Parallel Shafts and Barreled Shafts: Same Centershot or Different?

I was recently asked by a Recurve student about whether barreled shafts should be set up the same as parallel shafts with regard to centershot. He commented that some expert archers are saying barreled shafts should be lined up with the string (actually the string plane) but parallel shafts should be lined up with the point peeked out from behind the string (the “standard” recommendation for “fingers” shooters). So which way should barreled shafts be set up?

I answered “yes.”

Having the arrow point peeking out from behind the string is the traditional setup position. Let’s look at this. The reason that the arrow point is set up outboard from the string plane is because when a finger shooter releases the string, the string slides off of the fingers (actually the string pushes the fingers out of the way, but “action-reaction” applies: as the string pushes the fingers away, the fingers push the string away). Since the fingers curl in toward the archer’s head, the string slides toward the archer slightly as it slides toward the bow. The bow pulls the string back toward the string plane as it pulls the string back toward the bow and the string slides over to be inside the plane of the bow and then back outside. The nock separates from the string when the string is at a peak in this sideways oscillation (away from the bow, similar to where it started), at least if it is properly tuned it does. The force on the arrow from the string is directed mostly down the shaft and by having the arrow point slightly outboard of the theoretical string plane, then the point end and nock end of the arrow are aligned when the arrow separates from the string. This results in the force being more down the line of the shaft (in which direction the shaft is very strong) and not sideways (in which it is weaker). Force that goes into the arrow oscillation/flexing doesn’t move it toward the target. If you want to see this in action, there is a YouTube video in which a bloke shot a weak arrow with ever stronger bows and the amount of side-to-side bending gets extreme, almost bizarre, before on the final shot (weak arrow-strong bow) the arrow shatters from the side force. (Note: this is why a spine match is so important for “fingers” archers.)

The traditional arrow rest/centershot position for a “fingers” archer. The string has to be visually centered on the riser to get this view.

The argument goes that a barreled shaft is thinner toward the point and when it slides forward to the central thicker section, it moves the arrow point out to the left (for a RHed archer) anyway, so starting from that position gives you twice as much offset and a misaligned force going down the string.

So, is this right?
Yes, sort of … the arrow at brace is sitting fairly close to the thicker center section and so this position is built in, it doesn’t sit with the thinner part on the arrow rest in the position the centershot is set in. When the arrow is drawn, the thinner part slides in toward the bow.

Does it make any difference?
Probably not … for most archers … here’s why.

The position of the arrow rest, which determines the position of the arrow when it is sitting on the arrow rest (the so-called centershot position), is a setup position. When a bow is initially set up, you put things as close to where they will be when the bow is tuned as you can. Why start with wild setup positions which will make tuning that much harder? But since those final positions are determined a great deal by your technique, there is no way to specify exactly what they will be without you participating. So, the described positions are positions that seem to be closefor most archers.

The final position of the arrow rest … and the nocking point, and the brace height, and myriad other settings on a recurve bow should all be determined by tuning tests. If your arrow rest is set so the arrow point peeks out from behind the string (when viewed properly: from behind with the string and limbs free) and you think you might benefit from having the arrow lined up in the string plane because you shoot barreled shafts, then by all means test this out.

Be sure to document your bow before you make any changes. Then measure something that determines the quality of your shots (group size, practice round scores, etc.) and then change the centershot and test again. If these metrics improve, keep the change. If they do not or things get worse, set it back to the position you began with.

Realize that elite archers know their equipment better than most archers. They may have starting positions they use for their bows that are very, very close to what they will be when tuned in. Most archers need to learn more before they will know what to expect, so minute information gathered from the elites is probably of not much value.

Also realize that there are many, many variables involved in tuning a recurve bow to a high level: nocking point, string material, string diameter, serving diameter, nock size, the archer’s tab, the brace height, the limb alignment, the stabilizers, nock size, … <pant, pant, pant> … , the quality of the limbs/riser, the button position, the button pressure, … , as I said, myriad things affect the tune. Interestingly, a good basic set up of a recurve bow gets you 90-95% of the way to where you will be at the end. Tuning takes a great deal of time and a great deal of effort for that last 5-10% of performance. We are saved because of a basic rule which is: you can’t tune any better than you shoot, so for most archers, little tuning is needed. Since the elites shoot so well, they have to tune the heck out of their bows. They are, after all, looking for the last fraction of a percent of the performance they can get from their equipment and the law of diminishing returns applies.

