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After practicing archery for years, you might that you hit a plateau. You don’t seem to be getting any worse, but you are also not getting any better. Finding a good practice routine will help bring your skills to the next level.
I have a 5-step practice routine for next level archery skills, but if you really want to bring your archery skills to the next level, you will want to incorporate physical and mental training into your weekly routine.
Below I will outline a practice routine that will help you improve your archery skills and share some exercises you can try to build your physical and mental strength without even picking up your bow.
A Practice Routine
Practice makes perfect right? Finding the right practice routine will absolutely help you bring your archery skills to the next level, but the routine won’t work if you don’t commit to doing it or you don’t do it often enough.
If you really want to see improvement in your archery, you should be practicing 4-5 times a week, especially if you can’t get off 30 arrows without feeling fatigued and losing form, which is when you should take a break.
If you can’t get off too many arrows without fatigue, you will have to break your training up over multiple sessions to maximize the number of arrows you get in. Every arrow you shoot with proper form matters. The more you shoot the better you’ll become.
The practice routine I outline below is certainly not the only routine you can use. There are many variations and depending on your goals and what your skill level is, you may need to tweak the process here and there. There is no one size fits all practice routine, but the routine I outline below is a good place to start.
Step 1: Warm Up
Don’t skip a short warm-up! Warming up your shoulders, back, and core is going to prepare your body to take a shot. Some bowhunters prefer to shoot cold because when they are out hunting, they won’t be able to warm up before they take a shot.
All things considered, I advocate for warming up no matter what kind of shooting you do because it is going to help you take a better shot today, and a better shot today is going to make you a better archer.
The warmup isn’t exactly the most enjoyable part of the practice routine, but your body will thank you later for it. If you practice in the morning after you first wake up or in the cold, this step is extra important because your body is less limber under these conditions.
Warming up isn’t a big deal. You can do it in about 5 minutes, and you don’t even need to break a sweat. Just a few simple stretches to prepare your body for what it is about to do.
- Neck rolls. Drop your chin to your chest. Rotate your head in a clockwise motion 2-3 times. Then rotate your head in a counterclockwise motion 2-3 times.
- Shoulder Shrugs. Stand with your back straight and lift your shoulders toward your ears. Do this a couple of times.
- Windmills. Windmill your arms forward about 5 times and then reverse the motion and windmill them backward about 5 times. The movement should be controlled and comfortable.
- Stretch High. Lock your fingers together in front of you and raise them above your head to stretch out. I think of this as my “good morning stretch” as I always do one of these when I first wake up. Don’t rush this stretch. Enjoy it. Take your time. You should only need to do it once or twice.
- Twist. Stand with your feet about hip-width apart. Raise your hands with your palms facing out so that they are parallel with your face. Your elbows should be at 90-degree angles.
Twist your upper body without moving your feet at all. Your hips should also be stable and only move slightly. Only twist as far as you’re comfortable.
That’s it! Now you’re all warmed up, and you can get to the fun part.
Step 2: Shoot Blank Bale
Shooting blank bale simply means that you’re shooting at something without a target. Whatever you are shooting at is usually large and you stand pretty close to it so that your arrow hits it without you doing any aiming. In fact, many archers prefer to do this with their eyes closed.
The idea behind blank bale shooting is that you can work on all aspects of the shot without the pressure of aiming.
You can focus on your shot plan, proper form and technique, and it will all become part of your muscle memory.
Blank bale shooting is only going to help you improve if you use proper form and technique while you’re doing it. Make sure your form is spot on and use a shot plan to support good habits.
You can have a more experienced friend or mentor check your form in person, you can take a video of yourself to share with them. Sometimes you can spot weaknesses in your form yourself by taking a video of you shooting.
Blank bale shooting isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. If you don’t have a goal in mind, it can feel pointless. I will talk more about goal setting later, but make sure you approach blank bale shooting with a positive mindset and a goal for the time you spend doing it.
Step 3: Target Practice
Finally, it is time to shoot at a target! How you approach target practice is going to depend on your goals. The approaches I outline below are just two approaches you could use.
You may want to use both methods on alternating days. If you practice five days a week you could do the first method three of those days and the second method two of those days.
Try both of these methods, but if it doesn’t work for your goals, adapt it to suit your needs.
Target Practice Method #1: Start Close
In this method, you will start close to the target. You want to be close enough to the target that you are sure you will get your arrows in the gold. Shoot about 5 arrows.
If all your arrows are in the gold, you can move back and try from a greater distance. If any of your arrows are not in the gold, pull them out and try them again until all your arrows are in the gold.
Once you can consistently get your arrows in the gold from this distance, you can move back.
This method is supposed to help teach you what it feels like to take a strong, confident shot, a feeling you can take with you as you progress to further distances. It will also help you maintain good form and focus on building good habits because you won’t be as stressed about aiming.
