Paying Attention to Hands

If you have read this blog at all you probably know that I follow golf coaches a lot, mostly because there are few archery blogs of any value (which is changing … slowly). The similarities between golf and archery are many, the primary difference is in golf, the golfer supplies the energy to the ball whereas in archery the bow does that work on the arrows (after being loaded up by an archer). But a comment by one of my favorite golf coaches, Darrell Klassen, really struck a bell:

… your hands are the body part designed to start almost every motion. Doesn’t matter the sport. Baseball, hockey, golf, tennis, football. You start every action with your hands. You don’t even have to think about it. Next thing you know, all the other parts come into play. Feet, legs, hips, shoulders…they all do their bit.

“The kicker is this (and this is where most of the mags just don’t understand). You can’t manipulate the sequence. Thinking about a part (like you shoulder turn) screws up the whole darn thing. There is however, one part of the sequence you can (and should) manipulate. Guess what that is? Yep, your hands. Thinking about changing what they will do (like their speed, direction, angle, start position etc) will change the whole sequence.

“Manipulate your hands, and you can create any shot you want. And your body will just follow.

In archery, our shot sequences have a step called “set your hands” which we often gloss over, but this step is critical to consistent accuracy. If the angle your bow hand makes on the bow differs, or the angle stays the same, but the position shifts left or right, the effect on the shot is significant. If the fingers on the string or release aid, change position or shift in the amounts of force each finger delivers, the effect on the shot is significant.

I work with quite a few Barebow archers who walk the string. A crawl that varies by as little as 1/16th of an inch will change the distance allowed for by 2-4 yards, all other things being perfect.

The positions of the hands on the bow and string/release are critical aspects of archery shots.

The key thing to realize here is seen in Coach Klassen’s comment “Manipulate your hands…. And your body will just follow.” If your hands aren’t quite right, there is a cascade of adjustments your body makes to make the whole movement conform to the desired outcome (the one you are envisioning in your mind).

Our hands contain many, many sensory nerve endings. The diagram (right), common to biology textbooks, is an attempt to show the relative concentrations of these sensory nerve endings. Note that our faces and hands have out-sized concentrations of the ability to feel temperature, pain, and pressure (the only three kinds of sensory nerves). The nerves we use in archery, of course, are pressure nerves. Because so much neural processing is dedicated to the data coming from out hands, a great deal of life energy is allotted to dealing with that information. So, if our hands are not quite right, we will squirm, inch, nudge, jiggle, or flat out shove other body parts to make them right. All of which are disastrous when looking for consistent accuracy with a bow and arrows.

So, if you have a student struggling with consistency, look to their hands; spend some time on their routines of placement, refine these if necessary. More than a few Olympic recurve archers have made a tattoo mark on their bow hand to aid them in lining their bow with that hand. Yes, it is that important.






Filed under For All Coaches

2 responses to “Paying Attention to Hands

  1. Tom Dorigatti

    Hit the nail on the head with this one. The “new” thing these days for compound shooters seems to be to start their “draw cycle” or shot sequence with the bow hand UPWARDS at about a 45 degree angle with only a slight amount of pressure on the bowstring. This supposedly “sets the shoulder”. Then, they bring the bow down to the legal “no higher than the top of the head” with their bowhand and start to draw the bow. They come to full draw with the bow hand slightly above their target “spot”, hit full draw with their release hand still above their anchor point, then bring everything down to anchor. Seems as if their last “motions” are slight, but involves getting the drawing elbow around, flattening the release hand, relaxing the forearm, and then raising the elbow slightly to “set the Rhomboids”. All the while, they are maintaining tension of the release aid with their fingers already engaged.
    Others still use the old method of setting the bottom limb on their thigh, hooking up the release aid, letting the mass weight of the bow put some pressure onto the bowstring, setting their bow hand, setting the angle of the release hand, and then raising the bow to slightly above spot level (sorta “pre-aiming”), and then drawing the bow back, anchoring and finishing the transfer.
    Sky-drawing has become an issue, and it is very difficult to make a call on a sky draw versus a “legal” drawing of the bow because so many are drawing with the bow upwards; seems like the more poundage a person shoots, the higher they have their bowhand above their heads to “set their shoulder.”
    I have tried changing to NO MORE than the top of the head position and drawing to anchor with my release hand up higher. It WORKS…but you had better be sure that your release isn’t set too “hot” and/or be sure you don’t touch that trigger on the way back!!! If the release trips when you are drawing like this, you will have a fat lip, and/or a big dental bill to pay!
    Two schools of thought, two slightly different techniques.
    But it emphasizes the FACT that this is “all in the hands” and any variation will change the outcome of the shot sequence.


    • There is an amount of wanting to stand out from the pack by being different and then a layer of self justification on top of that. Drawing high “sets to bow shoulder”? Exactly what does that mean? And if the draw occurs while the bow arm is moving, does that bring into play a repetitive stress injury. The rotator cuff muscles that stabilize the shoulder joint are small and easy to injure. This is why the classic technique puts the bow arm into correct position before the draw occurs. Drawing “on the way up” or “on the way down” invites injury if it is not done perfectly, which means by archers still learning their craft (another reason to not emulate elite archers).

      I wish we had resources in archery to ask these questions of biomechanics specialists to get answers.

      On Fri, Mar 31, 2017 at 11:26 AM, A Blog for Archery Coaches wrote:



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