Tag Archives: neck strain

Ow, Ow, Ow, My Neck Hurts!

QandA logoI had an Olympic Recurve student complain about her neck being sore after even a short practice session and she asked me what she could do.

Here is my response.

Be aware that the Olympic Recurve style puts considerable stress on one’s neck. To make sure you are putting no more than the minimum required stress on those muscles, you need to include in your awareness as you shoot whether you are adding to additional stress to that minimum. (It is not unusual for us to subconsciously flex muscles receiving attention; this is a normal response.) If you detect you are subconsciously doing that, you need to “train” it out. Training your subconscious is a lot like training a dog. Your dog doesn’t understand the words “bad dog” but it does understand your tone of voice. If you say “bad dog” while smiling and laughing and petting your dog, its tail will wag like crazy. If you say “good dog” in a scolding tone while frowning it will behave submissively. Training your subconscious mind is similar.

If you find your subconscious overusing your neck muscles, you need to stop what you are doing, i.e. you must let down. Corrections must be made in real time, just as is required to train a dog, because if you do not, the dog and your subconscious will have moved on and the correction will not be connected with the act it is supposed to address. So, let down and correct. The correction is in the form of mild disapproval, with maybe a rubbing of the offending muscle to get it to relax. You are saying, gently, “no, not ‘tense,’ but ‘relaxed.’” The emotional state of mild disapproval is sufficient. You do not want to rant and rave and throw your bow, that would not be a proportional response. Basically, if you don’t think your dog would understand, neither would your subconscious mind.

I did check your ability to turn your head toward the target, you have plenty of flexibility, but in Olympic Recurve (not so much in compound styles) one’s head position is near the end of the range of motion for turning your head on your neck, so realize that this strain is there and must be managed. Stretching, turning your head both ways, massaging your neck muscles, all seem to work. (By the way, having a helper for neck stretching is a good idea. By sitting in a chair and having someone gently turn your head, you do not have to flex the neck muscles to do that. You can focus on relaxing the muscles involved.) Even so, many OR competitors report neck strain, probably exacerbated by competition stress (when your focus is elsewhere, e.g. on scoring, other aspects of your awareness dim and drift a little from the norm).

I hope this helps!



Filed under For All Coaches, Q & A

Does My Stance Affect My Head Position?

QandA logoCoach,
I have a question: how does the foot stance affect your ability to rotate your head into a good position for shooting. I’ve been thinking about this and it seemed to me a closed stance can limit the head rotation. Taken to an extreme closed position it would inhibit your ability to rotate your head, having to look over your bow shoulder, not that you’d shoot from a stance like that. The trade off is that a closed stance has been key to getting good alignment into my shot.


The stance can indeed affect the position of the head but turn your thinking around. The arrow needs to point at target center (it needs to be in or very near a plane going through target center because if launched at an angle to that plane, it will only get farther and farther away from that plane as it flies and will never hit the center. But if the arrow is in that plane, where is the archer? Answer: standing beside it. The Archer’s Triangle is an attempt to describe that position. For bracing, the bow arm and shoulders form one continuous line. The upper draw arm comprises a second leg of the “triangle” and the archer’s forearm is roughly in line with the arrow, the two making the third leg of the “triangle.” The archer’s draw side forearm is ideally pointed at the grip of the bow as that is where the force is directed, so it is not in perfect line with the arrow.

Stabilizer + V BarsNow, whatever happens below the shoulders must not disturb this arrangement. Please note that the head is on the opposite side of the shoulders from the stance (ahem). So, head position should not be affected by stance. But many archers open their stances to relieve neck strain, or to see around the frame of their glasses, or to get string clearance (female archers especially) or, or…. This is a mistake, because the only way opening one’s stance can relieve the strain on the neck, etc. is for the shoulders to move out of line with the bow arm (taking the head with them).

At full draw the arrow points to the target, the shoulders are at about a 10-13 degree angle closed to the arrow/target plane. The head normally can only get about 45 degrees or so turned on the shoulders, so … this is the problem. A lot of stretching (both directions) is necessary to increase the range of motion in one’s head (I have commissioned an article in Archery Focus on just that topic which I hope is forthcoming).

My argument is that if the shoulders are 10-13 degrees closed to the target plane/arrow line, then a good place to start is with the shoulders directly above hips, knees, ankles, etc., so a 10-13 degree closed stance supports the shoulders being in their proper position with no contortions required. Later, one can experiment with other stances, so long as they do not adversely affect what is happening at the shoulder level. If you look at the NTS elite archers, their stances are wide open to the target line (even more so relative to their shoulder lines) … and their shoulders are closed (as needed). They have learned to do this and prepared their bodies to do this. This creates a more stable shooting platform (better in the wind, for sure) but if your stance negatively affects your upper body geometry, you have sold something dear for something cheap. Having good alignment is a core basic requirement for consistent accuracy, any particular stance … not so much.

For Olympic Recurve archers, like you, neck strain is a recurring issue. Kisik Lee mentions it in his books. Rick McKinney mentioned it in his book. It isn’t going away as an issue. The key, though, is to not do something destructive to good form and execution in looking for relief.


Filed under For All Coaches, Q & A