Set up a way to measure your progress to keep yourself motivated and to make sure what you’re doing is working. A simple way to do this would be to track how many tries it takes to get your arrows in the gold (the lower the number the better you’re doing in this case).
Make sure you write your number down and keep track. You will probably have some off days, but you should see improvements in your numbers.
Target Practice Method #2: Competition with Yourself
This method is simple. You will set up a little competition for yourself. The competition will be something you can recreate again and again so that you can compare how you did each time without accounting for variables.
If you’re preparing for a competition, you should set up your homemade competition with yourself to mimic the competition you will be going to.
Time your shots, allowing for the time the other archer will take to shoot, and shoot the number of arrows you will need to shoot in competition and then score yourself.
If you aren’t preparing for competition, you can make up your own rules and scoring system.
Simple it typically better. You could shoot from several distances, give yourself a point for getting it in the gold and nothing for outside of that, or you could stick to the standard scoring system.
This method is a great way to prepare for a competition, but it can also just add a little fun to your practice routine, even if you are just competing with the archer you were yesterday.
No matter which practice method you choose, if you want to improve your archery skills, you should be keeping track of your score. This will give you evidence of your improvements and help you stay the course when things get hard or bad day hits.
If you don’t track your score, you won’t know if you are really improving, and you won’t have an objective way of knowing if a new technique or piece of equipment is working for you.
Step 4: More Blank Bale Shooting
Before putting away your bow, return to blank bale shooting. This is a great way to wind down and end on a positive note, especially if you’ve had a tough practice. Shoot about 10 arrows focusing on form and what it feels like to make a good shot.
Step 5: Take Notes
Carry a notebook with you or you could take notes on your phone about how the training went. Was there anything that didn’t work well? Anything new you want to try? Do you need to replace or fix any of your equipment? Track your scores here as well.
If you’re in the habit of taking a couple of notes and carrying a notebook with you, then you’ll be able to jot down any of these little tidbits, so you don’t forget them.
Practice Routine for Bowhunting
If you’re a bowhunter, your practice routine will involve several different exercises that a target archer would not find useful. You should still be practicing all year long to stay in shape and ready for the season.
In the off season, you will need to practice shots that are similar to those you would make while hunting. There is no way to accurately simulate a hunting experience, but you can at least practice shooting from positions you would commonly find yourself in when hunting.
Consider practicing the following:
- Use the same equipment you would be hunting with
- Shoot from a tree stand
- Shoot from your knee
- Shoot at a target that is higher or lower than you are
- Shoot from a variety of distances
- Shoot in the wind or the rain
- Shoot in varying levels of daylight
- Go to a 3D archery events
- Shoot after running. Run about 30 yards, stop, turn and aim. This will mimic shooting with an adrenaline rush.
How Many Arrows Should I Be Shooting?
The big question! It seems that everyone wants to know how many arrows they should be shooting to improve their skill level. It is understandable. The more arrows you shoot with good form the better an archer you will become.
The answer to this question isn’t as simple as it should be. If someone who normally shoots 20 arrows during their practice sessions suddenly increases that number to 50, they will likely start losing their form toward the end of those shots.
The number of arrows you should shoot is how many arrows you can shoot without losing form.
If you do all your practicing in one session, that might mean 30 arrows or in some cases less. It is important that you do not shoot when you start to feel fatigued. If you lose form, you’re teaching your body bad shooting habits, which is counterproductive.
You can build up your strength rapidly by getting in more than one practice session a day. If you sneak in practice throughout the day because you have easy access to a range you’ll be able to shoot until you are fatigued, and then allow your body to rest before shooting more.
Top archers are often shooting or practice shooting 150-200 arrows a day, and they do it 6 days a week, but if you’re just starting to level up your archery skills, you might be starting with much lower numbers.
Off Range Ideas to Bring Your Archery to the Next Level
If you really want to level up your archery skills, then you’re going to have to take your training off the shooting range. Not all progress is made with a bow in your hand. Continue reading for some off the range ideas to improve your archery skills.
A practice routine is going to help you improve at archery, but if you’re going out to practice without goals, you’re going to limit how effective that practice is. Practicing with purpose and intent will take your archery to the next level.
First, you need to decide what areas you want to improve upon. Do you want to be able to get your shot off more smoothly? Do you want to be able to shoot better further away from the target? Would you like to be able to use a more powerful bow?
These examples are very broad goals. Ideally your goal would be more specific and measurable so you can see yourself progress. An example of a specific goal would be “I want to be able to consistently shoot in the 9 or the 10 from a distance of 60 yards.” You can measure this goal, and you will clearly know when the goal has been reached.