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The “Talent” Question

I posted my opinions on talent recently (Do You Believe in … on July 8) and have been engaged in a lively debate with a number of you regarding that claim. There seems to be some misunderstanding. I was specifically addressing the existence, or rather the nonexistence, of specific talents, such as a talent for archery, or a talent for chess, or the violin. There is no doubt that people have advantages of the body and mind over others when it comes to any particular sport. In fact, I will be so bold to say that participation levels are high enough that at the elite level we see specific body types and mentalities being selected out. If you have, say, genetic physical advantages and you participate, you will experience more success, which can create greater encouragement, which can lead to higher levels of accomplishment. Fifty years ago, no college football offense linemen were over 300 pounds in weight. Now it seems they all are. This did not happen by chance.

As another example, when I was interested in swimming, most swimmers were of middle height. Today, you will find successful swimmers who are much taller and thus benefit from a longer power stroke. If one seriously considers the physiological advantages of a swimmer like Michael Phelps, you can see huge advantages built into his body. Now, if he had been born on a desert planet (Arrakis?), he would have never developed that “talent,” which is my point: what we call generally call talents are actually just high levels of accomplishment.

There is something called the relative age effect. I have written about this with regard to the age groupings of youth sports, including archery. If you break youth competitive groups down into two-year groups, for example, you will soon discover that kids who were born slightly after the start date have an advantage. Let’s say the starting date for the age groups is July 1. If a youth were born on June 30th, he/she would be one day into his/her twelfth year during their first year of any cycle. If they were born on July second, they would be considered to be almost one whole year younger than they really are for that whole year. (They would be an eleven-year old on July 1 and for the rest of the year.) This is a tremendous advantage. Twelve year olds that are twelve plus one day would be competing against kids who were twelve plus 364 days, essentially a thirteen-year old.

This played out in a study of European professional soccer clubs. All or virtually all of the players on the teams at the time of the study benefited from the relative age effect. Since they were older and stronger than their competitors in their age groups, they got more playing time, more encouragement, and experienced more success, or so the story goes.

These are not kids who have more talent, these are kids who are stronger and faster and better because they are older. A 13-year old is 9% older than a twelve-year old in the extreme. These athletes are parlaying their natural “gifts” into success on the playing field, and these successes can play out long term.

So, an athlete’s physical and mental attributes play a role, a role so large that we are seeing elite performances being made by people with advantageous body types, but who also are almost (or actually) obsessed with their sports. I can remember a time when a farm kid or high school kid could take some special training and end up on an Olympic team, even winning a medal. I can remember when female gymnastics were grown women. These situations do not occur any more because of the artificial selection process. Female gymnasts got shorter and shorter and lighter and lighter which were all advantages in their sport. To get the lightest, fittest athletes, they had to be younger and younger, to the point that officials finally put an age minimum on competitors.

You can’t put a limit on effort, however, so the obsessed athletes are putting up numbers that in order to be competitive with them must be matched by equal levels of obsession by the others in their sport. Athletes train year-round for their sport, their countries support them while doing this, so if you want to compete, you, too, have to train year around.

This is artificial selection, not natural selection. What is being selected are genetic benefits and mental abilities, and not inborn or god-given abilities to perform a certain sport or other activity. If you want to learn more about this I recommend the book The Sports Gene (highly readable).


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The Art of the Possible (Score)

Okay, so I am addicted to watching videos of golf coaches coaching. This is because videos of archery coaches coaching are not available. In a recent viewing Golf Coach Hank Haney said that one can establish a “Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda” golf round score by subtracting all of the big mistakes (penalty strokes, two-chips/two-pitches, etc., and three putts). This provides you with a score that is closer to your potential that what the scorecard actually said.

This practice applies to archery score cards, also. Take a look at a typical score card. On a, say, ten point scoring face, there might be mostly 10s, 9s, 8s, and 7s, but an occasional “flier.” Take all of the sub-seven arrows scores and turn them into 7s (this being your “normal low scoring arrow”). So, if there was a three, add four points to make it a seven. If a five, add two; if a two add five. When you are done, you will end up with a score that is closer to your potential score than what the scorecard actually said.

