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Archery is a discipline that has fascinated us for thousands of years, evolving into the impressive Olympic sport that it is today. But just how hard is archery? How long does it take to master, and what physical stresses does it place on your body? Let’s investigate.
So, just how hard is archery? Getting proficient at the basics of archery is pretty straightforward, and the equipment is relatively accessible. However, becoming a true master of archery takes several years of diligent practice to improve your aim and technique. Even competitive archers can always find ways to improve!
If you are interested in practicing archery, you will naturally have a lot of other questions. Particularly about your learning and development.
Not to worry; I’m here to cover them.
If you keep reading you’ll learn all that it takes to improve, and some practical suggestions along the way.
So, make sure you keep going to the end.
Your proficiency may depend on it!
Is Archery Difficult?
That depends on the level you are aiming for. Mastering the basic techniques of archery with beginner equipment is relatively easy. But reaching a competitive level of proficiency can take several years and requires a lot of practice and incremental improvements.
The key to mastering any sport is to start from a solid foundation, both in terms of equipment and technique.
When starting with archery, it’s best to keep the equipment simple.
Don’t shoot for the most expensive, cool-looking bow straight away. A simple recurve bow designed for beginners is ideal.
Some basic safety equipment is also necessary, including an arm guard (for the arm holding the bow) and a chest guard.
With the essential equipment sorted, you can now begin to practice.
As a beginner, it’s best to make things reasonably easy so that you can build up a good foundation for your technique.
Place the target about ten feet away from you for your first attempts.
The basic stance for archery involves placing your feet about shoulder-width apart to keep you stable.
Position your body at a 90-degree angle and aim your head and bow towards the target. Knock the arrow using the clip on the shaft and draw the bow.
Keep your elbow parallel to the floor and aim. Then, release the arrow.
Mastering the basic form of archery shouldn’t take that long.
Once this initial technique feels comfortable and you can routinely hit the target from your starting distance, the easy part is done.
What follows is a gradual process of improvement with regular practice, incrementally increasing your shooting distance from the target and changing up your equipment as you become more proficient.
If you have dreams of becoming a competitive archer or even an Olympic athlete, entering competitions will be the next step.
Competitive events will connect you with other archers of differing skill levels, providing a great opportunity to learn and grow.
While winning your first few competitions is unlikely, try not to be discouraged.
As a beginner, improvements will feel like they are coming thick and fast if you keep practicing the basic form correctly.
Consistency helps build a solid base to build from, and this will also gradually build the mental focus that is absolutely critical to archery.
But reaching more professional competitions will take years of tiny improvements and specialist coaching.
This is the truly difficult part of archery.
How Long Does It Take To Learn Archery?
The truth is, mastering each level of archery takes a different amount of time, depending on the individual archer. The time it takes to learn archery is also dependent on which level of archery you’re trying to reach.
When starting as a beginner, getting to grips with the basics of archery can take as little as a few hours of consistent, regular practice.
This can be done by yourself, but for the best results, seek out an introductory course or taster session.
Once you’ve become comfortable with the basics, the key to future improvement is consistency and practice.
If you have space, it is possible to practice in your back yard.
However, this can make it difficult to make sure that you continue to keep the correct form and technique.
With consistent practice, most archers should be able to shoot reasonably well within about six months.
This is surprisingly fast for a sport that appears intimidating at first but is certainly possible.
For some archers who enjoy the sport as a hobby, this level might be enough.
But for some, the lure of competitive archery is a powerful motivation for further improvement.
Local and amateur competitions are a great way of improving your archery skills as well as meeting other archers.
However, six months of practice may not be sufficient enough to become competitive in tournaments.
If you’re serious about improving up to a competitive level, then working with a professional coach is indispensable.
A good coach can help you to identify small inconsistencies in your technique and will also know plenty of training exercises that can draw out your skills.
As you work with your coach, your skills will continue to improve beyond a decent level of proficiency and begin to approach a competitive level.
It can take at least three years of consistent practice with a good coach to reach a level of archery that would be considered competitive or professional.
At this level, you will likely be hitting higher shooting scores from a wide range of target distances.
