Shoulder Problems Shooting Low Indoors?

QandA logoAn Olympic Recurve student has been struggling a bit with bow shoulder soreness and emailed me the other day with this question:
I have been doing many tests to understand why sometimes my shoulder hurts and I believe I found out why. I should keep my shoulder down, but sometimes I don’t and I don’t even notice. It happens more often when I’m shooting the lower target indoors. And a archer I meet at competitions told me that it happens to him as well and he is taller than me, so it should be even worse for him, and he has been shooting for some years. I believe that when shooting at 70 meters it is easier to control. Am I wrong?”

* * *

They are two sides of the same card. When shooting at close range and your target face is low, archers tend to try to shoot with level shoulders and just holding their bow lower. This changes the angle of the arm entering the shoulder arm joint, which exerts an upward force on the shoulder which can result in a “raised shoulder” which can lead to injury. (The injury stems from throwing this upward force at the shoulder onto the relatively small rotator cuff muscles, whose job it is to stabilize the shoulder joint, but which are not up to this task, especially if high draw weight is involved.)

The solution is to keep one’s upper body geometry the same and make tilting adjustments using the lower body.

“The solution is to keep one’s upper body geometry the same
and make tilting adjustments using the lower body.”

To shoot the lower targets indoors without disturbing your upper body geometry, you have to tilt your upper body downward slightly from the waist (only). This is done by slightly (slightly!) pushing one’s hips away from the target (rear hip moves to the right if you are right-handed). Did I say slightly?

At 70 m it is necessary to do the reverse, push one’s hips slightly toward the target to tilt the upper body up slightly, thus keeping your upper body in the same geometry.

In this fashion we can shoot low and short using the same geometry as high and far … by tilting the platform (our lower body) from which we shoot.

When shooting up and down at extreme angles, there are other techniques but those are a different topic.

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4 Comments

Filed under For All Coaches, Q & A

4 responses to “Shoulder Problems Shooting Low Indoors?

  1. minorthcoach

    Very timely post, Steve! I just experienced this very thing last week. I woke up on a wednesday with my bow shoulder absolutely killing me. Very sore and achy, and to top it off, it made crack and pop noises anytime I cocked my arm back or reached my arm forward. The problem had me stumped, too.
    I had practiced the evening before, but hadn’t felt anything amiss. I’m familiar with the causes of shoulder problems in the draw shoulder, but had never experienced soreness in the bow shoulde before. But, during the winter, I shoot in my basement, at less than half of the usual indoor distance, so my target is pretty low.
    Thanks for clearing up that mystery 🙂

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  2. minorthcoach

    To clarify: I hadn’t had any shoulder problems so far this winter, because I had been subconsciously doing exactly what you recommended, bending at the waist just a tad. The tuesday evening prior to waking up with a sore shoulder, I had “caught” myself being out of alignment vertically, and “corrected” myself. So when I read your post, it made perfect sense, realizing that by “correcting” my posture, I had unwittingly misaligned my bow arm/shoulder.

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  3. I am just starting to get back to shooting my bow again thanks to a shoulder injury that was caused by being over-bowed. Yes, I took a lot longer to get back into the game than I needed to, but I was afraid to hurt myself again. Every little tip, much like this one, is going to help me stay healthy and keep shooting. Thank’s for sharing your knowledge with the rest of us. Imagine how many injured archers would be out there if there weren’t coaches like you ready to help.

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    • Thanks, if you have any insights regarding your rehab that you think will help others I encourage you to write about for Archery Focus magazine. We pay for articles (not much) and every bit of wisdom and encouragement injured archers can receive is all to the good. Hope you heal faster!

      On Wed, Mar 15, 2017 at 1:27 AM, A Blog for Archery Coaches wrote:

      >

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