The point being, if you can eliminate your mistakes (or reduce them to a very small number, 1-2 per round) you will be shooting that score or very close to it. I went through a similar process in my NFAA field archery days. Through one long summer, I shot many practice field rounds with the goal of elimination all target scores under 18. (This is a 5, 5, 4, 4 minimum on those targets.) I did not chug along on this rounds and mumble “no low scores” or no “17s” like the Little Engine That Could, I just focused on shooting good shots and when I failed to hit that score goal of 18/20 on a target, I disassembled that end in mental replay to try to figure out what went wrong. (In almost every case it was a breakdown in mental focus, if you wanted to know … my mind wanders ferociously … as if you couldn’t tell!) The idea is to eliminate low scoring shots, or “working from the bottom end.” This can be a very helpful approach when coupled with “working from the top end” which is working to shoot excellent shots over and over.

One of the things I noticed when doing those rounds was if I shot a couple of fours early, then I became very conscious of “trying” to shoot the remaining shots as fives. This is, of course, not conducive to shooting fives, but it educated me as to the feeling of “trying” when I just wanted to execute good shots. I started to learn to shake off that feeling and get into a clean shot process. I also saw that my “misses” became smaller and smaller as I practiced this way. A great many things can be learned from a stint of working from the bottom end upward.

So, help your students see what is possible from where they are now. Too many are pessimistic about their scoring ability while too many others are overly optimistic. The optimistic ones need to see that even their “coulda, woulda, shoulda score” would not have won and the pessimists need to see where they would have placed had they shot their “coulda, woulda, shoulda score.”

Note This is my 279th post on this blog. That’s a whole lot of free advice! If you are grateful, think about buying one of my books (Steve Ruis on Amazon) or subscribing to Archery Focus magazine ( As you may know I am a retired schoolteacher, so I can use the money! :o)


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Do You Believe In … ?

Do you believe that there is a perfect shooting technique out there? And, if you mastered that technique you would automatically become a very, very good archer? There seems to be a fair number of archers and coaches who seem to believe this.

As a sport, and maybe representative of the wider culture, we also tend to believe in “talent,” that some people are born with a hard-wired ability to do . . . something. Otherwise, how do we explain young people who have abilities far beyond their years. While we do not deny that people have various physical and mental abilities, there is no evidence for this opinion that stands up to scrutiny. I tend to think it is a manifestation of our own ego protection at work. If that athlete just beat the stuffing out of me, it must be because he has a “natural gift” I was not given (aka It was not my fault!). It is harder to admit the truth: the other athlete prepared better, worked harder, or was just at a higher level of performance that you are currently.

This is the pernicious aspect of a belief in talent, if you believe you either have “it” or you don’t, what becomes of striving to get better?

A belief that there is some magical technique, is also akin to a belief in talent. It is not helpful and it is not based upon any evidence. If you believe that there is some essentially correct technique, the farther from which you get the poorer your performance as an archer will be, you are on the wrong path.

Ask yourself:

  • Is there any other sport in which this is the case?
  • If there were such a technique, should we not have found it by now? (People still argue about the “right” and “wrong” ways to do things.)
  • Do champions show a conformity of technique? Since they are performing the best, they must have technique closest to the ideal.

What I Suggest
Al Henderson, one of the U.S.’s greatest coaches, is reported to have told archers that “the key is to do it wrong over and over again exactly the same way.” I do not recommend one deliberately seek out how to “do it wrong,” but I do believe there is a process and it doesn’t involve a quest for “doing it right.”

Technique is Important, Everybody Needs One An archer’s technique is something he/she develops over time. It is never exactly the same as anyone else’s.

The Farther You Are from Your True Technique, the Harder It Is to Learn It If you insist on a form element or an execution step that is suboptimal for you, you will incur a training penalty in that it will take more effort and time to learn. Once this step is learned, though, there is no evidence that it is any less effective than some other step. There could be a score penalty for doing things that are far from optimal, but experience tells us that many archers can succeed having quite unusual form, so this has not been demonstrated in fact.

Learn Your Shot and Then Own It So, a budding serious competitive archer needs to find a shot, specifically his/her shot. Then, through repetition, they have to own that shot. Once they have gotten that far, there is a continuous improvement stage in which minor adjustments are made from time to time: in equipment, execution, and form, but these are small compared to the initial effort to learn and own a shot.

Technique, Like Talent, Is Not Given, It Is Learned The process is one of exploration to find what works and doesn’t work. Clearly what works is something close to what everyone else is doing, hence the idea of “standard” or “textbook” form. But occasionally, what everyone else is doing turns out to be suboptimal. The example of high jumping technique comes to mind. Everyone used to jump looking at the bar. Now everyone jumps looking up away from the bar.

