If you ask a group of archers for advice, you’re likely to get several different answers, and some of them may even be contradictory. In an effort to learn from the best, I’ve started gathering advice from professional archers.
Here are 28 archery practice tips from the pros that are sure to guide you one your way to improving as an archer.
But before we get started, I HIGHLY recommend you check out WorldArchery.org for their complete and detailed information about all the top-ranked archers that compete, well, all over the world.
You’ll notice that archers will often contradict each other when giving advice or talking about their techniques. When it comes down to it, every archer is different, and you’ve got to do what works for you. There is still much to be learned from the pros. Continue reading for tips from some of the best archers of all time.
Arizona born Brady Ellison is one of the top recurve archers in the world. He was ranked the number one men’s recurve archer in the World Archery ranking between 2011 and 2014. He is also a three time Olympic medalist. He has two silvers and one bronze as well as several world championship wins.
Tip #1: Allow your subconscious to take over right before the moment of release.
Ellison uses a different technique from most archers when looking to get in the gold. Ellison says that the most important part of his technique is how he handles pulling through the clicker and the moment of release.
He says, “The thing that I really try to focus on the most during shot execution is actually the feeling of my body, really trying to let my subconscious take over everything about that part of the shot … My subconscious can make small adjustments as my clicker goes off as I shoot to put the arrow towards the middle.”
Brady Ellison does not always look the same when he shoots and arrow, and this is a good thing to him. Instead of replicating the same form over and over again. Brady allows his subconscious to lead the way and adjust to the various things at play when he takes a shot.
Brady doesn’t want to think too much about what he is doing in this moment. He believes his subconscious knows what to do and knows what minute corrections need to be made.
Tip # 2: Use core strength over arm strength when you are drawing the bow.
Ellison relies primarily on his core strength, not his arm strength, to draw the bow. “Something that a lot of people don’t realize is I don’t use my arms at all to draw back my bow. I actually use my core,” Ellison says.
Tip # 3: Customize your grip and finger tab.
Ellison also encourages archers to customize their grips and finger tabs in this video. “These two pieces of equipment that I built strictly for my body, and that’s irreplaceable,” he says.
These are the two places that you connect with to draw the bow, so it makes sense that you would want them to fit your individual hand. Judging by the looks of Ellison’s finger tab, you might not need to be quite as dedicated to your customizations as he is, but it is working for him apparently!
South Korean Ku Bon-Chan has three Olympic gold medals. In the team event of the 2016 Olympics, he shot six consecutive perfect 10s across three sets. Any advice Bon-Chan has to give, I’m listening to!
Tip #4: Aim consistently through the entire shot.
Bon-Chan says that the most important thing in archery is aiming “from the beginning to the end.” When Bon-Chan is nervous, he notices that he shoots low, so he reminds himself that he must aim consistently though the entire shot.
Tip #5: Believe in yourself, your equipment, and your technique.
Bon-Chan also believes that confidence is the key to his success. He says, “The most important thing in archery is to have self-confidence. Everyone who does archery has to have that self-confidence. Believe in yourself, believe in your equipment, believe in your technique, and you will get good results.”
World Archery ranked South Korean Kim Soo-Nyung as the number one best Olympic archer of all time. She has won four gold medals. One for an individual event and three for team events, as well as a silver and a bronze. She was only 17 years old when she won her first gold medal.
Tip #6: Focus on the strength and stability of your bow arm and finding a timing that works for you.
According to Kim Soo-Nyung, the secrets to her success are bow arm stability and finding a comfortable timing that works for her.
“A strong bow arm is the most important element of technique, as it is the part that can cause the most errors. Fast shooting gave me my best performances, but I think each archer must find the timing that works for them,” she says.
Darrel Pace is a two time Olympic gold medalist from Ohio. He won his medals in 1976 and 1984, but he was active in archery for much longer. In 2011, World Archery declared him the best male archer of the 20th century, and he is number two on the list of the best Olympic archers of all time right below Kim Soo-Nyung.
