Do Your Students Have Balance Problems?

A key element of consistent accuracy is being still while executing shots and a key part of being still is maintaining good balance. Let’s explore this.

Do Your Students Have Balance Issues?
Rank beginners often adopt some interesting body moves at full draw: shuffling their feet, swaying back and forth, etc. Sometimes this is due to simplistic thinking, e.g. “Hmm, I am aimed off to the left so I will move over to the right … shuffle, shuffle, shuffle.” More often it is due to balance issues. The bow is a heavy object for a young child and holding it out at arm’s length is challenging. Most archers who stick with it some develop relatively stable form and we stop thinking about the role of balance in their shooting. This may be a mistake.

So, how do we check to see if they are struggling with balance? I’m glad you asked.

The simplest way is to watch them shoot. Pick out a spot near their head and line it up with a point in their visual background. If they are swaying of moving substantially at full draw, then you will see that pint on their cap (or whatever) moving. Also look for an inability to hold good, erect, full draw posture. If they are constantly shift their weight on their legs or front to back, then they are having problems. For a more sensitive “tell” you can watch the tip of their long stabilizer (if they use one) if it doesn’t settle into a single spot, with slight movements around a center of motion), there may be a balance problem. If they shoot Barebow recurve, the top limb tip can serve for this check.

What to Do About It
For young archers, serious drills are probably not the answer. Often their balance problems are rooted in holding a relatively heavy bow up at arm’s length. If they seem relatively still at full draw, but when the string is loosed either their bow drops like a rock or they tend to tip a great deal to control it, they have a common problem. An adult holding up a six-pound weight at arm’s length is no hard task, but for a 10-year old, holding up a four pound weight at arm’s length is quite difficult. The deltoid arm muscles responsible for holding their arm up haven’t developed much by that time. A partial solution is to have them spread their feet out a bit more. We can’t be specific because we don’t know if their stance was already somewhat wide or quite narrow. If their stance is quite narrow, have them open the width of their stance until their heels (not toes) are as far apart as their shoulders.

A commercial balance board, many of which are available.

In the companion article for archers in this issue, we describe self-exploratory activities based upon balance and stance. One option to address these issues is to lead them through these exercises.

Drilling for Balance There are all kinds of balance training gear available at reasonable costs. These can be as simple as a round disk of plywood with a board or half sphere attached to the bottom to more complicate devices involving inflatable disks. If you are a DIY person, you can make such things yourself. A piece of 3/4˝ plywood large enough to take their stance on, with a small piece of 1˝x 1˝ or 2˝x 2˝ wood running down the center of the short distance (across the stance line) makes a good “wobble board.” Kids have a great deal of fun shooting while standing on such a rig.

An even less expensive piece of drilling equipment can be made from swim noodles (see photo below left). Cut a couple of eight inch pieces of a swim noodle and place one piece cross ways under each of your archer’s feet. Then they shoot while trying to keep their balance standing that way.

All of these pieces of rehab/training equipment work by requiring extra effort to create and retain balance.

Regular drills and scoring games can be used to keep this kind of practice from becoming boring.

Practicing and Assessing by Themselves
There are things archers can do to improve their balance by themselves, even when they are not at the range.

They can take a couple of minutes when they are at the range and while shooting at a close butt. Simply shoot a number of arrows while sighting across a bow hand knuckle. If they are used to shooting off of their arrow’s point or using a sight, they need to shoot a number of arrows to get used to the correct height to hold the bow or they could line up their aperture/arrow point with their point of aim and then switch to looking at their knuckle. The object is to shoot and have the knuckle stay relatively lined up with the mark chosen before, during, and after the shot. Doing five or more shots this way at each practice session will lead to an appreciation for how steady they are and whether progress is being made to becoming more steady. If they are more steady, they are probably more balanced.