In an article about David Vincent, an prodigious baseball statistics creator, especially with regard to home runs, an observer commented “Like many so-called stat geeks, Mr. Vincent was obsessed. His computer skills were a necessary entry point, but unless this subject drives you, you won’t spend time doing it.”

Bingo. Young archers who demonstrate talent are driven, by love of the sport, or love of the attention it creates, or. . . . Part of this drive surely is rooted in success. If one tries, and fails repeatedly, enthusiasm rarely survives.

This was so important that an early motto for youth archery programs was “early participation, early success.” What this meant was to get a bow into a prospective archer’s hands, then shooting at large targets set at short distances to ensure some measure of early success. A new archer having to shoot at 20 yd/m or longer will probably do well to hit the ground with his/her arrows and more than likely not be inclined to come back. (“I tried that but I was not good at it.”) Such a “conclusion” comes well before any skill has been achieved that could be the basis for success on “normal” ranges, so “big targets, up close” became the watchword for beginning archery programs.

The phrase “unless this subject drives you, you won’t spend time doing it” is key. Talent is built, not something one possess. This takes time, time on task. Something about the sport has to supply the energy needed to come back for more. Channeling that energy into some ballet-like search for perfect technique is counterproductive.


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Barebow Arrow Considerations

There is an upsurge in interest in Barebow, both Recurve and Compound. (Yeah!) This is accompanied by increased levels of confusion regarding the role the arrow plays in the ability to shoot consistently.

Since there are many Barebow aiming variations (gap shooting, “instinctive” shooting, string walking, face walking, etc.) I am going to hop over these variations (all of which create tuning issues) and move to the heart of the matter: aiming off of the point.

Aiming Off of the Point
Using the arrow point as an aiming support brings many advantages and a few disadvantages. One disadvantage is it makes draw length even more crucial. For example, consider that the nock end of the arrow is below the aiming eye and the sightline. The line of sight being even with the arrow point means that the arrow is slanting upward (as it is with other styles, of course). Now, if you draw your bow a bit too far, the arrow slides back and downward lowering the arrow point, causing you to raise your bow up to get the point back to the sightline. Drawing your bow a bit long results in high arrow hit points in that you’ve made the bow a tad stronger, but raising the bow also contributes to high arrow hit points, so this “positive feedback” results in larger errors. Similarly, a short drawn bow, results in the arrow sticking out and up farther, which results in you lowering the bow, another double whammy! (This effect is prominent for longbow and recurve archers, less so for compound archers.)

Aiming off of the point makes draw length control particularly crucial. On the plus side it provides amplified feedback in that regard and so may contribute to better draw length control. There are many other aspects of aiming off the point we leave to your further investigation.

The Effect of Arrow Length
The effects of variations in draw length can be made permanent by choosing a shorter or longer arrow. A longer arrow will result in a lower hold of the bow. A shorter arrow will result in a higher hold. So, for indoor targets, a longer arrow can be an advantage. Indoors, the distances are so short that most bows are over-powered. This results in points of aim (POA) being very low, off of the target face and maybe on the floor where there are few visual clues as to where the POA is. We would like to have a POA on the target face as a face provides many visual cues as to the POA’s location (e.g. a POA at 12 o’clock in the 5-ring). So, for indoors, most people favor a longer arrow. This cause the hold to be lower and the POA higher. Since the length of the arrow is one of the largest aspects affecting the tune, a stiffer shaft has to be chosen to compensate for the extra length.

Outdoors, the distances are much larger, and bows tend to be under-powered. Here a shorter shaft provides a higher hold, a lower POA, and more cast, but we need a weaker shaft so we can cut it as short as we can.

We accept as a given that one’s form will be more consistent when the arrow is near level than when the bow is held with the arrow slanted way up or way down. So, the closer you can create a setup, for you or your student, that is near that situation, the better.

Arrow selection is not a simple matter of just checking a manufacturer’s spine chart and selecting the shaft closest to the characteristics your archer possesses (DW and DL and bow type). In most spine charts, the entire row of choices determined by the DW are available to you. Limited only by arrows that are too short (as they are dangerous). Here is a row from a simplified spine chart:

Compound Bow

21˝ 22˝ 23˝ 24˝ 25˝ 26˝ 27˝ 28˝ 29˝ 30˝ 31˝ 32˝ Recurve Bow
29-35 lb 1214 1214 1413 1416 1516 1713 1716 1813/
1913 2013/

