Push the Bow Toward the Target?

We are taught to push the bow toward the target. Do you teach that to your students? Do you know why?

A perfectly lined up archery shot can still go awry. And I don’t mean because of wind and whatnot. The most critical time period in an archery shot is the 15-20 milliseconds from when the string is loosed (either by fingers or release aid) and when the arrow leaves the bowstring. After the arrow detaches itself it is an independent projectile, subject to gravity and, of course, wind forces, etc. The shot can go awry if the bow moves away from its perfect positioning because of something you did during that critical period. If you plucked the bowstring, you pulled the string away from your face and caused the bow to rotate away from you, sending your arrow to the left (all references are to those of right-handed archers). If you have death grip on your bow, after the loose that grip may cause the bow to rotate. Any such movement moves the string and arrow rest and as long as they are involved it affects the hit point of the arrow.

And, even the tiniest movement results in a missed target. Rick McKinney determined that in order for a arrow to land in the ten ring at 90 meters, the arrow point had to be in a circle only one sixteenth of an inch in diameter and then everything on the back half of the shot had to be perfect. Even the tiniest shift of string or bow out of proper positions results in a miss.

So, why the dictum to “push the bow toward the target”? It is because if you are pushing it up, down, left or right, as soon as you loose the string the bow will move in that direction. A classic example is “heeling the bow.” If the center of pressure (COP) of your grip on the bow is a tad low, due to you pushing too much toward the heel of your bow hand, when the string is loosed, the bow rotates a tiny amount upward (since the COP is below the center of mass (COM) of the bow) which moves the arrow rest up and nock down and you get a high flier.

Similarly “bow handle torque” which is twisting of the handle/riser from gripping the bow too tightly or even just inserting your bow hand too much from the outside of the grip, causes left and right misses.

So, how are you supposed to see what is going on since there are many, many causes of shots going left, right, up, or down from where they are aimed.

If you are working with a student using a long rod stabilizer, you are in luck. If you are, watch the tip of the stabilizer as shots go off. If your archer is heeling the bow, the tip will move up immediately upon the loose. If bow handle torque is involved the tip will move left or right. What you are looking for is the tip moving straight toward the target first, then rolling downward as the followthrough continues. (The downward roll is determined by the COM of the bow being in front and below the pivot point. The first movement desired is an approximately one inch “punch” straight out along the axis of the stabilizer. If this occurs, you are sure your archer is pushing straight toward the target.

In all of these discussions, we are talking about minimizing sources of error. These are not requirements, per se. I was shadowing a famous coach once as he worked with a very, very good compound archer. I watched the tip of the archer’s long rod and on every shot, the tip bounced up. He was heeling his bow. During a lull I brought this to the attention of the archer and he said he knew about it, and that he tried to set up his bow so it didn’t happen but when he did, he didn’t score as well. Now, I don’t know that he properly made that other setup and that there were no other problems with it, but when push comes to shove, any movement such as we are addressing now is a source of variation. With diligent practice such movement can be trained in and elite performances can still be had. Obviously the more of these an archer has, the more training will be needed and the more variation their shot will have.

Being an elite archer is a search to minimize variation. Capitulating to one such source is something we are forced to do from time to time, but these are to be avoided when possible. The more we make a shot into an athletic performance, the more day to day variation we will get. The more we can program a shot into an archer’s skeletal structure, the less variation there will be.

The TL:DR Summary
Yes, we push the bow toward the target because the bow will move and it moving straight forward is the only movement that doesn’t change where the arrow is aimed and will land.


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12 responses to “Push the Bow Toward the Target?

  1. Orest Dutko

    Thank you Steve! This was an exceptional article and stating some of the nuances to delivering a straight arrow “to the target”. I have recently been focusing on these same observations in my shooting and have noticed a 20% improvement in my scoring. But my question to you is at what point in teaching a new student do you bring the “pushing through” aspect to have this become a natural occurrence vs a later change which will take a lot of thought and conscious effort? I believe that pushing through is one of thee most important parts of shooting to deliver accuracy.

    Orest Dutko

    Liked by 1 person

    • As to when to teach this, it depends. :o)

      First it depends on whether the archer is a serious competitive archer. If not, then it might not come up at all. If so, I think there are three phases serious competitive archers go through in their beginning efforts. Stage 1 is “Build a Shot” and this is indeed where this would come up. When they are putting the pieces of their shot together, I strongly recommend that volume shooting not take place as volume shooting is, in essence, a memorization technique and why would you want to memorize a shot that has been completed? Only when the shot is right is it time to lock it in. (Stage 2 is this process and Stage 3 is maintenance and ongoing refinement of one’s shot. If a shot rebuild is in order, it is through all three stages again, I am afraid.)

      Thanks for the question!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great article Steve! I shoot traditional longbow and have been striving for several years to group my shots into a 6” bullseye out to 65 yards. Gradually I have found a similar path of the equation you have just presented, but your article helps fill in the blanks. One that I am just resolving is the precision of the dynamics of the anchor with a split finger draw. Coming back to a precise anchor point consistently combined with all the other considerations is not for the faint of heart.


    • Boy, that is a challenging goal! In your case, draw length control is your biggest challenge. How do you “tell” you are at your correct full draw position. (In the old days, one used a visual check of what the “pile” looked like on top of your hand, but modern longbows have rests, so it is really a challenge. I recommend serios longbow archers use a clicker to practice with, the way to learn the feel of one’s correct draw length, one must shoot many shots with one’s correct draw length.)

      On Mon, Jul 19, 2021 at 2:07 PM A Blog for Archery Coaches wrote:


      Liked by 1 person

  3. Colin Gregory

    One additional reason I like “push toward the target ” is that it encourages doing and thinking something “positive ” rather than sitting and waiting with nothing on your mind, I have enough issues with shot timing and holding too long without sitting and waiting, have had persistent issues over the years with greying out on certain shots


    • Have you put your shot on a stop watch? You can train yourself to shoot faster or slower or within a short time window. Most people don’t make the effort.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Colin Gregory

        Intermittently I speed up in practice but I haven’t yet managed to force it into my competition cycle, partly the shot routine tends to go by the wayside, especially in field on uneven ground, have been telling myself to plan and execute many moons, but things keep coming up, shoulder injury and Covid lock down most recently


      • It is hard to focus in when one is interrupted frequently.

        Do consider looking into your shot tempo. It only applies at the point you raise your bow in a shot (although there are benefits from have a rhythm for your pre shot routine as well. In field, stances can be problematic but those are part of your pre shot routine, so if you take a little extra time taking your stance it is no bother.

        On Mon, Jul 19, 2021 at 2:38 PM A Blog for Archery Coaches wrote:



      • Colin Gregory

        My favourite shot timing method is (which works reasonably well when I remember !) Silent countdown 10 – 0, raise bow on 10, shot goes around 4 if well executed ! Problem tends to be, going blonde and forgetting to count ! Not suggesting I am counting in seconds, should be coming down at 1 but !


      • This is a good training exercise but I do not recommend it for competition. It gives the conscious mind too much to chew upon. So, if you lose your rhythm when shooting and you trained by counting, by all means count out a couple of shots to get that rhythm back. I suggest that your conscious mind, while engaged with a shot is best employed in what I call “watcher mode.” It is watching you shoot, but doing little to nothing. It is by this means that your subconscious mind knows to stick to the plan.

        On Tue, Jul 20, 2021 at 7:03 AM A Blog for Archery Coaches wrote:



      • Colin Gregory

        Will try it, thank you


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