The Muscles Used in Archery and How to Strengthen Them


Archery is a complex sport that requires a steady hand and clear vision. However, one thing most do not realize is how many muscles contribute to performing well during archery. If you want to become a quality archer, you must utilize these core muscles well and strengthen them with routine exercise.

The main muscle areas that are affected during archery are the upper body and core. Due to the pulling of the string on the bow, archers must focus on strengthening their upper body. It is critical to have a proper exercise and stretching routine in place.

To better understand which muscles are targeted, we will jump into the specific names of the muscle groups and how they can be affected.

Also, having a few key exercises that you can add to your routine will help you better prepare for the sport. If you are interested in archery and want to learn more, continue reading.

Which Muscles are Affected?

There are several muscles that are affected when you are shooting archery and identifying these can help you better prepare for the sport.

You will want to acknowledge which muscles are being affected, as well as ensure you are stretching and working out these muscles. The main muscles that are used in archery are:

The Upper Body Muscles Used for Archery

This refers to the upper half of the body, including the torso and arms. When shooting a bow, one arm is required to stabilize the bow. The other arm will be used to pull back the string and arrow.

The main muscles used by the upper body during archery are the levator scapulae, latissimus dorsi, trapezius, deltoids, and rhomboids. However, the triceps and biceps are also used and stretching the rotator cuff is also very important. We will jump further into these muscles and how they are affected.

  • Levator Scapulae – This is located int eh upper back and works with two other muscles, the trapezius and rhomboids. These muscles work together to pull the shoulder blade up and towards the neck area, which allows it to move towards the spine. This muscle group is key for being able to hold the weight of the string steady, a must during archery.
  • Deltoid – This muscle is made up of the anterior, middle, and posterior deltoid muscles and is the primary muscle in the shoulder itself. When it comes to shooting bows properly, it is very important to strengthen the muscle because it is used during the lifting of the bow, the drawing back of the string, and to keep the bow steady while shooting. If you want to strengthen your upper body, deltoid muscles should be a main focus.
  • Latissimus Dorsi – These are most commonly referred to as lats, which are a large muscle group that spans across the back. The key focus of the lats is to draw the bow string back and stabilize the bows.
  • Triceps – These muscles are located on the back of your upper arm and are commonly strengthened by body builders. The triceps themselves are used to straighten out the elbow, which is clearly key for shooting a bow. The triceps also help pull the string back before shooting.
  • Rotator Cuff – This is another group of muscles that are highly prone to injury and should be stretched before shooting. The rotator cuff is designed to allow your shoulder to move smoothly in a 180-degree circle. Of course, during archery, it is common for shooters to use this muscle group and this is one of the most common are injured.

Core Strength Is Also Key for Archery

While the upper body is one of the most important muscle group areas that you will utilize when shooting your bow, the core is also very important. The core specifically is the lower back, abdomen area, hips, and pelvis. This area is not as used as the upper body but is very important.

When shooting, it is important to have good core control and working on your core strength can help this. You will want to ensure you have quality posture, which can improve your overall shot accuracy. Luckily, core strength is something you can easily work on.

Here’s a quick animation to see the muscles used in archery:

https://youtu.be/4egDJDZuEJM

Basic Archery Exercises

As mentioned, the two main areas of the body that you need to work on when it comes to archery improvement are the upper body and the core.

There are tons of exercises you can do to improve these areas, but some are a bit more archery specific. Many use small dumbbells to increase their workout by adding a bit of weight, but you can also do body weight exercises as well.

If you are struggling to pull back your bow, you will want to use weight to help muscle growth. You can easily lift small weights without overly bulking up but to simply grow your muscles ability.

To ensure you are getting the best workout possible for what you have at home, we have both weighted and weight free exercises listed.

One-Arm Dumbbell Row for Your Shoulders and Back

The shoulders and middle back are important when doing archery, which makes this exercise a major benefit to most archers.

By increasing your shoulder strength, you can better control your shots. You can do this exercise with whatever weight you feel safe with, but it can also be done with no weight at all.

  • Start by laying your dumbbell on a flat surface.  
  • Ensure your leg, torso, and upper body are all in line with the floor.
  • Keep your back as straight as possible and pick up your dumbbell with the other hand. You will be in a bent over position.
  • Keep your arm as straight as possible, pulling the weight in line with your chest. Pull the weight up to you.
  • Slowly but safely straighten your arm back down to the ground, this is one row.
  • You will want to do as many reps of this rowing motion as you feel comfortable doing, then switch and do the other arm.
  • Those who have more than one dumbbell can do both arms at the same time, but this requires a bit more practice.

One-Arm Side Laterals for Your Shoulders

This exercise once again targets the shoulder area. This is a very easy exercise and can be incorporated into an upper body workout. You can once again use any size dumbbell that you feel comfortable with and can do this with no weight, but it may not be as effective.

  • Start by holding the dumbbell of your choosing in the hand you plan to work out first.
  • Use a table, bench, or other stable surface to stabilize yourself. You will hold onto this surface with the free hand.
  • Keep your body as straight as possible during this exercise.
  • Slowly but effectively lift the dumbbell to the side.
  • You may want to keep a slight bend to your elbow, as this can make the exercise safer and easier.
  • Continue to lift your arm until it is in line with the floor below.
  • Slowly lower the dumbbell back down to your side.
  • This lifting and returning to the side is considered one rep. Do as many reps as you feel comfortable with.
  • Once one arm is finished, you will want to do these lifts with the other arm.

Pull Ups to Increase Grip and Arm Strength

This is a popular workout for many who are trying to improve their overall health but can be very challenging. This may not be an exercise you can easily complete, but it is one that can be done at home with little to no equipment.