17-23 lb

Assuming this is the correct DW row, if the archer’s draw length is 24˝ AMO, a 1413 aluminum arrow is recommended. Shorter shafts are possible, but remember the arrow point is typically only about 1.75˝ ahead of the arrow rest at full draw, so a 1214 shaft could be used, cut to 23˝ but I wouldn’t go shorter. Other choices are: the entire rest of the row:
a 1416 shaft, cut to 25˝
a 1516 shaft, cut to 26˝
a 1713 shaft, cut to 27˝
a 1716 shaft, cut to 28˝
a 1813/1816 shaft, cut to 29˝
a 1913 shaft, cut to 30˝
a 2013/1916 shaft, cut to 31˝
a 2013/1916, cut to 32˝

All of these shafts and cut lengths should produce arrows of comparable performance. Keep in mind this is not this simple. As we move across this table row, the arrow shafts are getting heavier and we are losing cast thereby. (There are other issues, but this post is too long already.) All parameters in a spine chart, therefore, need to be taken with a grain of salt and if you desire to experiment with different length arrows, always (Always!) start with a longer shaft and cut it down in stages, testing for tune as you go (a bare shaft test is all that is necessary).

A Note Regarding Young Archers
Archers who haven’t achieved full growth probably should not play around with these ideas. For one, they are still growing and as their height increases, so does their draw length. Ordinarily I like to have at least 1˝–2˝ of extra length on their arrows just for safety (and the ability to shorten the shaft to get a better tune as they grow). These youngsters are better off working on their fitness and shooting form and execution than fiddling with equipment to get a slight advantage.

If a youngster, however, is having trouble “making distance,” the problem may be exacerbated by an arrow that is too long. I have seen some sticking out more than 5˝ past the back of the bow. In this case, a better fitting, resulting in a shorter arrow should help.


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The Ins and Outs of Bow Presses

If you want to be a compound coach, do you need a bow press or at least need to know how to use one? I think the answers are “yes” and “yes.” Compound bows were invented before the bow press. In those early days (the 1970s and 80s), it was the practice that to work on a compound bow, you slacked the string and cables or even dismantled it by backing out the limb bolts. This was a clumsy process which could be dangerous and, for one, screwed up any chance of finding your previous bow setup and tune accurately.

For those of you not in the know, compound bows use mechanical advantage to bend very stiff limbs, very short distances. In those early days, again, there were even kits to convert recurve bows into compounds: they involved cutting off the recurve sections and bolting on wheel hangers, etc. These bows, even without their springy limb tips were invariably weaker than purpose made compound bows, which used much heavier limbs (over 100 pounds of deflection force at a minimum).

Technicians in shops and manufacturers responsible for assembly, repair, and adjustment of these bows quickly realized the need for a device such as a bow press and voila!

The photo shows a couple of common modern designs, the yellow one was designed for older bows, the other for more modern bows. The yellow one worked until the past decade or so. The bow was placed so that the limbs rested on the outer rubber rollers, which were adjustable to make a correct gap between them. Then a winch pulled the riser, which was hanging below, downward, causing the limb tips to bend closer to one another, slackening the string and cables (see photo at bottom). The original presses were more like the yellow one, but they involved a single center pull (at the pivot point of the bow). It only took a few dozen bent or cracked risers (they were wood or cast, not forged, aluminum then) to suggest the improvement of having a double pull (note the two central rubber wheels on the yellow press), this perfecting the design.

That design lasted until compound bow’s evolved toward what are called “parallel limb” designs. These bows have limbs that are parallel to one another or even past that point. The original design of bow press no longer worked because the limbs didn’t stick out far enough to get bent; the bow just pulled through the outside rollers!

The other bow press has “fingers” that approach the limb tips on both sides of the eccentric on both ends of the bow (see detail left). Then a screw drive (powered or manual) brings those two ends of the bow closer together, getting the job done. This new type of press will work on newer and older style bows as long as the bow is short enough to fit between the fingers! In the early days of compound bows, the bows weren’t short like they are now. Instead of 30˝-38˝ axle-to-axle bows as are currently in vogue, they had 48˝, even up to 54˝, axle-to-axle bows. Modern bow press manufacturers are unlikely to make their presses accommodating of these very long compounds as so few still exist.

This press was my first press. I still have it as I have quite a few older bows.

Danger! Danger, Will Robinson!
Using a bow press is inherently dangerous, so be sure to get a seasoned veteran of their use show you how to use one. The forces involved are great (hundreds of pounds of force) and, trust me, if you make a big mistake, changing your underwear will be the least of your worries.





