Q&A The Compound Archer’s Trapezoid?

QandA logoI got this rather excellent question (questions, really) from a Level 3 Coach Candidate in Great Britain.

I am presently studying for my AGB County (Level 3) Coach. A preliminary exercise was to study the 2014 Men’s Compound World Cup Final. Both archers aligned their shoulder line parallel to the arrow line (top/rear view). My question is “why?”
Biomechanically the shoulder line and bow arm line is more efficient if they form one straight unit, bone on bone. Yet, in “Even More on Coaching Archery” in chapter 22 “The Lines of Archery,” after describing, with illustrations, the efficient shoulder/bow arm alignment you write “For compound archers, this line is generally parallel to the arrow (or a vertical plane including the arrow).” At the back of my mind I recollect that this is repeated somewhere in Archery Focus magazine with the comment that most high end compound archers adopt this stance and that it might be due to the number of arrows shot in practice with high poundage (compared to recurve) and the reduction of injury.

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So why? Why do “most” compound archers adopt a biomechanically inefficient stance, especially if they are “top end”—is there a benefit?
Is it to avoid injury, and if so what injury is being avoided?
How do we coach stance to new/intermediate archers? Are we advised to coach efficient alignment only to change when/if they progress to higher levels or start with an inefficient stance? Chapter 23 is “How Compound Bows Mislead Beginners!”
Is it just because it is so common that archers (and coaches) have not looked at the stance critically?
I am not critiquing anyone here, just curious about what appears to be an anomaly.

***

To which I responded:

Glad you noticed that compound archers don’t adopt the well-known “archer’s triangle.” This is so common I am now referring to the compound archer’s trapezoid (or parallelogram). Basically the answer to your question is “because they can.” The reason they can is because of let-off.

Almost everything with regard to how we shoot is a trade-off, that is there are pluses and minuses to everything. The archer’s triangle gives recurve archers the bracing needed to hold the bow at full draw for the second or two or three needed to make a good shot. This bracing is needed because the full draw weight of the bow is being held in that position. Compound archers, on the other hand, are holding only a small fraction of their bows “peak weight” in that position. (A Recurve archer with a 50# bow is holding 50# at full draw (or thereabouts); a compound archer with a 60# bow is holding 18# (approx.).) Consequently compound archers can adopt a more comfortable position as less “bracing” is needed.

The plus is that the comfort comes from not having to turn one’s head so far at full draw. With the shoulders being 10-13 degrees closed in the archer’s triangle, the recurve archer’s head must swivel on his neck to close to the edge of its range of motion. This creates a great deal of neck strain and contributes to instability in head position (also headaches according to some elite recurve archers I have spoken to, also mentioned in Kisik Lee’s second book, I believe).

On the minus side, since the bow arm necessarily must be coming into the bow at a steeper angle, pre-loaded handle torque is a problem. Compound archers compensate by using thin or no grip (shooting off of the riser) with nothing sticky where their hand touches the bow.

So, compound archers spend more time at full draw but because they are under less tension from the draw they can afford a more comfortable body position, even though there are trade offs. A key element to success in compound archery is the ability to be relaxed at full draw.

PS The above is the result of my own analysis, I did not read this in a book. I just saw what I saw and then looked widely at the best archers I could see and this is what they were doing. Why they were doing it was from my own personal experience and analysis (I am primarily a compound guy.).

Regarding the rest of your question:

Is it to avoid injury, and if so what injury is being avoided?

Nope, just comfort.

How do we coach stance to new/intermediate archers? Are we advised to coach efficient alignment only to change when/if they progress to higher levels or start with an inefficient stance? Chapter 23 is ‘How Compound Bows Mislead Beginners’!

This is my recommendation. Stance is a minor factor when compared to upper body alignment (as long as it is consistent). My goal with a new serious archer is to get them shooting with good upper body alignment and relaxed hands. Anything else is of lesser importance. These then must be maintained when other body alignments are explored. Commonly I am recommending a closed stance to recurve archers who are struggling to get that good alignment. They tend to adopt an open stance because they are told that is “correct” but the open stance shortens draw length making it harder to get in line. The popularity of the open stance in Olympic Recurve dates back to Pace and McKinney (whose stances were then copied by the Koreans and have since become dogma). Those two were so flexible that they could swing their elbows several inches past line, which was not conducive to consistency, so they opened their stances making it harder to reach line and thus made it easier to feel when they had. Beginners with open stances are almost never in line. I close their stances, they get in line, and later they can play with other stances (although there is nothing wrong with the closed stance).

There are no inefficient stances, maybe ineffective ones. The open stance is being recommended because it requires the archer to twist back against it to create torsion in the trunk making the archer’s “shooting platform” less susceptible to wind etc. This alone tells you that the open stance fights against good alignment.

Is it just because it is so common that archers (and Coaches) have not looked at the stance critically? I am not critiquing anyone here, just curious about what appears to be an anomaly,

It is common that coaches who are experts about Recurve give advice to Compound archers and vice-versa. Sometimes this is based upon, shall we say, less than complete information. But, you’ll have to answer this one yourself. My “two cents worth” is that there is little serious discussion about shooting between and among coaches. I am trying to change this by creating a professional literature for archery coaches. To that end I am soliciting top archery coaches to write books to share their knowledge so that questions like the ones you ask become more common, leading to those more serious discussions.

Feel free to shoot back any further questions you have.

Your friend in archery,
Steve

 

 

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