In Part I, we examined the major muscle groups involved in drawing and shooting your bow. It was clear that muscles involved in drawing and shooting your bow went well beyond your back and shoulders. In Part II, we went over some stretches and movements that can strengthen and add mobility to your rotator cuff muscles, thus improving strength and reducing the risk of injury. Now it is time to look at the resistance training that will strengthen the major muscle groups involved in shooting your bow
(You should continue doing the mobility exercises from Part II as your warmup for this workout).
The key to all of these lifts is going slowly and controlling the movement. Any sway or movement in your body as a result of using your body’s momentum is wrong. You need to use a weight that you can lift slowly and controlled, concentrating on your form and slowly building strength. Your repetitions should last 4 seconds each (1 second to lift the weight, 1 second hold at full contraction, and 2 second negative, lowering the weight) unless otherwise noted. This will build strength and also condition your muscles for increased endurance using isometric techniques. Focus on 12-15 repetitions per set and perform 3 sets per exercise. Rest should be 60-90 seconds between sets.
Your back is the most primary muscle group used in drawing your bow. Therefore, strengthening these muscles is paramount. The following exercises will focus on the upper back muscles used to draw your bow:
Bent Over Dumbbell rows
Keeping your knees slightly bent, back flat, and eyes forward, slowly bring the dumbbells up to your sides. Lift the weight in a straight, vertical line; do not lift at an angle. Hold for one second and return to the beginning position.
Rear Lateral Raises
This can either be completed on a cable pulley machine or bent over while holding dumbbells. Keeping a slight bend in your elbows, pull the weight so that your hands are in-line across your torso. Make sure to go slow and do not use your body to create momentum to help lift the weight. If you notice you are doing this, reduce the weight.
Using a rope attachement on a high pulley, set the pulley so that it is at eye level. With you feet shoulder width apart, slowly pull the rope toward your face. Hold and return to the beginning position.
Your core (abdominals and obliques) is important in holding your body still and supporting your torso during the draw and hold process. Twisting and range of motion moves will strengthen all of the core muscles simultaneously.
Make sure to keep your arms straight and shoulders squared. Your should be turning at your waist, not your shoulders. Begin from a high pulley and bring the cable down in a chopping motion toward the ground. After performing 12-15 reps, repeat for the other side.
Sit with your legs slightly bent and heels on the ground. With your torso at a 45 degree angle with the ground, slowly turn side to side with your arms directly in front of you. With this move, the slower, the better. Turning to the left and then to the right is one rep.
With your knees bent, lie down with your back flat. Place your arms to the side (or under your lower back if arms to the side is too difficult). Use your abdominals to lift your legs off the ground and bring your knees to your chest. For added difficulty, press your feet toward the ceiling once your knees reach your chest. Slowly return your feet to the starting position.
Your legs are your foundation while shooting a bow, so it goes without saying that you need a strong foundation. However, it is possible that may not have a perfect standing shot on an animal. Bowhunters know that you may have to shoot from a kneeling, squatting, or uneven position. Here are some exercises to strengthen your legs to make you more stable:
Squat and Hold
Do a normal squat with your hands on your head. However, when you reach the bottom, hold for 10 seconds with your legs at 90 degrees. Stand up and repeat. Do this 12-15 times per set.
Side Lunges (with isometric hold)
From a standing position step to the side with your right leg, bending your right knee and centering your weight over your right leg. Keep your left leg straight. Hold for 10 seconds and return to the starting position, driving off your right leg. Repeat for the left side. That is one rep.
Holding a barbell with your hands shoulder width apart, slowly bend at the waist, keeping your legs straight and your back straight. When you reach the middle of your shins, slowly straighten back up, keeping your legs and back straight. You must go slow and you must use good form!
Holding your bow steady uses a combination of your shoulder, tricep, and chest muscles. Strengthening these will help you to keep still while at full draw
Isometric lateral raises
Holding a dumbbell in each hand, raise the dumbbell to the your arms arm parallel with the ground. Hold you 5 seconds and return to the beginning position. Repeat 12-15 times.
With your arms shoulder width, lower yourself until your chest is one inch off the ground. Hold for 1-2 seconds, and push back up to the starting position. This is not about speed; control the movement and go slow to build strength.
This workout, performed 1-2 times per week, in conjunction with your current workout routine will ensure that you are focusing on strengthening the muscles required to be an effective bowhunter. While this workout does not guarantee success in the field, it sure will make it more of a possibility.