Tag Archives: Q&A

Why Did I Make That Change?

Every archer I know says the same thing. Basically they say “my <widget> was working perfectly, I don’t know why I changed to something else?” This thought was prompted by an author who was working on an article about compound bow launcher arrow rests. He said: “Goodness, there a lot of options on launcher style arrow rests! I was digging in my junk drawers and kept finding other types and styles. They all worked but with a few exceptions, I don’t recall why I stopped using them.”

We then told several stories back and forth, because that’s what archer’s do. But, of course, I couldn’t leave it there. I have to add …

* * *

We all succumb to the “new, improved” sales pitch which appeals to the magical thinking of archers. (Better scores are available here, just step through this door!) This reminds me of the story of P.T. Barnum solving the problem he had of getting people out of his exhibits so he could fit more paying customers in. He put up a sign that said “This Way to the Egress” over the exit. People flooded through, ending up outside.

We keep going through the door labeled “This Way to Higher Scores” based upon buying something. This is a form of magical thinking as we cannot supply any reasonable reason for why a new stabilizer or arrow rest will actually improve our scores, but it is only $59.99 and it sure looks cool!

I was just watching a video of Darrell Pace and Rick McKinney shooting in the 1984 Olympics. They had wood-fiberglass limbs, aluminum arrows, Dacron bow strings, flat V-bars with steel rod sidebars with simple weights on their ends. No Doinkers or other vibration dampeners in sight. Almost 35 years later, how many Americans do you think are shooting as well as those two guys? (Pace averaged 1308 in two FITA Rounds in quite breezy conditions.) Maybe a handful at best. Gee, I wonder how they did it? It was probably that they had the best archery equipment! (Not!)

The still brilliant Rick McKinney is one of the few elite archers who has written a serious archery book.

Currently my thinking on any equipment change is: “any reasonable piece of kit is fine, but learn how to get the most out of it.” And, “if you feel a change is going to be profitable, prove it.” I have made a number of equipment changes in my life that really produced better results. One was changing from a 20+ year old bow to a six-year old one. Another was a change of stabilizers (to one that was much better in the wind). Other than that, there was little difference in my scores based upon equipment changes. In one case, I bought my first brand new bow and my scores dropped. (A year later a professional archer told me that none of the pros had ever got that model to shoot well. That bow model lasted just one year, possibly because of the feedback from sponsored archers.)

I am not saying, don’t bother changing your equipment. I am saying research it well. When you make the change, find the best setup for that thing and then prove to yourself that something is indeed better. (I recommend practice score benchmarks.) If your performance is the same or worse, you wasted some money. If it is the same, you can go ahead and keep the change as no harm was done. If it is worse, change back immediately to your old setup and give that piece of new junk you bought to a rival.

 

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Breaking News! Archery is Counterintuitive!

I got the following email from my best student this morning:
“Okay coach, explain this one to me. Increasing my bow weight seems to make my arrows shoot more to the left. Compounding my confusion is that tonight I got the groups to move back to the right by tightening my plunger. Count me confused and dazed!
Cheers

If this has never happened to you, you haven’t been in archery very long. The student in question shoots Olympic Recurve, so you have that as background. Here is what I answered, expanded for this post).

* * *

A bow is a closed system, when you change one part, many others are affected. (Memorize this!)

You got two counterintuitive responses to things you did. The problem is that ceteras parabus was nowhere to be seen. (Ceteras parabus is the principle that “everything else was the same.”) When you make a single change to a bow, you make other changes, too … always! There is no such thing as “everything else was the same” when working with bows.

For example, you increased your draw weight. I do not know how much but it was not a fraction of a pound is my guess. When you screw in the limb bolts, you change the angle of the limbs to the bow (making the limbs more upright as it were). This results in a lower brace height. (Plus more tension on the string at brace, plus …) The brace height is one of the determinants of the point in space at which your arrow’s nocks separate from your string at the end of the power stroke. Since the string’s path toward the riser is a flattish “S curve,” the change in the point of separation of the string and nock is complex. If the nock comes off more to the right from where it did previously, the arrow ends up pointed more to the left (the point has enough inertia that it doesn’t move as much as the nock end). If the nock comes off more to the left, the arrow will be pointed more to the right. (Think about it.) I have also to point out that when the arrow separates from the string it is no longer touching the arrow rest.

“Coaches need to expect counterintuitive responses to equipment changes.”