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Apertures: Pin or No Pin?

I got a question from Carole, who asked: “What are your thoughts on using a sight with a pin in the center (recurve sight) compared to one without a pin, just a tunnel? I have read that the human brain is excellent at centering a circle and wondered if it would be more ‘natural’ to allow the brain to center the sight on the gold and therefore more relaxed on the eye?  I have used both and (think) I prefer without the pin, but am interested in your opinion.”

* * *

Okay, here’s my opinion. I think the jury is still out on this one, so I would call it a matter of personal preference at this point. By all means, do try both types, noting how each affects your sighting (mentally as well as physically).

The same question comes up on the compound side in the form of having a central pin (usually fiber optic) or just an applied ring on one’s scope lens. (There are commercial sets of decals for application to the scope surface with various thickness and colors of loops.)

The orange ring is to make the scope housing more visible (it is centered in the peep hole to collimate the aim). My preference is for a thicker loop a bit larger than the decal shown here and bright green in color (see text).

My thinking at this point (remember this is premature as we have almost no real information on this topic, just opinions) is it depends on the kind of person you are. Using me as an example: I am a bit easily distracted, a bit shaky, and a bit nervous. I find the loops preferable for the following reasons: a small pin looks more jittery than a larger loop, which leads me to press to try to be more steady, which makes my steadiness worse, not better. One must relax into a clam state of steadiness, not “try.”

I use a bright green, thick, fairly large loop decal on my compound scopes. Green is not a color that shows up on target faces much so a good deal of contrast is there. The thicker loop makes it easier to see, the larger loop avoids a problem with small loops, namely that as target sizes change with distance, if you have a small loop, you can be floating around in the middle not knowing where you are. Take a Metric of American 900 Round. At 30 yards/meters, a small loop may only show you gold on the 122 cm multi-color target. So, where in the gold are you? Do you look for the dividing line between the 10-and 9-rings? Do you move around, looking for the edge? Similarly, if the entire gold, or center spot whatever the color, barely fits inside the loop, there is a tendency to try to fit it exactly which leads to over focusing on aiming too precise to sustain.

A large loop allows several rings or a smaller central spot to float in the middle of the loop using the brain’s automatic centering function to your benefit. (This function is hardwired into our brains. It is used for distance estimation and other functions and it is normal for most all people.)

Here’s a scope with a fiber optic dot in the middle.

On the recurve size, I prefer a larger loop than the commercially available ones that seem a bit small to me. (They are easy enough to make and I also paint the front edge bright green.)

So, when you try these options, in the back of your mind (that’s a metaphor, not literal suggestion) keep track of whether your aperture helps you to feel calm. In my case, the thick green ring helps me locate the loop in my visual field easily, in all lighting conditions, shows little perceived motion when aiming which provides a perception of steadiness, which then leads to relaxing a somewhat jumpy archer. If you, on the other hand, are rock steady, mentally calm person, you may find a pin easiest to line up with your point of aim.

The famous Beiter Sight Tunnel offers a square housing (to supply visual cues as to whether the recurve bow is being held vertically, and a plethora of “pins” inside the housing … or you can just use no insert for a circular opening.

It doesn’t hurt to try a number of variations to see what works best for you. Pin, no pin. Small loop, big loop. Different colors of loops. This doesn’t all have to happen at once (unless you are hyper-competitive), but over time, these are things to “give a try” at.

PS This is also wrapped up in another discussion: should you be looking at the bow sights aperture or the target. Both will not be in focus at the same time. That question is for another time.


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What Do President Obama and The Most Interesting Man in The World Have in Common?


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Line Control for and Coaching the Hearing Impaired

I got a question in the form of a comment on a previous post and because I don’t think you spend a lot of time going back to previous posts and reading the comments, I decided to make a post on just that question. The question was “What about deaf/hearing impaired archery? I’ve received inquiries from a deaf potential archer, and I have no idea how to deal with things like line safety (can’t hear whistles or “clear” calls) and communication during coaching. Are there any resources that I can use to help here?”

* * *

The only thing I have heard is the use of flags instead of whistles. The timekeeper stands at the end of the line and raises a green flag to begin shooting. With 30 seconds left to go, a yellow flag is waived. At the end of the end a red flag is waived. I bought a string of decorative plastic pennants on eBay (see photo), cut the triangular flags off and collected the green, yellow and red ones. These can be taped to an old arrow to make quite a good set of flags for this purpose.

They may be cheesy, but they are also cheap. (Hey, that’s important to me.)

