Olympic Recurve Alignment

I have a right-handed Olympic Recurve student I am coaching remotely and he sent me a couple of videos and a question:

I’ve sent You two videos to your Dropbox; in the video that the camera is between me and the target you can see that after the release my string hand goes out to my right side instead of just going back. It means that I’m doing something wrong, right? Have you seen this happening before?

* * *

Yes, it is called a “pluck” as one would pluck a string of a guitar or other stringed instrument. (The bow was probably the inspiration for stringed musical instruments.) At some time or other, every “fingers” archer (non-mechanical release archer) has to deal with this issue. If you are asking “have I noticed you doing this before?” as opposed to “have I ever noticed anyone doing this before?” the answer is yes in both cases. In your case, we have been working on other things and, in general, beginning archers are often “all over the place” meaning that they lack enough consistency to identify which things they are doing often enough to suggest correction.

The cause of plucking? If you would look at the video taken from in front (I say “toward” as in “toward the target”) and look at your rear elbow. It is sticking out to your right. Ideally placed it would be right behind the arrow in the central plane of the bow (the one with the arrow in it) or slightly past that position (around toward your back—see the diagram). Because your elbow is out to the right, the pull on the string is slightly out to the right also, but most importantly, your subconscious mind knows that just relaxing your string fingers from this position will not get your fingers enough out of the way of the string, so it tries to “help” by opening your hand slightly. (Your fingers can move in toward your palm much farther than they can move back away from being straight. In order to avoid the string, your fingers need to be “out of the way” and your subconscious mind evaluates how successful that process will be.) Since this hand opening must be done quickly, your subconscious mind overdoes this motion and your hand moves out away from your face. Unfortunately, the string follows this motion of your hand, to some extent, taking the rear end of the arrow out to the right, resulting in shots that go to the left of where you aimed. (Target Cue: if your arrows start hitting left of where they formerly did, plucking the string is a common cause. Learning to read targets is a skill necessary for progress and making corrections while competing.)


In the right hand photo, the shoulder line of this Olympic Recurve archer can clearly be seen.

To fix this problem, your shoulders must adopt a slightly different position. We want a line across the top of your shoulder (called the shoulder line—see “The Lines of Archery”) to point at the bow. Currently, yours are pointing to the left of the bow. (Your rear shoulder cannot rotate your rear arm around to be pointing at the bow if your front shoulder does not have your bow arm lined up with your torso. Many times I find that these problems originate in the front shoulder more so than the rear.) Try turning your torso/front shoulder in toward the bow … slightly, and rotating your rear shoulder around toward your back more. This has the effect of lengthening your draw, so your current clicker position will have to be adjusted inward. But before you do adjust it, you can use your “old” clicker position for training. Stand up close to your target butt, and draw and shoot with your clicker on and your eyes closed. The goal is to slide through the clicker before you are ready to shoot by doing as instructed above. (Don’t shoot until you are ready; since the clicker is too far out, its “click” is not a correct signal to shoot.) When you can do this several times in a row, you can adjust your clicker … inward … and see if you can get your shot timing back. (Having someone watch how far your arrow point gets behind the clicker’s edge will help you figure out how far to adjust it, but you can do it a bit at a time with trial and error testing.) The clicker should only go off when you are in position … preferably a correct position.


The “archer’s triangle”

What you are working on is the “alignment” of your upper body to the bow and when you get where you want to be, people will say you have “good line.” This is also what people are talking about when they mention “the archer’s triangle.” One side of the triangle (viewed from overhead) starting at the bow goes across both shoulders and is straight, thus your shoulders point to the bow.) Having “good line” is a prerequisite for consistent accuracy in Olympic Recurve because it means you are pulling directly away from the target (rather than away and out to the right as you currently are) and when you loose the string the string will go straight toward the bow and your hand will fly straight back along your face because that was the direction it was pulling, but only a small amount because your shoulders were in an extreme position. Monitoring where your hand moves upon release (it moves on its own, you don’t move it) is a way of affirming you had good full draw position/alignment. Since your position at full draw is very close to the limit of your range of motion in that situation, there is a very uncomfortable feeling in your back muscles just before release. This uncomfortable feeling is another part of “the feel of your shot” which helps you recognize the difference between doing it correctly and doing it incorrectly.

Sorry for the length of this response, but if you had focused on just keeping your hand close to your face, you would unlikely to be working on the correct source of the issue (your shoulder alignment).


Filed under For All Coaches

13 responses to “Olympic Recurve Alignment

  1. Mr. Krish Rama

    Dear Mr. Ruiz, I too have a similar problem with my students during my coaching sessions.
    As it is sometimes difficult for them to associate my observations and instructions with what they are doing, I came up with an exercise to help them.
    I place myself behind them and stand in a ‘t’ with one hand pointing at the target and the other away from the target. My alignment is correct. I then lean my shoulder blades against theirs and have them perform the draw action. They get to feel their individual shoulder blades and how they move in towards and away from mine.
    I am having a good deal of success with this method, in helping them to achieve a better alignment.
    The plucking is a separate issue for me that involves a greater recognition of the need to conscientiously control the ‘release and what happens next’ part of the shot.


  2. I recognize that the release is a separate action but if the draw is performed with the right muscles and you achieve good alignment, all that is needed is for the string fingers to be relaxed and a perfect release and followthough will occur. Ideally the release is not controlled consciously, which is why Olympic Recurve archers use a clicker.


  3. kmartin

    Here is a link to an outstanding video on this topic.