When you change the bow’s draw weight, you are also changing the efficiency of the bow due to a spine match or mismatch. I think I told you about the compound archer who lowered his draw weight (just a half turn on each limb) only to have his arrows hit higher on the target. What happened when he lowered the draw weight,  he created a better spine match (arrow to bow), which created a more efficient transfer of energy from bow to arrow which made up for the energy loss from the change in draw weight and more. These are the kinds of counterintuitive things that can happen.

If we had created a perfect spine match for your bow before (unlikely, such things take a great deal of time and effort), we no longer have that spine match. When you finish your draw weight changes, a complete re-tune is necessary because so many things have changed.

If you think the string goes straight toward the riser, think again. (Yeah, this is a stringwalking Barebow archer, but I get to exaggerate for emphasis, don’t I?)

A general consequence of this situation (reality actually) is coaches need to expect counterintuitive responses to equipment changes. This is because of the reasons stated and because what you were taught were often oversimplified rules of thumb. For example, “weak arrows fly to the right, stiff arrows fly to the left.” and “If you lower the nocking point, you will raise the hit point of the arrow on the target.” (All of these are for right-handed archers.)

These equipment aphorisms were intended to get you down the road until you could think through such problems without needing them. From a perfectly tuned bow, if the nocking point is lowered a slight amount, the arrow will hit on the target lower than it did previously. But if you lower the nocking point enough, the rear of the arrow will start hitting the rest or arrow shelf and where those arrows land is anybodies guess.

All of those pithy little rules need to be taken with a grain of salt. And, they need to be thought through as they are all true … up to a point. By thinking them through they provide an entry to better understanding of archery equipment. If you do not, they become unreliable crutches. (I am speaking from experience here. If I had a nickel for every mistake I made, I could have retired earlier.)

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Back Tension from Different Anchor Positions

QandA logoI got an absolutely fascinating question about anchor points just yesterday. Here it is:

Hi, Coach Ruis:
I am working on my anchor point and back tension. I typically use a split finger/chin/nose anchor point for my Olympic bow and sight. I also recently acquired a Samick Sage recurve I use for roving/stump shooting. I have been trying to figure out string walking/point of arrow aim for my Samick for stumping.

I started to use a three-fingers-under/corner of the mouth anchor to reduce the string walking crawl sizes relative to a split finger, under chin anchor. Using the corner of the mouth anchor and string walking, my crawls decreased ~75% in size. My precision using the corner of the mouth anchor has also improved noticeably over my under chin anchor (and the bow sounded much happier when loosing).

My question really is about back tension. When using the three-fingers-under/corner of the mouth anchor, all of a sudden I can easily feel the barrel of the gun through my upper back relative to the chin/nose anchor. My draw length increased a full inch using the corner of the mouth anchor, so I am guessing this is the cause of the new positive upper back sensation.

I am thinking that if I could get this sensation with my Olympic bow/chin/nose anchor, this would be a very good thing. How can I make this happen?

* * *

There are quite a few changes going on in both of these anchoring positions. One you do not mention is draw arm position. When using a “high” anchor, corner of the mouth or higher, your draw arm position is different. (Stand up, assume the position of your low, under chin, anchor and then switch to the high anchor position and note the different positions of your draw arm at full draw.) The whole purpose of the low anchor is to be able to shoot longer distances. Back when everyone “shot off of the point” the line of sight across the arrow point and the point of aim (POA) fixed the arrow point in space somewhat. To get more distance it was necessary to lower the back end of the arrow, hence the lower anchor position for longer shots. This draw arm position affects the use of muscles in your back.

Shooting long distances also results in upper body tilt, which changes eye angle and lots of other things that affect “feel.”

Another point you do not mention is head tilt. In order to get a workable low anchor, I must tilt my head up slightly. If I use the same head position as I have with my high anchor for my low anchor shooting, my string fingers, positioned under my jaw line are on a surface sloping down, so when the shot is loosed, the top finger slides along the jaw line … downward which creates resistance and drag. By tilting your chin up slightly the path the string follows as the string flicks them out of the way is cleared.

Such are the sources of different feelings (along with the ones you mention).

My impression is that the high anchor encourages involvement of the muscles somewhat higher in your back, which when bunched up due to contraction are easier to feel. The low anchor involves muscles lower in your back which I suspect are somewhat harder to feel. (When archery coaches talk about using muscles lower in your back, they are referring to muscles lower … in your upper back.) So, I suspect that the difference in “feel” is real and you basically do not want to have the same feeling of back tension in both because that would mean you were using the same muscles when your arm angle was different.

