Have you ever wondered why Olympic Archers Spin Their Bows?
If you’re not sure what I mean, check out this video.
It seems that archery is becoming more popular every year and many people around the world watch the Olympic Archery events. If you are unfamiliar with Olympic archery and watch an event, you may be wondering why their bows are so unusual and also why Olympic archers spin their bows.
The Quick Answer:
Technically Olympic archers don’t “spin” their bows. Their bow falls forward after releasing the arrow which is primarily caused by the archer’s grip and the forward momentum that comes from the transfer of energy when the arrow is released.
Before breaking this down further, let’s look at some of the accessories Olympic archer’s use on their bows which also contribute to the bow “spin.”
Why Do Olympic Bows Look So Crazy?
Even if you have never fired an arrow in your life, you have probably seen many traditional longbows in movies. Most of the time in movies these bows look normal- a curved piece of material with a tight string holding both ends. But the bows the Olympic archers are using …. don’t look normal at all.
Olympic archery requires the use of a recurve bow. The bow itself is not unusual looking except for the limbs curving at the ends. The recurve bow is much more efficient in storing and releasing energy than the longbow which is why it is one of the primary bow types used today.
Recurve Bow Accessories
What makes the Olympic recurve bows look so unusual are accessories that aid in precision target shooting.
The first thing you probably notice are the long poles sticking out of the bow. Every archer has a different set up but sometimes you will see extremely long looking poles pointing in different directions.
These unusual additions to the bow are called stabilizers and as the name suggest, help to balance and stabilize the bow while shooting. There are many different types of stabilizers and set up variations an archer can have and it is entirely dependent on what someone prefers and what works best for accuracy.
The rods are also usually weighted to keep from moving the bow during the shot during the draw and release. Serious stabilizers like this do not come with the recurve bow but are added on by the archer. They are not required for recreational shooting and if you want to try them out, they are many different styles and sizes available on a much smaller scale.
The other unusual looking device you may have noticed on Olympic recurve bows are the sights used. Recurve target sights used by Olympic archers are among the most expensive sights available for any type of bow. Bow sights used for compound bows are mounted close to the bow and have a large aperture with one or more pins used to aim.
The recurve target sights, have a thin, flat, vertical and horizontal piece that are usually rather long and stick out in front of the bow. There are different designs available for this type of sight but usually there is an aperture which is quite small compared to a compound bow sight.
This small aperture will have either a dot or pin inside which is used for aiming. You may also see dials on this type of sight which is used to adjust the aperture up or down and left or right. This allows for very precise shooting which is necessary at the Olympic level of archery.
Now on to the big question of why Olympic Archers spin their bows.
The first thing you should know is that they are not swinging or spinning their bows. The bow is falling forward after the arrow is shot and there are several factors that cause this.
The biggest is the open grip that most experienced archers use. When the bow is full draw, the pressure exerted against your bow hand is strong enough to hold the bow. Another way of saying this since you are pulling back on the bow string, it is pulling the bow handle against your hand.
The bow handle is held against the web of your hand between the thumb and index finger. The fingers themselves are loose but the bow is held place by the draw. It’s understandable why this sounds crazy at first and it is a common mistake in form made by new archers. You would think a tight grip on the bow would be the best way to make an accurate shot…..But you would be wrong.
Tightly griping the bow leads muscle fatigue and this causes movement or torque on the bow. Think about how difficult it is to hold any size weight with your arm extended in front of you. It’s not long before your arm is shaking and you have to put the weight down.
Muscle development is a necessary part of archery and you do need to be able to hold your bow up with your bow arm, but it is not done so that you can grip your bow while aiming. This reduces the matter of accuracy to your bow arms ability to hold the bow out steady.
This is extremely difficult and unnecessary. Shooting while griping the bow will make for inaccurate shots. Holding the bow with an open grip makes holding the bow steady an upper body event which makes the aiming process much easier. This leads to less fatigue and more accuracy.
Reason 2: Front Bow Weight
The second reason the bow falls forward when Olympic archers shoot is because of the weight on the front of the bow. You’ve likely noticed the long stabilizer rod sticking out the front of the bow. This isn’t the only front weight however. The bow itself is heavy on the front side. If you think about his it makes sense. There is only cams and bowstring on the backside.
You may have also seen side stabilizer rods sticking out to the side of the bow. These are used to balance some of the front weight of the bow. The stabilizing balance is needed for the moment the arrow is fired, so this is when the bow is at full draw.
The back tension of your draw, and the back pointing stabilizers counter the forward weight while you draw. The moment the arrow is fired the back tension is gone and you have a forward tipping bow.
But if the bow is held in place by you pulling back on the string, what happens when you release the string? You guessed it! It falls. Not only does the transfer of energy cause the bow to jump forward somewhat, if you aren’t gripping the bow handle it would fall to the ground.
This is why slings were developed. Slings are a way of attaching the bow to your hand or wrist while still letting you keep your open grip while shooting. The two main styles of sling are the finger sling which is used by most recurve archers and the wrist sling which is used more by compound archers.
Reason 4: Energy Transfer
So, when the bow string is released, most of the energy is transferred to the arrow and the remaining energy causes the bow to tilt forward. With a sling attaching the bow to the archer, the bow does not fall to the ground but rather tilts forward most of the time.
Aim to “Spin” Your Bow Like The Pros
If you are already shooting a recurve or compound bow, hopefully your bow tilts forward after you shoot an arrow. This is a sign of good form. If if doesn’t tilt forward, spend some time learning about the correct form and things like correct grip. With a little practice you’ll be spinning your bow like the pros.
If you are new to archery, I would recommend starting with one of the following articles depending on your bow type:
Author: Kasey Jones
Published: March 2018