Tip #7: Master long distances.
Many archery coaches will start their students close to the target and wait to move them back until they master that distance. Darrel Pace confidently recommends a different course of action. He says, “Master long distances, and other distances will follow.”Meaning whatever target you can hit from a far distance, you can also hit close up.
Tip #8: Control your mind to overcome challenges.
Pace also uses mental techniques to overcome common challenges faced by archers.
“The more pressure in a tournament, the better I shoot. Period. It all goes back to that mind control and what you believe in. You can make yourself believe anything just by using the mind. You can be at a tournament where it’s raining and you can tell yourself: ‘I am going up there and shoot these arrows; it’s not raining,’” he says.
Pace’s unshakeable confidence paired with his mental techniques were the overall themes of his archery career.
Park Sung-Hyun is another South Korean female archer with more than one gold medal. Over two Olympic games she won three gold medals and one silver. In 2001, she won the World Archery Championships in Beijing when she was only 18 years old.
Tip #9: Stay in control of your emotions to keep tension from ruining your shot.
As an archer, Sung-Hyun was known for her calm under pressure, and she believes that one of the hallmarks of a great archer is that they stay in control of their emotions. Not allowing your emotions to get in the way of your shot is important to keeping your muscles relaxed.
She says, “I think it’s important that you know how to control yourself. No matter how good your posture or your timing is, you can ruin the whole moment with just one mistake by tensing up too much or straining yourself with emotional issues.”
Tip # 10: Hard work will always pay off in the end.
Sung-Hyun also credits hard work for her success. When it comes to archery, when you put in the hard work and practice, you will see the benefits. Of her coach, she says “He made me realize that effort never betrays you in the end and that no one else can do it for you except yourself.”
Reo Wilde is a compound bow archer from Idaho who has won many World Cup and World Championship titles. According to World Archery, his average arrow is a 9.75.
Tip #11: Keep your bow arm relaxed and focus on your pull when you draw.
When he draws his bow, he focuses on pulling back with his arm instead of pushing with his bow arm. By relaxing his bow arm, he is able to let the bow shoot itself.
He says, “With the release, I will just draw back, and I will just pull, continue my pull. I don’t push a lot with this bow arm because if I do, I will build up tensions, and it will cause me to fire the bow in all different directions. If I let it relax and let the bow shoot itself, it seems to shoot better than I can.”
Tip #12: If you’re just starting out, go to an archery shop and talk to a pro.
For beginning archers, Wilde says the best way to start out is to go to an archery shop and to buy your bow from them instead of a big-box store.
He says, “Go to local archery shops and talk to a pro. Learn from them because they know more than you’ll find out if you buy a bow from a big-box store. They’ll help you shoot until you feel comfortable and will teach you to shoot because they’ll be interested in keeping you in the sport.”
Canadian archer Crispin Duenas represented Canada in the 2008, 2012, and 2016 summer Olympics. He also finished 3rd in the 2013 World Archery Championship for the Men’s Individual Recurve event.
Tip #13: Use a deep grip to avoid tension in your hand.
Duenas encourages archers to use a deep grip when drawing back the bowstring. His finger tab is especially designed with a slot for the notch that allows this.
He says, “I think I’m one of the only archers that shoots with a very deep grip on the string. What I mean by deep grip is that I am actually going to grab the string with my three fingers and hook it so that the string is sitting approximately … just past the first knuckle.”
He says that his deep grip reduces the amount of tension in his hand when he draws his bow which allows him to aim more accurately. This is an essential part of how he shoots.
Ki Bo Bae
Ki Bo Bae is a Korean Olympic Recurve archer with three gold medals and one bronze to her name as well as several world championships.
Tip #14: Use running and weightlifting to enhance your ability to balance from the beginning of your draw to the end of the shot.
Ki Bo Bae believes that balance is one of the key components of archery. She said running and weightlifting are important to be able to maintain balance from the very beginning of the shot until the end.
