The recurve expansion phase is the final movement you create in order to pull the arrow the last few millimetres through the clicker before you release the shot. Recall that in the Recurve Archery Basics section we stated: “OLYMPIC RECURVE TECHNIQUE IS ABOUT CONSISTENT RELEASE EXECUTION. EVERY STAGE OF THE SHOT SERVES THIS PURPOSE“.
Your expansion directly affects this release execution more than any other stage of the shot; therefore it is the most important part of your shot. The release and follow through is a result of the direction of expansion that you create.
Every part of the shot so far has been done to make your expansion as consistent as possible. The role of your consistent expansion is to make your release and follow through as consistent as possible.
Many recurve archers think of the expansion as the last part of the shot. They spend all their energy and mental focus setting up the shot, and then lose focus and technique at the crucial moment of expansion and release.
You should think of the expansion as the start of your shot, which then continues through the release and follow through. Focus, intent, and movement must be maintained right until the arrow hits the target. The previous stages of the shot are simply there to give you the best chance of executing your expansion.
If you think about the expansion in this way, you will give it the focus and priority in your shot that it requires.
In the next section we will look at the final stage of the shot, the Release & Follow Through. You can also find lots more videos covering olympic recurve technique on our Online Archery Academy Youtube channel.
1. The expansion should only be about 1-3mm. The smaller the movement, the better.
2. Expansion should only take between 1-3seconds. The expansion timing should be consistent from shot to shot.
3. This expansion will need to be longer (5mm+) for beginners, and will likely take longer. It will also take time to learn consistency here.
4. The expansion should be balanced on both sides. Lead the movement from the draw elbow, then the draw scapula and finally through the bow arm.
5. Don’t think about back tension. Think about moving your elbow around your body, this is much better.
The expansion movement should only be a maximum of 1-3mm and take 1-3 seconds. You can see an acceptable example of this in Video 1 below. The previous parts of the shot should bring the arrow point close enough to the clicker to achieve this.
The expansion is a tiny movement which is almost invisible externally. We want to keep the amount of movement as small as possible because this will allow you to expand through the clicker without moving the rest of the body. When you perform the expansion correctly, you can maintain your “real full draw” position until you release the arrow. This will make your execution extremely strong. In contrast, if you expand in a large movement it’s likely that you will move your alignment and lose your “real full draw” position. The result will be a softer execution leading to more errors
So why do we want to keep the expansion between 1-3seconds? There are a few reasons. Firstly, most people are able to use peak mental concentration fully for about 3 seconds, so shooting within this time frame helps mental consistency. Secondly, keeping the expansion time short is much less fatiguing as you are holding the bow for a shorter time. Lastly, spending only 1-3seconds expanding means that you must have maintained your direction properly. If you hold at full draw for longer than this, it is a sign that you have not maintained direction and have stopped movement.
Keeping your expansion to a small, consistently timed movement is a key skill. In windy conditions this pays off hugely.
If you are a new archer or have just started using a clicker, it is unreasonable to expect your expansion to be within 1-3mm. This fine control takes months or years to develop.
When you first start shooting you won’t be using a clicker. When you do first start using a clicker, try to keep the amount you need to expand less than 1cm. As you become more experienced you can move the clicker so your expansion becomes finer.
Arrow “A” in Fig. 1a and arrow “1” in Fig 1b are the same arrow viewed from different angles.
To create your expansion you should think about continuing the movement of your draw elbow around the body and along the line shown by these arrows. You should lead this expansion movement by the draw elbow. When you expand you should focus on creating an internal feeling rather than a large visible movement. You should only have a small amount to expand through the clicker, so as you create this expansion the rest of your body should be absolutely still.
The expansion doesn’t stop there though. We want a balanced release on both sides of the shot; the bow arm and draw arm side must be synchronised. The expansion is a balanced sequence of events as shown in Fig 1b. It starts with the feeling of elbow movement along arrow “1”. As you create this feeling, you should feel the lower part of the draw scapula move very slightly towards the spine (arrow “2”). Lastly, you should direct the bow straight towards the target by creating the feeling of slightly pushing the bow shoulder to the target (arrow 3).
Video 2 shows the direction of expansion demonstrated excellently by Steve Wijler. Note how the draw elbow continues confidently moving around the body and the bow hand is directed firmly at the target. Steve’s draw elbow expansion movement is clearly visible which is personal to his technique. Crucially, the rest of his body remains absolutely still.