If shooting Barebow as you describe (which I love) is relatively new to you, then the sensations in your back are relatively new and hence more noticeable. With time they might fade to the same level of feeling as in your high anchor shooting. Also, in many shooting techniques, surrogates for back tension are employed. For example, many of the Koreans focus on the feeling of the position of their draw elbow instead of the feeling in their backs. To some extent this is because the feeling of tension in the back diminishes due to humdrum regularity.

Another possibility is that you might need to open your stance when shooting Olympic Recurve. If you are particularly flexible, you may not be engaging your back muscles enough to get a strong feeling. In Rick McKinney’s book, “The Simple Art of Winning,” he claims that having an open stance allowed him to “get into his back” better. I found this puzzling at first, until I found some pictures of Mr. McKinney (in his prime) with his open stance and his draw elbow 2-3 inches past line. If he had been using a square stance, his elbow would have been even farther past line which have had negative influences on his shots. Unfortunately, their success lead to the adoption of the open stance by almost everyone, but this is a source of problems. In McKinney’s and Pace’s cases the open stance reduced their ability to get in line, which lead to a stronger feeling of back tension, strong enough that they could use that feeling to tell whether they were in the correct full draw position. If you are not as flexible as they were, this would be a mistake as it would probably reduce the quality of your alignment (as it does for hundreds/thousands of archers, young and old, I observe).

The only way to tell whether this is in play for you is to experiment a bit. I like to use a 10# bow for this, but any light drawing bow will do. Start with a square stance and draw to anchor and see what your back feels like. With a 10# bow you can play a little, moving your draw arm and shoulder around and feeling the effects of those position changes. Then open your stance by 10 degrees and repeat. Then another 10 degrees, etc. McKinney shot with about an 80 degree open stance when he was shooting in stiff wind (the torsion in your trunk helps stabilize your stance), so you can go as far as you want with this experiment … or as far as you can. ;o) The key thing is if you get a better feeling in your back with one of those stances and you can maintain good line, then this is something you might want to incorporate into your shot. The key element, though, is maintaining or achieving good line. In the Chicago area, you can recognize almost any recurve archer who has worked with me as they probably shooting from a closed stance. (Orthodox sources on form and execution do not even mention closed stances any more.) A closed stance makes it easier for you to get in line and after my students learn to shoot with good line I encourage to explore any other stance they want, as long as they maintain good line.

Is this enough food for thought? If not, do note that high and low anchors do change draw lengths (and affect tunes thereby). For compound archers changing from “fingers” to “release” or the reverse also affects draw length.

 

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Tuning the Genesis Bow Follow-up

QandA logoI got a follow-up email regarding the Genesis tuning problem.

With NASP unfortunately we can’t change the arrow in any way and must use the Easton 1820 “Genesis Arrow” so it seems we’re left to play with nock height and repeatable form. Is that how you see it?

This is the case for official NASP competitions. My previous answer was for the broader archery community and competitions out it the wonderful world of archery outside of NASP. Here’s my answer to this email:

* * *

Yep, it is somewhat of a trap. The idea is to have a level playing field (same bow, arrow, target, distance) and I agree with that. Poor kids wouldn’t have the resources of richer kids to get their own arrows and have them fitted and tuned. But then each kid is stuck with identical equipment and to shoot well, equipment must be fitted to the archer and his/her abilities.

The only way to “weaken” an arrow like the Genesis competition arrow is to increase the point weight, and I am not sure that even that is allowed by NASP rules. The significant factor you seem to have control over is draw weight. If any of your kids are shooting anything less than full draw weight, getting them up to that will help. Also, you can do a little testing to see if there are bigger problems you do have control over. One of the things I see on a lot of Genesis bows are streaks on the arrow shelf and arrow rest. These are little smears of plastic left behind when fletches collide with the shelf/rest. For this reason, you want to clean off those surfaces regularly. A bad loose of the string by a beginner and Whack! there is a new streak. You won’t see it, though, if there are myriad others still there.

So for your really serious competitors, get a can of foot powder spray (it has to be powder). Spray the shelf and rest of their bows and have your archers shoot a couple of arrows. If there are any disturbances in the powder, you have a clearance problem. If you are shooting arrows with press-in rather than glue-on nocks (I think the old Genesis arrows had glue-ons), you can rotate the nock so that the fletch that was hitting no longer hits (since the arrow doesn’t start rotating until it is clear of the bow it is usually the bottom fletch). Re-test and rotate the nock until no more problem. Then make all of the other arrows the same by rotating their nocks into the same position. They make nock rotating tools that have built in guides for just this task (see photo below).

A nock alignment tool. The little notched arm is moved so it touches the index vane only when the nock is correctly positioned.

