Archery appears to be a low impact sport where injuries are not common. One can walk up and down the shooting line at any club or event and think most archers could use a diet. I am going to go out on a limb here and ask you some questions. How many of you have a burning pain under your shoulder blade? How about your elbow? Anyone have arthritic pain in the joints of your fingers? If you answered yes to any of these question, chances are you have a repetitive sports injury.
Archery requires a strong back and shoulder muscles to help draw, hold and steady the bow on target. This asks an archers upper body to do a lot that the body was not designed to do. Your string drawing arm, hand and shoulder repeatedly are strained drawing the bow string back, while your bow holding arm has its joints compressed together as you push outwards in the opposite direction. These motions repeated over and over again strains joints and muscles causing burning itching sensations and loss in range of motion.
So how can an archer reduce the possibilities of such injuries? By starting a light weight shoulder and back strengthening work out, along with a pre-shoot warm up consisting of stretching that can greatly improve your stability which in turn will give you better results at the range. I know what you`re thinking, “Really, you want us to do yoga and stretching before I pull my bow back?“ Well I am not saying you need to learn some crazy yoga poses, but here are some basic warm up stretches you should try. The main point in doing any of the following stretches is to hold the stretch for a count of 5 seconds and then alternate arms or sides and repeat for 5 seconds. This counts as 1 repetition. Each stretch should be done at least 5 times (5 repetitions), or more if you still feel tight.
Start off easy, rotating your head from left to right, up and down and roll your head around in circles on top of your shoulders. Next extend your arms straight out and start rotating them in small circles gradually increasing the circles in size, then in the opposite direction. See nice and easy to start, these will start to get the blood flowing to your muscles warming them up. Now let’s get into some more advanced stretches.
Praying stretch – with palms placed inwards together, rotate your fingertips upward, thumbs touching your chest and elbows out. This stretches the forearms and loosens the wrist stretching the fingers and tendons.
Reach for the Sky – palms together and fingers interlocked together starting at waist height in front of you, slowly extend your straight arms and hands over your head. When your hands reach the top rotate your wrist up and outwards facing your palms up to the sky. Hold for 5 seconds and lower back to starting position.
Alternate Side Stretch – with legs shoulder width apart, reach one hand up over your head and begin to bend at the waist. Reaching with that hand over your head stretching out all the muscles in your side, hold the pose at a comfortable position when you feel the pulling in your side. Repeat in the other direction.
Upper Torso – with both hands on the back of your head and elbows out, push your shoulder blades as if you are trying to make them touch. Now rotate your right elbow forward twisting at your hips and hold for a count of 5. Return to the start position and rotate your left elbow forward twisting at your hips.
Hugging Stretch – wrapping both arms cross your body reaching around to the back, like your hugging someone. Extend your fingertips towards the center of your back to maximize this stretch.
Elbow Grab – using the right arm reach up over your head placing the palm of the hand open on the back of the neck. Using your left hand, reach up grabbing the right elbow. Now pull the right elbow towards the left, sliding your right hand down the back of the neck onto the left shoulder blade and hold for a count of 5. Alternate sides for 5 reps.
Finger Reach – placing the right arm behind the back reaching upwards and the left arm over the back of the head facing downwards stretch to make your fingertips touch. This one is harder than the rest and you may not be able to touch your fingers together, but work on it.
Key point to remember while stretching:
- breath in and out while you stretch naturally, don’t hold your breath.
- hold each stretch for a count of 5
- repeat each stretch alternating sides or arms for 5 repetitions
- push yourself each time you stretch to go that little bit further in the stretch
Hopefully these basic stretches get you thinking and limbered up before you shoot. Most importantly develop some pre-shoot stretching routine and give it a try, I bet it improves your shooting, stability and most of all prevents you from an injury that could make you give up the sport all together.