Many regional, national, and international competitions have minimum score requirements for entry.
Is Archery Physically Demanding?
Archery can be a great way to increase the strength of your arm, back, and chest muscles. That said, archery isn’t highly demanding from a physical standpoint. In many cases, older archers are actually better than younger, potentially stronger archers.
One of the most important things to know about archery is that each different bow has a different draw weight – the force required to draw the bow back to full draw.
During the heyday of the English longbow in the Middle Ages, the war bows used in battles like Agincourt and Crecy had estimated draw weights of between 80 and 150 lbs, or 36 to 68 kg.
Of course, most bows used in modern archery don’t approach the intense draw-weights of historical war bows.
In Olympic competitions, most archers use bows that have draw-weights of about 50 lbs (22 kg).
Because every bow has a specific maximum draw-weight, outright physical strength doesn’t provide huge advantages beyond a certain point.
The physical act of drawing back a bow yields comparable benefits to traditional weightlifting.
Most beginners will start out using light bows of around 25 lbs (11 kg).
Through consistent practice, the strength required to draw these bows back helps to strengthen an archer’s muscles.
This prepares an archer’s body to be able to handle heavier bows as their skill increases.
Archery can also help to enhance a practitioner’s core strength, stabilization, and overall balance.
Once a bow is drawn, you need to keep it as still as possible to help keep your aim true.
This requires good balance and core strength.
Because archery doesn’t require a huge amount of pure physical strength, it can be an incredibly accessible sport for people of all ages and genders.
Perhaps the most underrated physical element of archery is walking!
Once you’ve exhausted your quiver, you must walk to collect your arrows.
Of course, the distance you have to walk depends on how far away the target is.
At the Olympic level, the official distance is 70 meters (77 yards), which is as wide as a football pitch!
The most demanding aspects of archery aren’t necessarily physical but mental.
Archery is, first and foremost, a sport of focus.
The intense concentration required to focus on a target and drown out distractions takes time to cultivate.
Keeping calm and relaxed during a shot helps your aim.
For competitive archers, especially in Olympic events, the mental strength required to cope with pressure can be the key to a good performance.
How Can I Become A Better Archer?
After the basics of archery have become second nature, there are a few strategies you can employ to make yourself a better archer.
Some of these exercises may seem obvious, but they can help you make further improvements to your form and technique.
Increase The Target Distance
Shooting at a target from further away is the best way to improve quickly once you’ve mastered the basic firing stance.
By challenging yourself to hit the target from a greater distance, you will start to fine-tune your accuracy.
Don’t drastically change the distance each time. Simply move five or ten feet back from your last shooting position and practice until your accuracy is consistent.
Find The Right Equipment
So you may have gotten comfortable with the basic form of archery on a taster day, and now you want to get your own bow.
It’s important to make sure that you find the correct size and weight for your bow if you want to be comfortable when shooting.
The two most important factors to consider are the draw length of the bow and its draw-weight.
To find the correct draw length for your body, measure your total height.
Then, divide this measurement by 2 ½ inches.
This gives you a clear idea of the draw length that you will need for your chosen bow.
In terms of draw-weight, it’s best to start with something light and comfortable, like a 25 lbs (11 kg) bow.
As you improve your skills, you can increase the draw-weight of the bow that you use.
When it comes to getting your equipment, take a look at the archery equipment available at Bass Pro shops.
It’s where I go for all my equipment; they offer a truly great service and have a range of fantastic products!
Remember To Relax
To pull off the perfect shot, your body must be stable and still. This allows you to concentrate on the target.
Emotion and excitement can play around in your mind, disrupting your accuracy and focus.
One habit that you should try and build is to master your breathing. As you draw back the bow to aim, inhale a deep breath to help calm yourself.
Then, when you release the arrow, breathe out.
Entering competitions is an ideal way to test your current skill level and practice taking highly pressurized shots.
Competitions will be nerve-wracking at first, but do certainly become easier in time.
Perhaps the three most important aspects of becoming a good archer.
While there is certainly quite a lot to learn, to begin with, you should soon find that you make incremental improvements.
But how good can you get?
Well, that’s over to you.
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.