A nock alignment tool. The little notched arm is moved so it touches the index vane only when the nock is correctly positioned.

Since archers with different draw lengths have different string paths, you will need to test each bow-arrow-archer combination. (Bring lots of rags so that archers can clean up their bows afterward.)

If there are big streaks or the rest is getting hit, check the nocking point height. If the nocking point is too low, they will be launching their arrows “nock low” which is asking for clearance problems.

I do believe that you are allowed to adjust your draw weight, no? Having an arrow that stiff (spine is 0.592˝) would require the bow to be about 40#-45# to be shot correctly at that length, so reducing the draw weight would just make things worse, but turning the bow down just a bit (which changes the string path) may correct for a clearance issue so that may be worthwhile. If there is room to turn a child’s bow “up” a bit in draw weight, that might cure the clearance issue and provide better arrow flight.

 

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Problems Tuning Genesis Bows

QandA logoI get a lot of requests for help and I am glad to provide what I can. One of my readers upbraided me for this because I have been more than a little adamant that archery coaches shouldn’t “work for free.” So, I am being somewhat inconsistent. There are a couple of reasons I do this. For one, I am still trying to learn how to “coach remotely,” so I embrace opportunities to do that. Second, there is so much need for help in the archery coaching community. The main reason, though, is that people are turning to me because they can’t find the help they need. Not that that help isn’t available in every case but that it has been made hard to find. (I really, really, (really) wish the archery organizations would embrace coach support wholeheartedly instead of the current “train ‘em and drop ‘em” approach.) Until such resources are more widely available I will continue to do as much as I can to help those coaches who seek it.

Today’s topic comes from a reader of this blog who seeks help tuning Genesis bows. Here’s his email:

I’ve been darn near driving myself insane trying to learn to understand and tune a bow, specifically the Genesis.

A little background: I’m Level 2 certified wanting to do level 3. Just having trouble finding a training that’s close and works with my schedule having five kids of my own. I’ve read many of your books and in fact own 4-5 of them as resources for me and our coaches. We have a very large NASP program of 95+ in our elementary school from grades 4-6. We’ve been doing NASP for 5-6 years. We’ve won a team state championship in our second year and some individual championships. I’ve not done anything to the bows except yoke tuning and nock point tying 3/8˝ high of zero on a bow square and the occasional serving repair at the local archery shop. Perhaps I should be tying the nock even higher.

I’ve talked to other coaches and have picked up a few tips/suggestions regarding bow tuning and done far too many hours of research. Most coaches, since we’re competing against them, I believe are a bit guarded about sharing too much info. However, it seems almost all of our bows make arrows kick to the left for a RH archer no matter what I do.

For bows that seem to have cam lean I’ve tried rotating the bottom limbs, fiddled with the ATA length by twisting strings/cables, and replaced bushings in the cams. Regardless, I still see arrows kicking typically.

I realize that when pairing archers with bows that are not their own in a program it is not a one-size-fits-all situation. However about 50% of our archers have their own bows and I’d like to be able to tune them properly but cannot figure it out.

Also, once we begin shooting as a team we have enough bows for those who don’t own their own bows to each use one of ours thereby allowing us to individually tune. As NASP has grown it’s become more competitive and I’m wanting to keep up but feel we’re being left behind and want to keep our kids competitive and give them every chance possible to win. I’m willing to do whatever it takes we just don’t know what that is when it comes to bow tuning for the Genesis. If you understand these bows I’d be willing to pay you good money for a private bow-tech clinic if you’re ever in the area, not joking. 🙂

I just read the below link where you mention attaching a guide to bow and arrow fitting to the article regarding but don’t see the text document mentioned. Perhaps it would help. https://archerycoach.wordpress.com/2016/03/03/porpoising-and-fishtailing-follow-up-and-the-acg/

Any guidance or assistance is greatly appreciated!

And here is my response:

* * *

The document mentioned in that post was attached to the email sent to the correspondent, not the post. I have attached it to this email in the hope it might assist you.

Everything I am going to say from now on applies to right-handed bows. If you are dealing with a left-handed bow, you have to switch left and right. ;o)

Your kids arrows are flying to the left and you can’t tune it out because the arrows are too stiff. The “Genesis formula” (my term) is to make a bow and arrow combination that can be shot by a great many people. So the bow has zero letoff, which allows it to be shot by people with widely different draw lengths with no adjustment (not so with a bow with letoff) and an arrow that is too long and too stiff for people with short draw lengths so that it will be long enough and not too weak for people with longer draw lengths. But arrows that are too stiff for a particular situation will fly off to the left. Arrows that are too weak, will fly off to the right. (Remember that left and right directions have to be switched for left-handed archers.) Since most youths fall into the shorter draw length category, most arrows used for the Genesis (especially the “Genesis Arrow” are too stiff and will fly to the left no matter what you do to the bow.