If there are left-handed archers, you will need a “flag person” at each end of the line to be perfectly fair.

I have not heard of any other accommodation although there are timing systems that use colored lights (from computer screens to reused traffic lights) that are used in competitions. That, of course, does not help in practice situations if you do not have such a system.

With regard to coaching, the only thing I could think of is that they would have to bring someone along who could sign the conversations needed. Lip reading is a possibility, but the hearing impaired also can have a problem with speaking.

There are resources on the Internet. Here is one:



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Getting Serious: Should I Recommend Physical Training?

At some point, every archer considers getting serious about archery. It is perfectly okay, of course, for them to stick with “just flinging arrows,” after all it is fun! It is also okay for them to explore the idea of becoming a serious competitive archer. Dreams of being at the Olympics are one thing, doing it quite another. They do not have to go “all in,” they can just give it a try, if they want to.

We have taught you our use of the terms “recreational archer” and competitive archer.” They basically cover the categories of archers who shoot just for fun (only for fun!) and those who want to learn how to compete and do well. Serious competitive archers are those who want to learn how to win.

And it is really easy to decide if they are cut out to become serious about their archery, it all comes down to whether or not they are willing to do the boring parts. This is one of those parts: becoming archery strong.

Just What Do They Mean by “Get Stronger?”
If a student-archer comes up to you and says “I need to get stronger,” what are you going to say? They do need guidance because they can waste a lot of time trying to “get strong” only to find out that what they are doing hurts their archery.

Archery is known as a “low arousal” sport. Basically that means archers do not want to get “pumped up” or really excited like one does while playing football. Archery is a repetition sport that requires archers to so the same thing over and over as precisely as possible. Because of that their basic physical platform is a body that uses as few muscles as possible with the rest being relaxed. Sure, they need to be able to stand up and stand steady, calmly, but they do not need immensely strong legs or arms, for example. These are things football linemen need in their strength profile but not archers. Archers do not need big biceps, either. These would get in the way of folding their draw arms at the elbow.

Well, what does need to be strong? You can figure this out by just walking mentally through an archery shot.

In order to be still and clam at full draw (for consistency’s sake), the foundation is a strong bow shoulder and a strong set of back muscles, primarily those needed to swing their draw shoulder around toward their spine. If you aren’t up on archery musculature, try this: stand up and hold your arms straight out to your sides. Now try to swing both arms on an horizontal arc so they would meet behind your back. Don’t worry, we don’t think even a contortionist can do this. You can bring your hands together in front of you, but you can only get so far when you swing your arms back. This is because the muscles responsible for this motion exist between and underneath your shoulder blades. They can contract (all muscles ever do is contract or relax) only so far and then … you stop. When you get to this awkward position you will feel those muscles, in the middle of your back, bunched up (that is contracted as far as they may be). Now you know which one’s we are talking about.

Many people think you need strong arms to be an archer but that turns out to be not true. In addition to those back muscles, you need strong upper arm muscles to hold your bow up. These are called the deltoid muscles (because they are shaped a bit like a Greek letter delta, D). If you stand up again and wrap your right hand around the very top of your left arm, then raise your left arm, you will feel those muscles harden (aka contract).

Archers can start on an “archery fitness program” by making these two sets of muscles stronger. There is more, much more, but they are just getting started getting stronger.

Building the Bow Arm Raisers
All archery exercises are the same for left-handers as well as right-handers. This is because we want to keep their bodies “balanced,” meaning the muscles on the left side are in as good a shape as those on the right side. So, all exercises that use just some side of the body are doubled: after you do one side, you repeat with the other.

Building Deltoid Strength The easiest way to build your ability to hold a bow up and steady is what are called “side raises” using a hand weight. You hold the hand weight to your side with your arm hanging straight down. You raise your arm until it is horizontal and then lower it back. That is “one repetition” of the exercise.

The amount of weight should not be great at the start. You should be able to do 10 repetitions (fairly slowly, do not rush) without getting very tired. Then you switch arms, and do 10 more. That is called one set. The goal is to get to three sets for this exercise. If you can’t get close to repeating this another two times, you have too much weight. Use less weight. If you whip right through and don’t feel it at all, you have too little weight, add more.

Hand Weights You do not need to run out and buy a set of dumbbells, even though that is what a dumbbell set was designed for. The reason you don’t want to rush out and get the “proper equipment” is that you haven’t passed the boredom test yet (see below). If you get bored and quit after a couple of days, what are you going to do with those stupid dumbbells? (They will become “stupid” because their existence will say ‘failure” to you every time you see them. This is why so much exercise equipment ends up in the garage … out of sight.)

