Muscle control and development in aiming

Muscle control and development in aiming

Ok aiming is just a matter of placing your pin on the dot and keeping it there till the release simple. Well sometimes it is but for arrows that don’t hit the dot there are a variety reasons but among the most common is releasing the arrow at a point in time when the pin is simply not on the dot.

So let’s start with the basics alignment and geometry of your shot, draw on the target or just above and control the pin don’t let it control you, if you are reacting to movement using your bow arm it is very easy to overreact as in most cases the muscles you are activating are fast twitch (more on this later) and as such will react fast and powerfully.

One problem with a fast muscle reaction is control, as you now have to engage muscle contraction on the opposite side of the joint to control this initial movement In addition to the fast tug-a-war action of competing muscle groups of your rotor cuff you are constantly altering the triangle formed by the relationship between your eye, bow hand and your sight this is constantly changing.

Yes I can hear you saying no I maintain my T shape at all times, mmm well let’s do a little visualisation, in your mind’s eye visualise this You are standing at full draw a rubber band stretched from your eye to your arrow rest to the pin of your sight and back to your eye or in the case of a compound shooter through the peep and on to your eye. Now that you have this triangle pictured imagine how this triangle changes shape as you raise or lower your bow hand, yes that’s it the change is considerable and this change in shape of the triangle is actually you changing the alignment of your sight. In the case of a rifle the front and rear sights are always kept in alignment by the barrel, however your bow relies on you as the stable link between front and rear sight.

To move your pin up using your bow arm you will predominantly use your Trapezius and Deltoid (upper shoulder) muscles will contract while the Latissimus Dorsi (Lats) see Table (1) will have to relax this is a very simplified view of the process as in fact all the muscles of the shoulder will be involved. As your muscle groups are not symmetrical there will be a tendency for your pin to wander you will then correct this and the correction process will stop or slow the upward movement of the pin, this then has the possibility of developing into more aiming problems.

  • Uncontrollable pin wandering
  • Drive by shooting
  • Snap shooting
  • Gold fever
  • Target panic


There are many names and even more expensive cure all gadgets to fix a problem that really exists but all the gadgets I have seen amount to being workaround tools that give the archer a way of improving their score while not fixing the core problem.



You do need:-

  • Good equipment set up to suit your personal level of shooting
  • Targeted training
  • Targeted exercise programs
  • TIME, as TARGETED muscle building and control is a slow process (weeks to months)
  • Informative feedback from a good coach with a basic knowledge of exercise physiology relating to archery form, especially in relation to those of us with worn and damaged body parts.


Now a little on targeted training to build muscle and muscle memory or procedural memory and the muscles groups that will give an archer the control and endurance we require. These are predominantly the larger groups in your core like the External and internal Oblique muscle groups see table (2) These Muscle groups are made up of Type1 (slow twitch fibres) and Type 2 (Fast twitch fibres) in roughly equal quantities and the exciting part is that the mass ratios can be altered via a targeted exercise program to increase the mass of the Type1 fibres while decreasing the mass of the Type 2 fibres.


Slow twitch Fibres


Type I, slow twitch, or “red” muscle, is dense with capillaries and is rich in mitochondria and myoglobin, giving the muscle tissue its characteristic red colour. It can carry more oxygen and sustain aerobic activity using fats or carbohydrates as fuel. Slow twitch fibres contract for long periods of time but with little force, this lack of force can be overcome when using the larger muscle groups with the highest mass of type 1 Slow twitch fibre



Fast Twitch Fibres


Fast-twitch (Type II) fibres are characterized by quick contraction times and a low resistance to fatigue. Functionally, they are used for prolonged anaerobic activities with a relatively high force output.


Type 1 Fibres are excellent for endurance activities like long distance running, cycling and for our sport Archery. Most of your muscles are made up of a mixture of both slow and fast twitch muscle fibres. But the soleus muscle in your lower legs and your core and back muscles involved in maintaining posture contain a higher ratio of slow twitch Fibres also it is posable to increase the Mass of these type 1 slow fibres with high rep low to medium weight exercise programs with your exercise physiologist or trainer conditioner.


Now for the fun part that WILL bring results and change your whole shooting experience gym work to build up your core muscles that is the whole core don’t just work on the groups you think you will need. If possible work with an instructor or just some gentle exercise at home nothing that will leave you in pain and reluctant to continue, this will be a slow process but well worth the effort, remember high repetition with low to medium weights.


For your shooting practice let’s start with the high target bail you use for blind bail shooting Place 2 dots on the target one a ½” (15mm) above the other, stand 3 yards back and set yourself up with a nice open stance with your hips at 33deg to the target.

Nock an arrow, Hook up and draw on the lower dot by expending your chest and engaging back tension using your lower trapezius and maintaining core muscle tension. Find the lower dot on the bail steady your aim on that spot now while maintaining your perfect “T” shape with nice low shoulders, Increase the tension in your draw side of your core muscles this will be the right side for right handed archers) your bow side muscles (left core) will naturally relax a little, only increase the tension in your draw side muscles enough so you can see your pin start to rise on the target just a half inch (15mm) to the new aiming point on the top dot remember, you are in charge of the pin.

Now relax the draw side muscles and allow your pin to drift down in a controlled manner to the original point.

When you become tired let down, do it by lowering your aiming point towards the ground using ONLY your core muscles (don’t just lower your bow arm) bend at the waist and let down, this will also aid in building your core muscle groups as well as developing a safe let down routine.

Repeat this as often as you like in groups of 2 or 3 repetitions remember to take your time it is not a race, regain your breathing between repetitions you don’t want to be breathing heavily your objective is to be smooth and in control.

When you have begun to master this technique start to incorporate it into your blind bail practice and your Aiming drills, as your core muscles build and engage this will just become another part of your shot cycle through muscle memory/procedural memory. And yes there will always be some input from your bow arm in the aiming process but let’s try to keep this to the barest minimum to maintain the geometry of sighting triangle we covered earlier.