This is because the farther you draw a bow, like this one, the more energy is stored in the bow. The more energy stored, the more energy is given to the arrow when shot and the stiffer the arrow needs to be to receive it. (Imagine a whippy thin arrow being shot from a very stout bow–the arrow might break upon release!)

“So, in tuning, we set up the bow and tune the arrow.”

So, in tuning, we set up the bow and tune the arrow. (Little tweaks of the bow may take place for fine tuning purposes, so this is just a generalization.)

The hard thing with kids is that they are still growing. If you fit them for arrows (see attachment) “correctly” they will over the next six months, grow an inch or half an inch and their draw length goes up accordingly and now they arrows are too short (for safety) and too weak (as the bow is now “stronger” because it is being pulled farther). What we recommend is to fit arrows to youth’s bows that are one spine group stiffer for each extra inch of length you choose. By choosing to use an arrow that is 2-3 inches longer than usual, if you didn’t choose a stiffer shaft, the arrow would be too weak. But with those stiffer shafts, when the youth grows and needs a stronger arrow, that extra length allows the arrows to be shortened (making them stiffer) while still being long enough for safety.

Standard bow setup for “fingers” shooters is to have the bottom of the top nock locator 1/2” above square. The purpose of this is to launch arrows a bit “nock high” to avoid clearance issues with the arrow rest. Genesis bows are not what one would call high precision bows, so some cam lean and other less desirable attributes are to be expected and really don’t contribute to your issues. The problems you are having are likely due to just arrow shaft stiffness mismatches.

I hope this helps.

Steve

PS We are working on a series of e-booklets explaining all of this and the attached document is to be part of that, from which we expect to make a little money ($1.99 per booklet?), so I ask that you don’t share the document SMFAwith your colleagues. Of course, if you learn the knowledge provided in it, you will be free to share that with your fellow coaches. ;o)

PPS We have done bow maintenance and tuning workshops before and we might be able to set something up if you would like (we are not so far from one another geographically). There are, however, people in your community who might be able to provide this service cheaper (we need to recover travel and lodging costs, etc.). The purpose of this e-booklet series mentioned above is to provide much of the information you need. I also strongly recommend the book “Simple Maintenance for Archery” by Allan Anderson and Ruth Rowe. It contains step-by-step instructions for many of the tasks need for tuning and maintenance (with photos!). It is now out in a second edition (photo is of first edition).

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Central Plane ? of the Bow?

QandA logoI always assume I am being perfectly clear, but I get help from readers who write to me and tell me when I am not. This is something for which I am grateful as it helps me do a better job of explaining things. Here is a recent request for a clarification that I thought I should share.

On page 64 of The Principles of Coaching Archery, Vol. 1, you say that the sight aperture [should be] in the central plane of the bow (along with the bow string). I’m not sure what you mean by ‘sight aperture,’ and not sure about ‘central plane.’
“I’m assuming you don’t mean that the pin (or whatever) that is part of the sight should be obscured by the bow string. I shoot a bare longbow for practice, but I hunt with a compound bow that has a sight, and it wouldn’t do me much good if the pin were hidden by the bow string.

Here’s my response:

* * *

I usually ask whether you want the long answer or the short one, but …

If your bow is set up right (any of them), the bow string should share a plane with the riser. The riser, were it to be split in two slicing down its middle from top to bottom (from the archer’s viewpoint), that is what the “central plane” is. (If you have a metal riser, the screw holes on the back are in that plane so you can use them to visually check whether the bowstring is “in plane” in that it should line up with both screw holes. On recurve bows, before the advent of “adjustable limb pockets,” the string could be no other place. If you bought a bow and the string wasn’t aligned on the center of the riser, you sent it back. (If later, you acquired a twisted limb, then there is more than one problem involved.) Now that we can “adjust limbs in their pockets” I have seen bows with bow limbs tilted in the same direction, creating a situation that the bowstring was quite far from centrally located. These bows don’t shoot worth a darn if left that way.)

See how the bowstring ;ines up with the central plane of the riser, how the archer holds the bow vertically? All of these are needed criteria for repetitive accurate shooting.

See how the bowstring lines up with the central plane of the riser, how the archer holds the bow vertically? All of these are needed criteria for repetitive accurate shooting.