But you will also need to consider what you need to DO to make this goal happen. What kind of actions can you take? Sometimes it is simply a matter of practice, but this is not always the case. You might need to work on keeping your muscles from tensing up or creating a smoother release before you can reach that ultimate goal of shooting consistently in the 9 or the 10.
Taking action could be as simple as reminding yourself not to tense up, or it could mean adding relaxation exercises into your day so you can practice relaxing.
While using a bow can often be a workout in its own, the best archers often incorporate other forms of exercise into their weekly routines. Below I will give you some suggestions for muscles to focus on and exercises to try but working out your whole body will help improve your archery. Your stance, your form, your draw… there is a lot of muscle groups at play here.
Muscle to Focus On
Archery involves muscles from your entire body, but some muscle groups are more involved than other. The muscle groups most involved in archery are as follows.
- Posterior deltoids
- Latissimus dorsi
- Lower Traps
- Lower back
In addition to these muscles, you will want to work on your balance and stability.
There are several different exercises you can perform to strengthen the muscles you use when drawing your bow.
Yup. Push-ups are one of the best exercises you can do as an archer. They are simple, don’t require any equipment, and you can modify them easily by doing them from your knees or against a wall.
Push-ups work your chest, back, triceps, and your core. In fact, the amount of core strength required to do a controlled push up is surprising.
Here is a great video tutorial of how to do push-ups with proper form.
One Arm Dumbbell Row
One-arm dumbbell rows will engage your entire back, your shoulders, and your arms, but the main muscle worked by this exercise is that latissimus dorsi in the back.
Watch this video for the full details on how to do a one-arm dumbbell row.
As the name says, bicep curls will improve the strength of your bicep muscle in your arm. Bicep curls will also work your forearm.
This video gives a quick overview of how to do a bicep curl with proper form.
Rowing machines will give you a great cardio workout while also working out just about every muscle in your body, including the back, arms, and core.
Here is a video that breaks down the movement you need to use on a rowing machine.
Archery draws upon your mental strength and focus. If you want to take your archery to the next level, you will need to train your mind as much as you train your body. Using practices like visualization and exercises that enhance your focus will have a positive impact on your archery skills.
Visualization is a technique used by many athletes to prepare their minds to perform the actions they need to do to be successful at their sport. To do it, you create mental images of yourself performing well and being successful. I will explain this in more detail below.
Visualization has proven to be an effective training method for athletes of all kinds, but it can be especially helpful for a sport like archery where too much depends on your mind and your confidence.
You only need to take about 10 to 15 minutes every day to practice visualization. Although if you don’t have that much time, I’ve heard of some people doing it while they brush their teeth or while they are waiting in line.
Here is how you do it:
- Find a quiet and comfortable location.
- Close your eyes and relax your body.
- Picture yourself in your mind’s eye achieving the goal you want to reach.
- Take it to step-by-step and picture each detail of the moment right down to the tiniest detail you can imagine.
- If you are going to a competition in the near future, picture exactly how that day is going to go from the time you wake up until the time you go to bed.
The more you are able to mentally rehearse your success, the easier it will come to you. It prepares your mind to perform when you need it to.
Improve your Focus
When you’re firing your bow, you don’t want your attention wandering off to what you’re going to have for dinner that night or the speeding ticket you got the day before. The ability to focus is essential to being a good archer.
To improve your focus, you will need to practice focusing. Try some of the exercises below:
- Hold a glass of water out in front of you and try to hold it as still as possible.
- Put the TV on and hold your thumb up in front of the picture so that is covering most but not all of the TV. Focus on your thumb without looking at the picture on the TV.
- Practice reading with the TV on without allowing the TV to break your focus.
- Look at a simple object like a safety pin or a pine needle. Describe it, ask questions about it, surmise the answers. Focus only on that object.
You should start out small with all of these exercises. Start by focusing for 10 to 15 seconds, and then increase the amount of time until you reach a minute. Once you reach a minute, try to increase the difficulty of the challenge by turning up the TV or switching to a different exercise.
In addition to these exercises, you could also try meditation. Meditation doesn’t have to involve candles or pillows or any special equipment at all.
To meditate, all you need if yourself and a location free of distractions. You can sit, stand or lay down. You just need to be in a comfortable position.
Then you close your eyes and practice emptying your mind. If thoughts enter your mind, you let them go without pursuing them.
As well as improving your focus, meditation can help you learn to relax your body and let go of tension in your muscles.
Any and all of the time I’ve given you in this article will help you become a better archer. You don’t have to do them all, and you certainly don’t have to integrate them into your weekly training all at once.
Start with the 5 Step Training Routine and work in the physical and mental training over time. Don’t be afraid to customize your training routine to fit your goals and your personal style. Everyone does archery a little differently, and everyone’s practicing needs are different.
I live in Alberta, Canada where I enjoy indoor and 3D archery with traditional bows and compound bows. On this site, I share everything I’ve learned about archery along the way.