How to Prevent Bow String Slap in Archery


Every archer will have at least one experience with the painful feeling of bow string slap. For some archers, it even seems to be a recurring problem that can be discouraging. Luckily, there are simple ways to identify the cause of bow string slap for you and what you need to do to prevent the issue.

Bow string slap can be prevented in several ways:

  • Loosen your grip on the bow
  • Adjust your stance
  • Rotate your elbow outward
  • Use an arm guard

The one good thing about bow string slap being a common issue for archers is that there are countless resources to help you figure of what is causing you specifically to experience bow string slap.

This also means there are many solutions to try out. We will go through some of the common reasons for bow string slap and how to prevent the issue.

What is Bow String Slap?

There is a chance that you may have experienced bow string slap without even realizing it is a named issue. In reality, bow string slap can occur for archers of all levels—regardless of their experience level.

Bow string slap occurs when the bow string hits or catches the archer’s forearm as the shot is released.

Naturally, the fast movement and power of the bow string can be quite painful against the skin if contact occurs.

Archers who are hit with the bow string can get:

  • Bruises
  • Welts
  • Broken skin

It can be very discouraging to experience bow string slap. After all, if each shot is going to be painful, it is understandable that you might question archery or become frustrated.

Despite the frustration, though, remember that bow string slap is something every archer deals with and can overcome.

How Can I Prevent Bow String Slap in Archery?

Even though it can be frustrating to deal with bow string slap, you can easily overcome the struggle by making a few simple adjustments. The most important thing to remember in overcoming bow string slap is that you should look for the root cause to prevent the issue entirely.

You can always alleviate the pain of bow string slap by using an archery arm guard. Here’s my DIY Arm Guard guide to make your own.

Or check out the arm guards I’ve tried and tested out in my Arm Guard Buyers Guide.

This can actually be a great tool to help prevent injuries from occurring. Unfortunately, though, wearing an arm guard does not actually address the cause of bow string slap.

Start by Adjusting Your Stance

The default stance that many archers take on is in a very square position with the feet. This is how many archery instructors teach beginners to stand. This stance is not technically wrong, but it can make your forearm prone to being in the path of the bow string.

This stance most commonly leads to bow string slap for archers who have hyperextended elbows, that is, their forearms naturally come inwards to the path of the bow string. Still, though, stance may be a factor in any archer experiencing bow string slap.

To shift to a position that can better prevent bow string slap, you will adopt a more open stance:

  • Instead of keeping both feet perpendicular to the shooting line (in a line with the target), slightly step your front foot away from the target.
  • For right arm archers, the left foot will come to the left, and vice versa if you are a left arm archer.
  • Only step the foot open a small step, just enough to allow more space for the bow string to release without hitting your forearm.

Opening your foot stance allows more space between your forearm and the bow string because your shoulders should be mirroring the positioning of your feet. Thus, a more open stance with the feet will naturally put the shoulders in a more open position as well.

Loosen Your Grip on the Bow

Many archers instinctively try to wrap their whole hand around the bow grip. Surprisingly, this is actually not the correct hand position for archery. Instead, you should only have light contact with the bow while keeping your hand relaxed.

Holding the bow too tight can affect the angle of your elbow, which can cause bow string slap. We will discuss elbow positioning more in the next section, but the hand position must be adjusted first.

The correct way to hold the bow is to:

  • With a relaxed hand, hold the bow grip.
  • Contact between the bow and the palm of your hand should only be in the area between your thumb and index finger.
  • Angle the rest of the knuckles out at a 45-degree angle.

One way to think about the correct finger positioning is to imagine that you are making an “OK” sign with your thumb and index finger. The rest of the fingers and hand should remain relaxed.

If you have been gripping your bow too tightly, it will likely take a bit of time and practice to adjust to the correct grip. Once you have gotten comfortable with having your hand relaxed, though, your accuracy will improve, and you will experience less bow string slap.

Rotate Your Elbow Outward

Another main cause of bow string slap for many archers is having their elbow angled in toward the bow string. When the elbow is rotated inward, the forearm is directly in the path of the bow string.

To fix this problem, you just need to rotate your elbow slightly outwards. The important thing to remember is to rotate your elbow withoutmoving your shoulder or wrist.

A simple drill to help yourself get accustomed to rotating your elbow without moving your shoulder or palm is great to practice:

  • Place the palm of your bow arm against a wall.
  • Practice rotating your elbow outward without losing your grip on the wall or moving your shoulder.
  • If your bow arm is your right arm, rotate the elbow clockwise. If your bow arm is your left arm, rotate the elbow counterclockwise.

Simply rotating your elbow outward allows more space for the bow string and takes your sensitive forearm out of the bow string’s path.

Try Other Minor Adjustments

If none of the above methods seem to help prevent bow string slap, there are still other things you can try. Like we previously mentioned, you can always use an arm guard to protect your forearm from bow string slap.

This is a very simple preventative method even though it does not directly address the cause.

  • Alternatively, you can try adjusting your shoulder. Your shoulder should always remain relaxed; it should never be tense and raised. Pay attention to your shoulder especially when you might be starting to experience fatigue.
  • One other option to prevent bow string slap is to bend your elbow slightly. This naturally takes the forearm out of the bow string’s path. The downside of bending your elbow, however, is that it can be difficult to maintain consistency with each shot.

Ultimately, you can always consult with an archery instructor.

Instructors can help identify exactly what is leading to your bow string slap by seeing your body’s positioning from a vantage point that you cannot achieve yourself.

Final Thoughts on Preventing Bow String Slap

By this point, you will hopefully know some of the ways to prevent the dreaded bow string slap from hurting your forearm. The ultimate goal should be to enjoy your archery, so the best method for you is whichever one makes it easiest for you to have a good time.

Making a few minor adjustments can go a long way in preventing bow string slap, so give them a try and see the difference they can make.

Robert Sampson

I'm Robert Sampson and I live in Colorado where I spend a lot of time in the backyard with my family either grilling, playing games and sports, or working on a project to make our backyard a better place to be.

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