Ideally when the string is pulled back and let go it moves toward the riser in or near to that plane. The arrow needs to be set up so that it sits in or very near to that plane so that the string pushes it along the axis of the arrow. If the string pushes on the back of the arrow and the arrow is sideways to that plane the arrow will spin like a helicopter blade! So, a basic bow setup requires the string and arrow to sit in this same plane. The arrow should, if it is spined right, then fly in this same plane toward the target, which means the sight’s aperture (pin, ring, scope with dot, scope with a ring, whatever) must also be in that plane (dead center, please).

When I first work with an archer, one of the first things I check is whether his/her aperture is “in plane.” If it is not, they do not have a good tune. The equivalent, if you are shooting Barebow and using a point of aim aiming technique, is that your POAs need to be in a vertical plane with the target center (a 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock line through the X-ring is part of this plane which, interestingly, is the exact same plane we were just talking about). If your POA is to the left of that line to hit the center, then your arrows are too weak (assuming a RHed archer). If the POA is to the right of that line, your arrows are too stiff.

All of this is determined by bow design and by the fact that when an arrow flies the only force remaining on it is gravity, so the arrow moves up and down only (absent wind) after it is launched. If that arrow doesn’t start in the central plane as described, it will not end up in it and will not hit the center of the target.

If the bowstring were off-center on the bow, it would tend to twist the bow in your hand and also end up pushing your arrows in a direction other than down the length of your arrow shafts and so your arrows would be hippety-hopping all day long (fishtailing primarily).

I am in the process of pushing a “principles-based archery coaching” approach in which coaches can learn a few of these basic design/physical principles which then allow them to figure out what is going wrong with bow setups, no matter the situation. Ain’t there yet, but working on it.

As to hiding the sight aperture (pin, ring, scope with dot, scope with a ring, whatever) compound bows allow the use of a peep sight which allows you to look through the string and for other bows, it is important that the pupil of your aiming eye (the hole that lets the light in) is lined up along side the bowstring, tangent to that string, meaning as close to the “plane” as possible without having the string block your vision.

And, of course, when you shoot Barebow, there is no sight aperture to place correctly or incorrectly.

An Added Note Now that you have some idea of this central plane of a bow, can you now see why a bow sight’s sight bar (the vertical part when being used) has to be parallel to the central plane? If it is not, then when you move the aperture up and down to adjust for shots of different distances, you will also be moving the aperture left and right relative to that plane. This will create left and/or right misses depending on the angle of the sight bar (the amount of the miss will vary with the distance).

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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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When Is It Time to Move Up to a Better Bow?

QandA logoI got an email from a Olympic Recurve student regarding what kind of bow to move up to. He is a serious student who has a good beginner/intermediate bow, an SF Premium Plus. He had tried a couple of other bows but went on to say “Not that it will make me a better archer, but if I feel more comfortable, maybe it will help me improve. What do you think?” Often these requests are just fishing for recommendations of brands and models for them to go check out but this request is more level-headed and needed to be taken seriously. Specifically, it is important to not pooh-pooh the effect of a new bow on keeping interest in the sport up. One does not, though, want to encourage students to be constantly buying new gear because that is what they like best about archery.:. playing with new gear. If the archer’s goal is to shoot competitive scores, the equipment’s role is secondary and if you let it become primary, don’t expect to meet high goals.

Here’s my response to this student’s question (slightly modified):

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Let me quote former Olympian, Simon Needham of England:
When an archer starts out a reasonable ‘beginner bow’ is a good bow to start with. Then when moving on to the point of to getting their own bow, a mid-priced bow will be a good choice with ILF limbs. Then, as they get better and stronger, they may well need to get higher poundage limbs. As they pass the 500 point and perhaps are looking for a better bow, I suggest that they get a top level riser, either new if they can afford it or a good second hand one. At this stage of shooting, a new or good second hand bow will have the same benefit. Any of the manufacturers best risers will take the archer up to the 650 level. It is really only scoring at that level that one manufacturer’s riser will suit an archer better than another.

The “500 point” he is referring to is a score in the Olympic Ranking Round (72 arrows shot at 70 m at a 122 cm target face, 720 points possible). The 650 level is an internationally competitive level and he is saying that only when you are that good can you tell the difference between one high quality bow and another.

So, basically, you can go a couple of routes. You can stick with what you have and make adjustments (see below) or you can upgrade to a near top-tier bow (used high quality risers are much cheaper than new). You don’t really need to worry about nuances until you are shooting very, very well. I also add that the very top-tier bows require elite expertise to shoot them well and are to be avoided until you reach that level. (Some students get carried away with a credit card.)