To do pull ups, you want to have any type of exercise bar, utilize a local gym, or even use playground equipment that has similar bar type structures.

  • Start by grabbing whatever bar you have available to use.
  • When grabbing the bar, you will want to keep your palms faced forward. You will start with your arms straight above you.
  • Pull up your torso using the bar. Continue lifting yourself until your chest is aligned with the bar.
  • Hold this pull up for as long as you feel comfortable, at least a few seconds.
  • Try to gradually lower your body back to the ground. The more controlled you lower your body, the more effective the exercise will be.
  • Do as many reps of this pull up as you feel comfortable doing. This is a harder exercise, so doing even a few can be very effective.

If you are having trouble doing a full pull up, which is highly likely at first, you can opt for a chin up.

This is essentially using the same method of puling yourself up, but you will only pull up on the bar until your chin is level with the bar. This will give you a similar result but is a bit easier for those just beginning.

Planking for Core Stability

This is another commonly done exercise that most who are increasing their fitness will add to their workouts.

However, this is a very effective option for those who want to increase their core strength and also improves upper body strength. This is one of the most effective exercises for archers.

  • Start by laying on the ground using an exercise mat or safe, cleared space.
  • Place hands on either side of the chest, creating a bend with your elbow.
  • Slowly push up, lifting your upper body off of the ground. You will be on your tip toes. This is essentially the same body shape as a push up without the up and down motion.
  • Hold this plank shape for as long as you possibly can, using your core to ensure you stay strong and do not drop out of this position. You may only be able to do this for a few seconds at the start, but slowly work your way up to around a minute a day.

If you are having trouble holding yourself up during a plank, you can drop down to your forearms. Essentially, instead of having your arm completely straightened, simply use your forearms to support your upper body. This will still work your shoulder area but can be a bit easier on beginners.

Dumbbell Shrug Targets the Elusive Trapezius

This is another easy to utilize and quality exercise for archery. The shrug is perfect for targeting the trapezius muscle, which is found in the middle of your back.

This can be done with both weight and no weight, depending on your needs.

  • Start by standing up tall and straight.
  • If you have two dumbbells, you can hold one in each hand. However, one dumbbell can be used by doing one arm at a time.
  • Hold the dumbbell(s) with your arm straight down to your side. The dumbbell should be at your side.
  • Keeping your arms as straight as possible, lift your shoulders up in a shrugging motion.
  • Hold this slightly at the top of the shrug and then lower the weight back to your side.
  • If you have one dumbbells, do several reps with one side and then do the shrug on the other side of your body.

Push Ups for All-Around Strength and Control

Almost everyone has done some form of a push up in their lifetime, whether this be during gym class or regularly as part of your fitness routine.

What you may not realize is that push ups are one of the easiest and most effective exercises that targets muscles used during archery.

However, if you are unfamiliar with a pushup, they are similar to the plank exercise previously mentioned.

  • Start by laying in the floor on a mat or safe surface.
  • Place your hands on the floor shoulder width apart. You will also be on your tip toes.
  • Start by slowly pushing yourself up until your arms are completely straight.
  • Once your arms are extended fully, lower yourself back down.
  • You want your chest to be close to the ground, but do not touch the ground with your chest. Simply ensure your elbows are bent.
  • Push your body back up to where your arms are once again straight.
  • Continue to do this up and down motion for as many reps as you need.

Draw and Hold: Practical Strength Training

One of the easiest and best ways to exercise for archery is to simply practice. Nothing targets the muscles used more than doing the sport itself. You can easily shoot reps with your bow for both muscle building and to improve your accuracy.

However, to simply build up shoulder strength, you can do something called a draw and hold.

This is where you will pull the weight of the bow back by the string, hold it for a few seconds, and then slowly lower the string back into place.

You simply want to be careful not to dry shoot the bow as this can cause the string to break.

Here’s a good video showing some archery exercises:

The Importance of Stretching Before Archery

While working the muscles used for archery is important, it is also very important that you are regularly stretching before shooting. Stretching is the best way to avoid injury, which is possible with any sport. Also, archery is a very repetitive sport, which puts you at risk of chronic pain or repetitive strain injuries.

Some common injuries from archery that can more easily be avoided through stretching are:

  • Rotator cuff injuries
  • Muscle bruises
  • Muscle contusions
  • Tendon strains in the neck and back area
  • Wrist, hand, or elbow tendon injuries, such as carpal tunnel

How to Prepare Your Muscles for Archery

In addition to doing routine exercises, it is important that you stretch and prepare for every archery shoot. Whether you are doing archery professionally or for hunting purposes, this is very important. Some easy ways to prepare for shooting are:

  • Always warm up before doing any practicing, competing, or repetitive shooting of your bow.
  • Upon completing shooting, give your body a cool-down time. This helps muscles recover.
  • Start with a smaller pull weight and slowly increase the pull weight. This is the weight needed to pull back your string. This can often be adjusted to some extent, depending on the bow that you have.
  • Use proper arm guards when possible. Also, if needed use releases that help control the string more effectively. This will avoid arm injuries.

Some Basic Stretches for Archery Warmup

There are countless stretches that you can complete to ensure your upper body and core are prepared for shooting. However, some easy stretches that you can complete to avoid injury when shooting are:

  • Rotator Stretch – Stand with your arm out and upwards at a ninety degree. Place a broom stick into your hand and run it behind your elbow. You will use your other hand to pull the bottom of the broom stick forward, stretching your arm backwards slightly and working your rotator cuff.
  • Chest Stretch – Stand completely upright and have a chair, table, bench, or other flat surface directly behind you. Place your hands on the edge of the flat surface behind you, palm down. Slowly lower yourself down towards the table and bend your elbows, this will lower your entire body. Then slowly raise your body back up.

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.

Recent Posts