She says, “Basically archery is a sport of balance. I think the most important thing is keeping the balance from the moment I lift the bow until I let go of the string… I think you have to train with running and weightlifting to find and maintain that position.”
Indian recurve archer Deepika Kumari is one of the top 20 currently active archers in the world and has earned silver medals multiple times at the Hyundai Archery World Cup.
Tip #15: Kumari believes to key to good shooting is in the shoulder and the anchor point.
Kumari is extra careful that she is not tensing up her shoulder and that she is hitting her anchor point in the same way each time she shoots so that she can make a confident shot.
Kumari says, “What I focus on the most is my shoulder and my anchor. I work more on my bow shoulder and anchor because when my anchor sits in the same place, I feel more comfortable and more confident about the execution of the shot and I feel I am able to achieve a better grouping as well.”
Tip #16: Record peak and off-peak shooting to analyze and troubleshoot your shots.
By recording herself when she is at the top of her game and when she isn’t doing so hot, Kumari is able to more precisely assess what is causing her to not shoot well. She is able to check her technique and verify if her anchor point is in the right position.
She says, “Whenever my shooting goes bad, I tend to record my shooting and do a video analysis so that I can pinpoint the exact point of error. Normally I tend to keep recordings of both peak and off-peak performances which helps me do a comparative analysis of my shooting technique which allows me to check the positions of my anchor and my shoulder.”
Vic Wunderle has been on the US Olympic archery team three times, and he has won a silver medal for an individual event and a bronze for a team event. He also has several world championship medals.
Tip #17: It is easy to stay focused on training when you love archery.
If you want to become the best archer you can be, then training is everything. You need to train when it is hard and when you just don’t want to, but when you love it, it far easier to stay focused.
He says, “Some days you don’t want to do it. It might be cold or real windy, and sometimes you don’t want to stand out there in the rain. But if you love it, then it’s easy to stay focused.”
Yun Mi Jun
Yun Mi Jun is another Korean Olympic recurve archer with multiple Olympic gold medals to her name. She is ranked the number 5 on the list of the best Olympic archers of all time by World Archery.
Tip #18: Training is everything when it comes to archery.
Many would agree that training and practicing is the only way to become a great archer. There is no substitute for hard work and effort.
Yun Mi Jun puts it well. “What’s the most important skill for an archer? Training. The strongest part of my technique is effort,” she says.
All that effort has certainly paid off for Yun Mi Jun.
Slovenian Toja Ellison is currently ranked number eleven in the World Archery ranking. She was the 2014 World Field Champion and the runner up at the World Games in 2017. Unlike many of the archers on this list, she shoots with a compound bow.
Tip #19: Do the same thing every time you take a shot.
Considering she and Brady Ellison are married, their advice is rather different. Toja Ellison believes the secret to her success is in her mental game and her repetitive shot.
By repeating the same steps and executing her shot the same way, she is able to overcome her nerves when she is at a tournament.
“The most important part of my shot is the mental game which is also connected with my repeat. The reason I do it is because I do it every single shot. When I practice or when we are just playing around, I do it every single time and that makes me feel secure when I come to the tournament,” Toja Ellison says.
Tip #20: Always ask yourself if there was anything you could have done to improve the shot.
Toja Ellison also always analyzes the shot to try to improve it. She considers this to be part of her mental game.
She says, “After my shot is done, I always ask myself was my shot good? What do I need to improve? And that is where my mental game of the shot is finished.”
Sara Lopez of Columbia is the 2017 World Games Champion and three time winner of the Hyundai Archery World Cup Final. She shoots with a compound bow with a draw weight of 53 pounds.
Her current world ranking is number 2 according to World Archery, and she was ranked number one for a record of 1033 day. Her average arrow is a 9.74.
Tip #21: When you are first starting out commit to your form and don’t make changes for a few years until it becomes natural.
Archery takes time and patience to master and mastering your form will take thousands of arrows.