If you decide to keep going with what you have, the same basic considerations are involved: how does the bow feel and how does it shoot? The feel is determined by the weight of the bow (which can be adjusted by adding stabilizer weights or weights screwed directly to the riser, and the grip section. Grips can be purchased to replace the grip on your bow or, if that is not possible, the grip that is on your bow now can be modified (using polyester auto body fillers, tape, etc.—see photos). You may want to experiment with adjustments to both of these to get a better idea in your mind what you want from your bow—some prefer heavier bows, some lighter. If you prefer lighter, don’t buy a heavy riser, etc. I spend a great deal of time sanding and taping grips so they feel right in my hand.taped-grip

Also, if you are shooting with others and someone has a bow with a draw weight you can handle, it is acceptable to ask them to try their bow. It is also acceptable for them to say “no” to your request and you must not take this personally. If you do get a chance to try other bows, be sure to use your sling! Dropping someone’s bow on the floor or ground is not a good way to make friends.

jager-grips-high-med-lowSome bows fit me like a glove. Others are uncomfortable no matter what I do (too heavy, too front heavy, etc.). Trying a selection of bows will educate you as to what you like and do not like.

Evaluating whether you can shoot a bow well can only happen after you buy one because you have to tune it in, shoot it until you are comfortable, and then shoot some practice rounds to see if it at least scores as well as your old bow. (If it doesn’t, no matter how hard you try, it goes up on eBay to get enough money to buy another.)

I suspect you wanted me to say “Buy a Hoyt” or some such, but it is not the case. I heard Coach Kim of Korea ask in a seminar at the Olympic Training Center in California “Who make best bow?” When we were confused as to what he was asking, he followed with “Hoyt make best bow” which we were a little shocked at. Then he chuckled and pointed to himself and said “Hoyt dealer for all of Korea! Ha, ha!” He went on to say, “bow doesn’t really matter.” An archer who shot a 1340 FITA Round, would be given a new bow and when tuned in and comfortable, he would be shooting 1340 FITA rounds with it. “It is archer, not bow,” emphasized Coach Kim.

Having said that, there are personal preferences and Coach Kim was comparing top drawer bows from elite manufacturers. There are differences between bows but the best bows made by the major manufacturers are all capable of supporting world record scores, if the archer is capable. And as Simon mentioned above, you are not going to be able to even notice the differences between one high-end bow and another until you have reach quite a high level of expertise.

Also, you can go piecemeal on this. Buy limbs first or riser first, then the other later. (Buying better limbs will affect performance much more than buying a better riser.)

Buying a new bow is something I recommend to archers who a) have settled on a draw weight (have you?) and have reached a plateau in their performance (have you?). The only “need” of a new bow is when the bow you have is limiting your performance somehow. Buying good limbs is quite expensive and after you do if you decide you need a different weight limb, you have just spend a wad of money on a short-term use of the first limbs you bought. If you are still trying out different draw weights, I recommend you stick with limbs like those available for the SF Premium risers.

 

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The Relationship between Draw Weight and Stabilizer/Bow Weight

QandA logoI love it when I get questions I had never thought about before. When you learn a subject, it tends to channel one’s thoughts, thus avoiding questions that can challenge them, so it is good to consider such questions. The question that stimulated this flood of philosophical thinking was: “If I increase the draw weight of my bow should the weight of the stabilizer also be changed?”

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At first this seemed like one of those questions beginning Olympic Recurve students ask that are inherently nonsensical, but this one is not.

The “stabilizer weight,” including how that weight is distributed, is primarily a matter of balancing the bow as well as resisting movements that can occur in the short amount of time the arrow is on the string and moving (~ 20 ms). (The long rod of a OR setup resists the bow from tilting up and down and twisting left and right, while the short rods resist the bow from rocking left and right or rotating around the axis of the long rod. About the only motion they don’t resist is movement along the axis of the long rod, which is normal and acceptable. Note, though, that the biggest source of movement resistance is the mass of the riser itself.) The draw weight is a matter of force applied to the string and riser by the archer. The weight of the stabilizer and bow is also a force but it is at roughly a right angle to the draw force … and the two do overlap some. (If you didn’t know that weight is a force, you weren’t paying attention in middle school science class.)