Similarly they can play balance games, while waiting for a bus or even watching TV. Simply pick up one foot and count how many seconds they can manage to keep it off of the ground (one thousand one, one thousand, two, . . .). Obviously they need to switch feet so both legs get worked out.

Back at the range or even at home they can draw on a target POA, close their eyes, count to a number (start at three, then move up when that become easy), then open their eyes to see if they are still lined up. If this is done at home, unless there is a home shooting station, this is best done with no arrow on the bow. This can be a game of “how long can you hold still at full draw.” It is a balance workout as well as an archery stamina workout.


Balance and stillness can be trained for. For your youngest charges, simple stance adjustments are suggested but not much more. With serious archers, more complicated training can be done with inexpensive or DIY training aids.

Do realize that balance is something that is invisible until you look for it and just because it is out of sight, it should not be out of a coach’s mind.



Filed under For AER Coaches

7 responses to “Do Your Students Have Balance Problems?

  1. jessicawalterssite

    Hi Steve,
    Thank you for sharing this blog! Although I am not a coach, I still find these incredibly helpful and interesting to read. I think I may try some of these balance practices at home, especially the eyes closed one! Keep up the great work.


  2. Caio Taniguchi

    “If this is done at home, unless there is a home shooting station, this is best done with no arrow on the bow”.
    I caught myself thinking harder about this than your great and clear suggestions about the topic per se. Excellent article, suggestions, explanations and insights as always, Mr. Ruiz, thank you a lot for sharing this kind of knowledge… your blog has helped (and is helping) me a lot through my venture in archery.

    I’ve started doing this exercise a while- drawing, anchoring at intended target point, close eyes, open to check the drift (and also equally important IMO: getting somatosensory input without visual “noise” to understand better what’s going on with my body), in my bedroom or livingroom, aiming at an mentally visualized target before closing my eyes. No other living being around, of course

    When I first went about it, I had my bow arrowless, and as soon I started to draw, it came to me that, worst case scenario: string unintentionally slips, BAM, accidental shot. That’s a pick between a dry fire vs arrow looseing – yeah, indoors, short distance, unpredictable bounces/shatterings/splintertings, and on and on and on, but I can mitigate damage of an accidental arrow realease. There’s nothing I can do if there’s no arrow, only a bow – or likely pieces of it, god knows towards where, and at that speeds. And in what shapes. Sslower, thickero got an older – and heavier, and much more majestic then the carbons I’m using now – cedar arrow, and point towards some emergency target butt, like a couch 5m across the room (still visualizing my regular target butt in an outdoor landscape 18m away). Am I completely out of my head doing this? I use a 40# recurve for this, it probably wouldn’t be a MAJOR bow explosion, but still, the thought of dryfiring gives me chills enough to think that doing it with an arrow is probably safer.

    Thank you again for the immensely helpful article, for sharing all that with us. Best wishes!



    • Caio Taniguchi

      Oh, I guess I messed up some parts. Sorry about that. Here’s the corrected part:

      “…There’s nothing I can do if there’s no arrow, only a bow – or likely pieces of it, god knows towards where, and at that speeds. And in what shapes. [So I got an older –and heavier, slower, thicker, and much more majestic then the carbons I’m using now – cedar arrow, and point towards some emer…”


      • You can protect your bow from a dry fire by the simple expedient of putting a second bow string on your bow. Then you pull one. If you slip and let go, the other bow string keeps your limbs from flopping too hard the other way.

        There are also devices you can by under the generic label of “air bows” that allow you to dry fire your bow repeatedly. The only one that comes to mind is the Vibracheck Safe Draw.

        On Fri, Sep 22, 2017 at 6:23 PM, A Blog for Archery Coaches wrote:



  3. morehice

    Getting a couple of pool noodles! Thanks for the tips!




    • Caio Taniguchi

      Never thought of using 2 strings! I’ll give that a try next time. Oh, I mean, I’m not double-string-dry-firing my bow on purpose, but will check how the setup fells. Thanks a lot!


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