Bow season is right around the corner. Many hunters will put a ton of energy and focus into tuning their bows, but how many ever think about tuning their body?
There are lots of muscles involved in drawing a bow; all the way from your hand grip to core strength. Archers and bow hunters should “tune” these muscles just as you would tune your equipment.
Having a strong core will keep you balanced and stable during the draw. Good posture means more consistent shots.
Your scapular and shoulder muscles are vital for holding the bow steady and maintaining the draw. The stronger these muscles are, the heavier draw you can pull.
Your chest and triceps oppose the pulling motion of the draw.
Exercises for Bow Hunting:
Open Book Stretch
This is a great stretch to get your shoulders and upper back moving, which will decrease the likelihood of shoulder injuries.
By keeping your knee on a foam roller and your belly button pointing towards your knee, you’ll be able to keep your lower back in a stable position as you open your chest. You should feel a tremendous stretch throughout your upper body. Hold the stretch for 5-10 seconds and repeat 5 times on each side.
The Romanian Deadlift will help you build strong glutes and back muscles. These are important for maintaining a steady stance. Having a stronger back and legs will also help you drag that monster buck out of the woods.
- Hold a bar at hip level with a pronated (palms facing down) grip. Your shoulders should be back, your back arched, and your knees slightly bent. This will be your starting position.
- Lower the bar by moving your butt back as far as you can. Keep the bar close to your body, your head looking forward, and your shoulders back. Done correctly, you should reach the maximum range of your hamstring flexibility just below your knee. Any further movement will be compensation and should be avoided for this exercise.
- At the bottom of your range of motion, return to the starting position by driving your hips forward to stand up tall.
- Do 3 sets of 8-10 reps.
This exercise will improve your core strength and stability. Core strength and stability are important for a healthy back, as well as for performing almost any activity.
- Position yourself perpendicular to where you are using a band. Move a couple feet away to allow for tension on the band. The band should be aligned with your mid-section.
- With your stomach tight, chest tall, and shoulders back, slowly control the band away from your body. Be sure to stay in-line with your sternum until your elbows are almost locked out. Pause for 5 seconds and return to start.
- Repeat for 5-8 repetitions. Make sure you focus on remaining tight throughout your core and controlling all motion. Turn around and do the other side.
- Keep the resistance moderate and focus on breathing and staying tight through your core.
Single Arm Dumbbell Row
The single arm row will help strengthen your middle traps and rhomboids. These are the muscles required to draw a bow.
- With your feet square and your outstretched hand on the bench, bend forward until your back is parallel to the floor.
- Straighten your back and ensure that you maintain a natural flat posture throughout the entire exercise.
- Reach down to grab the dumbbell, then immediately resume a flat neutral spine posture.
- Keep your neck neutral (this means looking down, not up, or forward).
- Keep your core muscles activated at all times.
This is a simple exercise that challenges your grip as well as your overall strength.
Before you pick up any weights, make sure that you know these loaded carry principles. The exercise might be simple, but that doesn’t mean that there’s no room for error. Focus on form and you’ll be in good shape to reap the benefits.
- “Pack” Your Shoulders: Keep your shoulders as tight as possible to improve joint stability.
- Straighten Your Back: Think of the carry as a walking plank. Keep your lower back and pelvis aligned throughout the exercise.
- Grip Hard: A tight grip increases tension in your core muscles.
- Step Lightly: A shorter stride—your feet less than 12 inches apart—gives you a stronger support base.
- Tuck Your Chin: Don’t crane your neck! Keep your ears directly over your shoulders and hips. This aligns your spine, keeping it injury-free.
- Keep Your Ribs Flat: If they flare out, you’re putting undue stress on your back. Breathe in through your nose and then forcefully out through your mouth. That helps push your ribs down and keeps your core engaged.
The benefits of these exercises are countless for bow hunters! Improving your overall strength and mobility will help make your shots more consistent, improve your ability to hunt longer, and make loading up that buck easier than ever!