In Part I, we discussed the various muscles involved in drawing, holding, and shooting your bow. If you recall, we discussed how the back and shoulders were the integral pieces to properly drawing your bow. It is crucial that you understand that your shoulder is a very complex joint that involves multiple bones, tendons, and muscles. While the major muscles on the surface of the back and shoulder are heavily involved, your rotator cuff muscles and the muscles surrounding your scapulae (shoulder blade) are the underlying anchor that holds it all together. If those muscles are weak and fail, you won’t be pulling a bow very much anymore.
A vital element to training for bowhunting is improving the mobility, flexibility, and strength of your rotator cuff muscles. This also includes the muscles that surround your collarbone and your pectorals minor. There are some mobility exercises you should do before any upper body workout that will strengthen the foundation of the muscles involved in drawing your bow.
Perform 10 reps of the following exercises:
Lying on your back with your knees bent so that your back is flat on the ground, hold your arms just above your waist with your palms facing each other. Slowly, raise your arms and then bring them toward the ground above your head. If at any point you feel pain, do not go any further. Slowly return your arms to the starting position and repeat.
While lying on your back, let your arms lay at your side with your palms facing inward. Slowly make a “snow angel” while keeping your hands in contact with the ground. Once the range of motion no longer feels natural, stop and return to the starting position. The point is not to go as far as you can; the point is to control the movement so that all of your muscles are activated properly.
Bring you arms in to your sides so that your elbows are touching the floor while tucked against your side. Let your hands hang at rest. There is no need try and touch the ground with the back of your hand, just be sure your elbow and the back of your upper arm are in contact with the ground. Slowly press upward while keeping contact with the floor. Again, if there is pain, do not go past that point in your range of motion. Slowly return your arms to the starting position.
Holding your arms shoulder width above your chest, press upward, rolling your shoulders upward as your press so that you can feel the stretch around the back of your shoulders. Return your arms to the beginning position and repeat. As with the other exercises, the name of the game is slow and controlled.
Reach and Roll
Lying on your side, place your palms together in front of your torso. Stretch your top arm forward until you feel your back muscles begin to stretch. Then, begin running your top hand along your bottom arm, then across your chest, and lastly reaching back until you feel a stretch in your chest and shoulder. Slowly return the beginning position. After 10 reps, repeat for the other side.
Lying Arm Circles
From the same starting position as the reach and roll (above), begin making a circle with your top arm straight, keeping contact with the ground with your hand. Allow your torso to roll as you come around. If at any point you feel a sharp pain or strain, stop the motion and go the other direction. Alternate directions for 10 reps and then repeat for the other side.
These exercises will help you to develop increased strength, flexibility, and mobility in all of the underlying muscles that are involved in drawing your bow. If you are faithful to do these exercises regularly, you will notice a drastic difference and will be very glad you did. In Part III we will take a look at the exercises that will build greater strength in the larger muscle groups involved and round out your bowhunting strength training.