The deepest part of the grip of your bow (called the “pivot point”) is typically the midpoint of the length and mass of the bow. Your bow hand is mostly below that point so the bow draw force (created by your two hands and the musculature and skeleton between them) is pulling the bow back into your bow hand but also partly upward, too (like the way a construction crane works (see illustration and photo), the pull of a cable from the bottom causes the top of the other end of the crane to rise, including any weight attached to it). So, like the crane, the draw hand is supplying some of the upward force needed to hold the bow up against gravity. When you raise the draw force, you increase the amount of this effect and it is easier to hold the bow up at full draw, that is the bow “feels” slightly lighter. So, you could add more weight to your bow or take some off if it feels better, but there is no reason to try to compensate for the increased draw weight other than that.

The bridgework bit is like your bow arm. Pull on those cables and the arm will move up. (The draw force is the equivalent of the pull on the cables) And, yes, I know that the cables can also lift what is on the end of the hook without moving the arm, sheesh!

The bridgework bit in this crane is like your bow arm. Pull on those cables and the arm will move up. (The draw force is the equivalent of the pull on the cables.) And, yes, I know that the cables can also lift what is on the end of the hook without moving the arm, sheesh!

There should be no effect of the draw weight change on the feeling of balance at full draw, even though the strain you feel at full draw has gone up. That increase in strain is horizontal, not vertical. So, if your bow still feels nice and balanced, you are good to go.

The bow arm acts like the beam of the derrick, with the draw force being like the force acting through the cables. This produces a slight upward force at the bow hand which helps to hold the bow up.

The bow arm acts like the beam of the derrick, with the draw force being like the force acting through the cables. This produces a slight upward force at the bow hand which helps to hold the bow up.

Realize, though, that since your “back half” takes on part of the work of your “front half” as described above, once you let the string go, then it is harder for the front half (your bow arm specifically) to absorb the loss of help from the draw arm and “dropping your bow arm” after the shot becomes more of an issue. We do not want the bow arm to drop soon after the shot because of “normal variation”—sometimes the drop will occur later (no problem) and sometimes sooner. If the “sooner” instances involve cases in which the arrow is still attached to the string, the dropping bow will take the string and arrow with it and a low shot will occur (definitely a problem). The indicator for the form flaw “dropping your bow arm” is that low arrow hits points show up out of the blue, as we say.

 

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When I Raise My Bow, How High Should I Raise It?

QandA logoThe question in the title of this post came from my very best student. He is my very best student because he challenges me to support my opinions and not just by asking. He does his research. (I like this!)

This question came from a critique I had of a videoed shot of his. In the video, his bow hand (and bow, of course) went up substantially and then came down substantially before the string was loosed. We had talked about this before and I thought we had an agreement on not doing this.

My recommendation goes like this: if you find yourself raising your bow above where it ends up when the release occurs, you are wasting energy and time during your shot. Doing this, your bow passes through the position where it will end up, is lifted higher against gravity and then lowered into position, a position it has already been in. This, I argue is extraneous motion, which costs energy and time and has no positive benefit.

My student then jumped on YouTube and showed me two of Korea’s finest female archers doing just that: raising the bow up above where it would be finally and then lowering it into place.

Now, I have been told that a study had been done that supported my position. Researchers hooked up an archer’s deltoid muscles (on their upper bow arm the ones that raise the arm) to a myograph and then had them raise the bow and stop it in shooting position. They measured the muscle activity involved in this task. They then had the archer raise the bow higher and then lower it into shooting position and again measured the muscle activity. What they found is that when the bow was raised and stopped where it was supposed to be, they got consistent muscle activity. When it was raised up above that position and lowered into it, they got more variable, less consistent muscle activity. So not only does the second approach to raising the bow waste time and energy, it results in a less consistent shoulder stability. (I asked for a copy of this study but the guy who told me about it couldn’t find it. If any of you know of this study, I will very much appreciate a copy or a link to it.)

So, the question remains, why did these elite Korean Olympic archers perform this unnecessary move when they raise their bows? As I thought about it, I came up with a number of possibilities. From the video, it appeared that the bow height these Korean elites raised to initially was very close to the bow height they would need at 70 m. Since the Korean archery community is obsessed with the Olympics, the 70 m distant target is focused on very much. The question comes then, whether you should have a different draw indoors, where one’s bow is not so high? Their answer may have been: for year round consistency it is better to keep a consistent raise (designed around 70 m targets) and just insert a lowering of the bow step  into “indoor position” when it is needed. This is one possibility.

Another possibility is based on the claim many archers who make this move have: they claim that raising the bow up higher makes the draw easier. A cursory look at some additional videos brings this claim into doubt. Several Olympic recurve archers doing the up-down move didn’t complete their draw until the bow was back down. Since the draw weight of recurve bows just goes up and up, this argument would be that the move was made to make the easiest part of the draw easier but left the later, harder part of the draw alone. Again, this makes no sense. