Most of us enjoy watching talented athletes make big plays look easy. While we stand up and cheer for the big plays, we don’t give a second of thought to the countless hours these athletes give to practicing good form. It turns out that developing good form is vital in every sport. Developing good form is essential for accuracy in archery. This article lines out 13 ways you can improve your accuracy in archery.
It may sound like a lot of steps, but it is helpful to break down your shooting technique down to the smallest parts. Working on your form may feel tedious and unnatural at first, but if you practice enough, it will become second nature. Even if you are new to archery, you should practice these steps. The beginner is at a crucial stage in development. If you develop bad shooting form early on, it is much harder to change later.
# 1. Check Your Equipment
If you already have a bow, hopefully, it has been set up correctly for your draw length and weight. You need to have the correct equipment before you start to practice the correct form. If you purchased a bow from a local archery shop, they should have set you up with the right bow for your size and adjusted it for draw length and weight.
You can read about how to measure for your draw length here. If you purchased a bow online or a used bow from someone, it’s crucial that you have it set up for you. You can learn how to do that yourself on this site or take it to a pro shop.
# 2. Learn about the Correct Form
It’s possible to shoot a million arrows and never give any thought to correct form. But if you’ve never thought about it, the safe bet is that you are not consistently accurate. To improve your form requires learning about correct form and practicing it. It may seem tedious, and it may not be incredibly fun, but neither is loosing arrows when you’re shooting, missing a deer, or embarrassing yourself at a competition.
The simple approach to correct shooting is the T-Form. What is the T-Form? Essentially, it is operating on a straight vertical and horizontal line. The good news for you as an archer is that the T-Form is a natural position for your body and one that you can make easily.
This form also works to complement your bodies muscles groups. It allows the opposing muscles groups in your arms and body to pull evenly. To visualize the T Form, think of the vertical line (the bottom of the T) on the inside of your back foot. This straight line runs up to your right collar bone.
Bad form is more costly than you might think. Not only will bad form keep you from being consistent, which means you will not be accurate), shooting a bow in anything other than the T-Form is bad for your muscles.
If you draw a bow unevenly, you are putting greater strain on one side or the other, which can cause greater muscle fatigue and injury. You will immediately begin to compensate for the weaker muscles, which is why your form is the one the first things suffer when you continue shooting after your tired.
# 3 Use a Mirror.
Most archers don’t watch themselves while they are practicing. I understand this. It’s weird to take your bow to the bathroom… I even felt dumb taking these pictures. But it’s really a good, fast way to check your form. As you start out working on your form, it will be very beneficial to see yourself. If you have a big enough mirror, you can use it for the next two practice steps.
# 4 Practice Your Form Without Your Bow.
If you are serious about improving your form, you need to put down your bow. When you start focusing on the T-Form, it is beneficial to take your stance and go through the motions of raising your bow, drawing back to your anchor point, and releasing.
You want to start with good form while going through every motion of shooting with no equipment. This is helpful because it allows you to develop muscle memory while you are going through these motions.
This is also a good time to use a release trainer if you have one. (It can be a rope or resistance bands) Since I like to shoot with back tension, it requires working with the release to get the sensitivity right. You can work on your form while using a release.
# 5 Practice Your Form With Just Your Bow.
Once you have become comfortable with the shooting motions, and you believe your T-Form looks good in the mirror, it’s time to add pick up the bow. The assumption is that you will be doing this training inside in front of a mirror and with no actual target.
This is the reason we start with no arrow while practicing this. You won’t be happy with a hole in your wall! Just like practicing with no bow, your goal here is observing good T-Form both visually in the mirror and by the feel.
Again, taking your stance, grip your bow and raise your bow arm up to form a 90 angle with your body. You then want to draw your bow string back to your anchor point, maintaining a straight line with your drawing arm. Never dry fire your bow with no arrow! Keep tension on the bowstring and let it off slowly.
# 6 Strength Exercises
One of the things essential to having good form is muscle strength. If you don’t shoot very often, you will notice how quickly your shooting muscles become fatigued. This is often the case for seasonal bow hunters who don’t practice year round.
Most archers don’t consider how much their form suffers from not shooing year round, or specifically targeting the muscles groups used in shooting. Shooting a few times a year will not keep you in bow shape. Archery uses very specific muscles groups and chances are that you don’t use these in a lot of other activities.
There are several options for staying in bow shape. One is to shoot year round. If you don’t have the time to get out and shoot year round, there are numerous exercises you can do to target your shooting muscle groups.
If you already go to the gym or workout at home, it’s easy to add a few exercises that will keep you ready for shooting your bow. If shooting and going to the gym are both a challenge, Bow Trainer makes a device created by archers and physical therapist that helps you maintain bow strength.
# 7 Focus on Form While Shooting
How many hours have you spent adjusting your sites, arrow rest and arrows because your groups were not good? I normally check out everything else before I ever think about form. The truth is that practicing your form while you are shooting is going to make you a more accurate archer.
Once you have checked your T-Form position visually and with your eyes closed to get a better feel for it, it’s time to put it all together. When you actually shoot for these sessions, your focus is going to be on your form. The following step will help you in maintaining a good, consistent T-Form.
# 8 Take Video of Your Practice
Along with drawing your bow in front of a mirror, most of you probably haven’t recorded video of yourself shooting. Ten years ago, this suggestion would not have made the list because I didn’t own a video camera. Today, video cameras come on most cell phones, so that makes it a viable training resource.
You may have to get creative propping your phone up if you don’t have a phone tripod. (I don’t either) Seriously though, I need to get a tripod. But, find something to set your phone on and record yourself shooting. You don’t have to let it run for an hour but if possible record a few shot at the beginning, middle and end of your practice session. This will be a great resource for observing your form.
# 9 Set Goals and Start Tracking
In the early stages of working on your form, it can be helpful to use a notebook for archery. We are digital now, so if you use your phone for notes that will work too. The first thing is to set some goals. This is actually one of the most important steps on this entire list. Think about what you want to do in archery, competition, hunting, etc. Get specific. For your accuracy, set some goals as well. E.G., 2-inch group at 10 yards. 20, 30, etc.
Set out those goals, monitor your progress, and modify them as necessary. Additionally, as you take video of your shooting, write out notes on your form and what you see. For instance, you might notice your form looks best in the video shoot during the middle of your practice session. What looks different in the beginning video? The end video?
# 10 Create a Checklist
A valuable tool for improving your form is a checklist. If you practice something like the KLS Shot Cycle this will be easier. Even if you don’t it will help you greatly to break down your shooting into stages and then identify smaller, specific actions within those stages. For example, the three stages can be:
- Set Up
Then think about the important steps you go through with each of those. Under set up, you might have:
You can use whatever categories and subheadings you like, but the important thing is to break down your shooting process into smaller specific actions. This will greatly help you in evaluating your form. Starting out I would actually write all this out, or use type it out on a phone or computer. I’ve found the Evernote app works well for stuff like this. You can type out list with boxes next to it that can be checked one the task is completed. I’m not affiliated with Evernote. It just works well and it’s free. Eventually, your goal will be to turn this into a mental checklist.
You will get to the point where you can easily go through without even thinking about it. Some suggest even saying the steps out loud while you are practicing. Writing these down will also help you evaluate. Once your list is done, take it and watch the video with the list in front of you. Watch your shooting process and identify any steps where you need work.
# 11 Accuracy drills
How will you know if all of these steps are really improving your accuracy? Measure it! You will need to start watching your grouping. Grouping is how close a set of arrows are on the target. A good drill is to shoot 6 arrows at the same spot on the target from 10 yards away.
Then take a flexible tape measure and wrap it around all 6 arrows. Write down that measurement along with the number of arrows shot and the distance from the target. Keep a record of this will help you track improvement. As you get better, you can increase the distance.
Another good accuracy drill is to tape a piece of paper on your target. Shoot a group of arrows into the paper and write down the date and distance on the paper. You can keep these to track your improvement. If you need a greater challenge, cut the paper in half, or into a fourth. A 3×5 card also works well for this. Whatever paper I use, I color in a small circle for aiming purposes.
# 12 Visualization
This will be the most progressive suggestion on this list and don’t feel bad if it’s not your cup of tea. Visualization has become a widely used technique in sports training. One study was done for throwing darts. There were three groups, and each had a different method of training. One group listened to lessons about how to throw darts better.
The second group practiced throwing darts. The third group sat down, did a routine for relaxing, and then visualized throwing darts perfectly and hitting the bull’s eye every time. All groups trained for the same amount of time and then were tested. The third group always did as good, or better, than the other two.
If you feel like giving it a shot, sit down, close your eyes and relax. Visualize going through the steps of your set up, your draw, aiming and release. See your arrow hitting the bull’s eyes every time.
# 13 Increase Form Practice Frequency
This isn’t the practice, practice, practice suggestion. Notice it says form practice frequency. It’s true that shooting more can help you become more accurate. It’s also possible your practice will just solidify poor form. It’s good to go out and shoot your bow for fun and not think too much about anything. But if you want to improve your form and accuracy, you need to dedicate more time to focus on it.
Your practice frequency means shooting on more days, not shooting for longer sessions. I rarely get more accurate the longer I shoot especially if I am not training frequently. When you write down your goals, pick out the days you want to work on your form.
You can start with 20-30 minute sessions a few times a week. It’s fine to shoot for fun after those sessions but start with that time focused on form and accuracy. Keep up the practice and track your progress and you will be surprised at how much you improve in a month.