If you have a plastic milk jug, you have all you need. Rinse it out and then fill it all of the way up with water. Put the cap on. You now have an 8-pound hand weight. (And it even has a handle!) This is too much for this exercise, we suggest you start with it about one eighth full (a 1-pound hand weight). Put a mark half way up the side of the jug, that is four pounds. Half way up to that mark is two pound and the water reaching up only about half way to that mark is one pound. (It doesn’t have to be exact.)

If you wear out this jug, it is time to get a set of dumbbells.

Building Your Bow String Puller
There is an axiom in training that says “the best exercise is the activity itself.” Why try to simulate the activity with exercise equipment? You got the real thing right there.

There are two approaches to building your back muscles using a bow. And for simplicities sake we will be giving directions for a recurve bow, but this applies to compounds and longbows, too. The two approaches are to draw a heavier drawing bow for exercise or to draw your bow and hold it in drawn position for a longer time. Which you choose to do depends on whether you have the necessary equipment (a heavier drawing bow).

Heavier Bow Drawing You can make a facsimile of a heavier bow but tying stretch tubing along side the bow string and then pulling the bow plus the tubing. Some archers have even practice drawing two light drawing bows at the same time. (We do not recommend this as accidents are too likely to occur.)

If you do have to have a “heavier” bow it must only be slightly heavier (2#-5#). If your regular bow is a 24# bow, trying to pull a 44# bow will be defeating.

Always draw with your absolute best form, hold, and let down. (Letting down is better than shooting this bow as it exercises the muscles involved even more.) A set of 10 of these is the first goal. Later we would like to get to three sets of 10.

Reversals If you have no “heavier bow scenario” you can create there is the exercise called “reversals” (why we do not know). You start with your bow (no arrow) and you draw and hold for a count of, say 3, then you let down. A set of 10 of these is the first goal. Later we would like to get to three sets of 10.

When the task gets easy, you expand the number of seconds of hold time (one thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three, …). Elite archers have been known to get up to 30 second holds!

When to Do These Exercises
It is best to exercise on a regular schedule. Possibly every other day would be best for now as that gives their muscles time for R and R (recovery and repair). All exercise that stress muscles enough that cause them to grow in responce creates some damage along the process. Repair of this damage is an ordinary function, but it takes some time. Go at it too hard and too often, and bigger injuries will happen. If they are working on both of these exercise, they can leap frog them, first one, then the next day the other, then back to the first. This pattern is what body builders use. On one day they work out their back and legs, on the next they work out their arms and chest, etc.

Set yourself a regular time, like before bed time, or whatever to make it easy to remember to do your archery exercises. You can even do them while watching TV or videos on your computer, but you cannot get so distracted you are not focussed on doing the exercises with proper form.

How to Evaluate Their Progress
So, if they try something like this and they are just bored to tears they will just stop doing these exercises. (You know this. We’ll bet that at one time in your life you obtained a piece of exercise equipment and now it is out in the garage or under a blanket somewhere.) So, now they know. And so do you. Right now they are not a competitive archer. This does not mean they will never be one, they just aren’t one right now.

They can still go to competitions . . . for fun, but not with a goal of winning or placing.

If, however, they can do these exercises, or similarly dull ones, and do not give up and are buoyed up by the idea of becoming a better archer, then they may just well be a serious competitive archer. Whether they will remain one is another simple test: can they make enough progress to feel they are getting better and the “better” they are getting to is good enough to meet their goals.

There are general principles underneath all AER archery instruction. If you are working with youths, remember that we suggest it is not a good idea for 8-, 9-, and 10-year olds concentrating on just one sport. We think they need to explore. If they find nothing they love more than archery, good! If they find something they love more than archery, that is good, too! We also think participation in just one sport isn’t good physically. Think about combining archery and soccer/football. In soccer, they are running, running, running and not using their upper bodies. In archery, they at most walk, and are heavily using their upper bodies. What a great combination! And each sport supports doing the other.

If you do recommend physical training, remember that this is a test and if as a result of their trying, they did not like the experience, deciding they would rather just shoot for fun, they did not fail the test! Do not think less of them. They may decide differently in six months or a year and even if they don’t it doesn’t say anything about them as a person that they did not want to get all serious about archery.

We just can’t take everything they find to be fun and turn it inro a job!




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