Does My Stance Affect My Head Position?

QandA logoCoach,
I have a question: how does the foot stance affect your ability to rotate your head into a good position for shooting. I’ve been thinking about this and it seemed to me a closed stance can limit the head rotation. Taken to an extreme closed position it would inhibit your ability to rotate your head, having to look over your bow shoulder, not that you’d shoot from a stance like that. The trade off is that a closed stance has been key to getting good alignment into my shot.


The stance can indeed affect the position of the head but turn your thinking around. The arrow needs to point at target center (it needs to be in or very near a plane going through target center because if launched at an angle to that plane, it will only get farther and farther away from that plane as it flies and will never hit the center. But if the arrow is in that plane, where is the archer? Answer: standing beside it. The Archer’s Triangle is an attempt to describe that position. For bracing, the bow arm and shoulders form one continuous line. The upper draw arm comprises a second leg of the “triangle” and the archer’s forearm is roughly in line with the arrow, the two making the third leg of the “triangle.” The archer’s draw side forearm is ideally pointed at the grip of the bow as that is where the force is directed, so it is not in perfect line with the arrow.

Stabilizer + V BarsNow, whatever happens below the shoulders must not disturb this arrangement. Please note that the head is on the opposite side of the shoulders from the stance (ahem). So, head position should not be affected by stance. But many archers open their stances to relieve neck strain, or to see around the frame of their glasses, or to get string clearance (female archers especially) or, or…. This is a mistake, because the only way opening one’s stance can relieve the strain on the neck, etc. is for the shoulders to move out of line with the bow arm (taking the head with them).

At full draw the arrow points to the target, the shoulders are at about a 10-13 degree angle closed to the arrow/target plane. The head normally can only get about 45 degrees or so turned on the shoulders, so … this is the problem. A lot of stretching (both directions) is necessary to increase the range of motion in one’s head (I have commissioned an article in Archery Focus on just that topic which I hope is forthcoming).

My argument is that if the shoulders are 10-13 degrees closed to the target plane/arrow line, then a good place to start is with the shoulders directly above hips, knees, ankles, etc., so a 10-13 degree closed stance supports the shoulders being in their proper position with no contortions required. Later, one can experiment with other stances, so long as they do not adversely affect what is happening at the shoulder level. If you look at the NTS elite archers, their stances are wide open to the target line (even more so relative to their shoulder lines) … and their shoulders are closed (as needed). They have learned to do this and prepared their bodies to do this. This creates a more stable shooting platform (better in the wind, for sure) but if your stance negatively affects your upper body geometry, you have sold something dear for something cheap. Having good alignment is a core basic requirement for consistent accuracy, any particular stance … not so much.

For Olympic Recurve archers, like you, neck strain is a recurring issue. Kisik Lee mentions it in his books. Rick McKinney mentioned it in his book. It isn’t going away as an issue. The key, though, is to not do something destructive to good form and execution in looking for relief.



Filed under For All Coaches, Q & A

5 responses to “Does My Stance Affect My Head Position?

  1. Orest Dutko

    If I am to understand this correctly, my interpretation of an open and closed stance is such. When referring to open or closed it is just like a book. A fully open book is held open at 180 degrees. A partially closed book could be at 90 degrees. Therefore in an open stance your feet would be 180 degrees apart in a direct parallel line with the target face. However, a closed posiotion(exaggerated) would have one foot at 12 o’clock to the target face while the rear foot would be placed at four o’clock in reference to the target face, aka a closed position as referenced to a book?

    • Nope, not even close! ;o) These terms were borrowed from golf. A stance on which the tips of your toes lie on a straight line in the target plane (center of the target) is called a “square” or “even” stance. If you move your feet so that they are pointing more toward the target, that is called an open stance. If you move your feet to pointing more away from the target, that is called a “closed” stance. All references are made to a line to the target (the target lane) or the vertical plane containing that line (the target plane). Beginners are started with a square stance. The reason? If you stand behind an archer at full draw, you will see that the arrow is in a plane with the toe tips and that plane is the target plane! So, beginners just stand facing down the shooting line, head turned to the target and their arrows are automatically in the target plane (a requirement to hit the target).

  2. Reblogged this on My Archery Experiences and commented:
    Good explanation and worth a read.

  3. Pingback: Does Stance Affect Head Position? | The Archer is a Girl

  4. Reblogged this on The Archer is a Girl and commented:
    Definitely worth the read!

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