Lopez insists “It is really important to work on the form for a couple years and don’t make changes. Just feel comfortable and always try to do the same thing. Then it becomes natural.”
Tip #22: Don’t move your arm until you hear the arrow hit the target.
Many novice archers will get so anxious to check out how their shot did that they lower their bow too quickly. The simplest way to avoid doing this is to keep your bow arm steady until you hear the arrow hit the target.
“It is really important when you are done shooting, don’t move your arm unless you hear your arrow hit the target,” Lopez says.
Tip #23: When shooting compound bows, always hold your trigger in the same exact way.
Many archers will recommend that you do everything exactly the same when you shoot. Lopez reminds that this should include the position of the trigger in your hand.
She says, “One of the most important things is always having the same spot touching your fingers.”
Simon Fairweather brought home Australia’s first Olympic medal in archery in the 2000 Olympics. World Archery includes him on their list of the best Olympic archers of all time at number 11.
Tip #24: You get out what you put in. Train hard. Your success is up to you and no one else’s responsibility.
Fairweather believes if you truly aspire to greatness in archery, you need to be giving your all to your training. You should be pushing yourself as hard as your coach is pushing you if not harder.
He says, “No one can do your training for you. And you can’t hand over responsibility to someone else. I really can’t abide hearing archers saying that their coach works them so hard – poor them!. If they don’t want to do that training themselves anyway, then they should stop pretending that they are contenders for success. A coach is just helping – not responsible for the result.”
“So, enjoy it. But remember your results are a reflection of what you put into it. There is nowhere to hide with archery. Your success is up to you.”
Iranian Zahra Nemati was the first Iranian woman to bring home a gold medal in the Olympics or the Paralympics. In 2016, she qualified to shoot for both the Paralympics and the Olympics. She took home the gold in the Paralympics, where she ranked #33.
In 2003, Nemati was in a car accident which led to paralysis in both of her legs. Her original interest in sports was directed at taekwondo but after the accident, this was no longer possible. She took up archery and hasn’t looked back.
Tip #25: Archery requires a calm heart.
Many archers will tell you that archery requires focus, emotional control, and mental control, but Nemati’s word could not sum it up any better.
Before her Olympic debut, she said “Archery needs a calm heart.”
South Korean Olympic archer Kim Woojin has a team gold medal, and he has world ranking of number 6 according to World Archery.
Tip: #26: Have a routine to shoot consistently, even if that routine does not relate directly to archery.
Kim Woojin’s glasses have been a matter of great discussion among archery enthusiasts because he touches his glasses right before he takes a shot every time. People wondered if his glasses somehow gave him an advantage.
In this video, he explains that it is all part of his routine and that it helps him feel secure in his vision because he doesn’t want his glasses sliding down his nose in the middle of his shot.
He explains, “A routine is something you do exactly the same way over and over again in order to shoot consistently, but it is different for every athlete. There are some athletes that have a mental routine. There are some athletes that have a physical routine or maybe an athlete has a particular item. Whatever it is the routine that fit them will be right for them.”
German Lisa Unrah earned a silver Olympic medal in the 2016 Olympics in Rio as well as medals from several other tournaments. She is ranked number eight in the World Archery ranking.
Tip #27: Find a balance between tension and relaxation to create a stable base for your shot.
Many archers focus on the need to not have too much tension in your body when you draw the bow, but Unruh finds that she is able to be more stable when she keeps her core and shoulders in tension.
She says, “The most important aspects of my shooting technique are that I keep tension in my whole body, especially in core, in both shoulders, and have a smooth release and to feel the shot … Keeping tension make my body more stable. The more tension in my body, the better the shot is. But there also shouldn’t be too much tension. It has to be a mixture of tension and relaxation.”
Tip #28: Don’t forget to have fun!
Clearly passionate about archery, Unruh also insists that archers remember to have fun. It’s not all about winning after all.
She says, “The best tip I can give is to have fun in archery.”