills and training aids added in to speed up learning.
– Bow training is done with a light bow and bands to maintain proper form. Make no mistake, these will still be challenging bow training sessions.
Importantly, you should reflect daily on your progress. This should include writing out and visualising your shot routine to solidify it properly. Doing this consistently can HUGELY speed up your learning. You can use our Training Diary template for this.
I hope this post has provided some more information on how you can tailor your training to improve specific areas of your technique. Don’t forget to share this post with your fellow archers who might find it useful.