    • This guy’s stuff is very good. If I had the very best of everything I would ask that he not start with analysis poor form. I would rather he started with good alignment and then talk about what goes wrong with bad alignment.

      He takes the same approach in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JJtZT2KcIM0

      Basically, he is spot on and at several points contradicts NTS shooting form recommendations.

      On Tue, Nov 29, 2016 at 1:16 AM, A Blog for Archery Coaches wrote:



      • Mr. Krish Rama

        Dear Mr. Ruiz, it would be wrong of me to not give you an insight into the reasoning behind my comments.
        I received my level 2 certification in 2014 and then helped to coach at other clubs until I opened my own school in March 2016.
        The time spent at other clubs was one of mainly observation and learning how to and how not to coach. After all, I must be the glove that fits the hand and not the other way round.
        One of the things I saw was the overrelience on the ‘clicker’ in relation to draw length/anchor point. What disturbed me was the lack of emphasis on fingers and wrist action at the point of release. In fact, follow through appeared to take precedence. I consider that developing muscle memory and then introducing accessories as well as new actions, to be some of the keys to a more complete archer.
        I did give feedback to the coaches but being a newby in their world, I was ignored. The result of this is that quite a few of their archers no longer take part in competition as they have not progressed.
        ‘The devil is in the detail’, is my favourite coaching phrase.
        10 months after opening my school, my students have not been issued with clickers, are not using follow through and have yet to take part in any competition. Of course they do compete amongst themselves. They are a happy and lively bunch who understand the necessity for a solid foundation to build upon and that progress should not be rushed.
        In fact, the are the boss of me and not the other way around.
        Most of my fellow coaches consider my method bizarre and have shunned me but my students are more educated about and aware of their own body. They love using words such as zygomatic, mandible, phalanges, atlas and so on. They visualise, feel and are better able to incorporate the correct form and release into their shot cycle.
        January 2017, we start clicker and follow through training in preparation to compete locally.
        Anyway Sir, as I mentioned, a little insight into my reasoning as well as my coaching method.


  4. I, like you, leave the clicker to a later time (I have posted on this and you can search for it). The clicker should be a refinement, not a major force in a shot. And … the primary purpose of the clicker is to remove the decision of when to shot. In the absence of any such device, target panic is much more likely to occur.

    And, as I have mentioned to you in the past, you are welcome to write about your ideas for Archery Focus magazine (we pay authors!).


    • Mr. Krish Rama

      Dear Mr. Ruiz,
      it pleases me to know that there are professionals who comprehend ‘the click’ and its importance to the archer.
      Mostly what I see is, coaches confusing archers by, having them associate the clicker with anchor point, draw length and release moment.
      Understanding that the click is an audible instruction to stop pulling on the string is the first stage, next should be, place your hand against your anchor point, after that, review that your form is correct, get ready to release, final check and either let fly or reset and start the cycle again.
      I recently had my students perform the shot cycle but then let down and repeat again. Not a pleasant experience for them over a period of an hour but the results afterwards, were greatly improved.
      No point for me to teach them the positives and not teach them the negatives as well. A well instructed student has a greater awareness of the shot. In fact, we had a session last month about the importance of winning versus the importance of improving.

      Finally, I coach on a tropical island in the Indian Ocean with a population of 1.2 million souls (young and old). There is absolutely no archery equipment or accessories available to purchase on the island and everything must be imported. Our time zone is 9 hours in advance of Washington DC.
      My dead aunt has more money and management skills than our Archery Federation and all of the effort and investment comes from the coaches. We have no centralised training facility. In fact, the government still considers archery to be a danger to the population at large.

      Even so, there are people with PASSION and ability to really help.
      Sorry, must leave now, have to wipe down my vanes and shafts with alcohol, fletching time, followed by string waxing.


      • It seems that almost everyone has the same opinion of their country’s archery federation. ;o)

        Your approach to the clicker is definitely “old school” in which it was used as a draw check (to be followed by … etc.). No one does it this way anymore and I think there are good reasons why. Clicker technique now, as used by virtually everyone involves getting to full draw, acquiring anchor position, finalizing aim and all the while the back muscles are grinding away, when the clicker clicks everything is in place and properly lined up and the clicker “clicking” sends a signal to the archer of, if everything is okay, relax the string fingers.


    • Mr. Krish Rama

      Sorry Sir,
      forgot to mention that, target panic is not an issue for my students, as I constantly remove the yellow and teach them to either aim at the centre or group their arrows where they want.


  5. Mr. Krish Rama

    Dear Mr. Ruiz,
    our discussion about the clicker reminds me of an amusing question.
    ” Is it the dog that wags the tail, or the tail that wags the dog ?”.
    I believe that there is more to discuss about the ‘wagging tail’.


    • The sad part (and I am posting on my blog about some of the reasons) is that the “pillars of consistent accuracy” are relaxed hands and body upper body full draw position. In the absence of those archery is very, very difficult. So, should there not be an emphasis on these “pillars” (as I call them) when working with serious beginners. Sadly, there is not, partly I believe in the benign neglect of beginners. Most archery federations put out coach training manuals/course but offer little in the way of support after that. I wonder what the airline industry would be like if the manufacturers of airplanes gave out manuals and then stopped answering their phones. I suspect planes would be dropping out of the sky like raindrops.


      • Mr.krish Rama

        Dear Mr. Ruiz,
        well said.
        Body, mind, objective must be as one for the archer and they must be supported properly. Use of equipment (and accessories) is a separate issue and yet, is part of the bigger (associative) picture.
        If not for the coaches input, then the archers would be shooting planes out of the sky.


      • LOL! Point to Coach Rama!


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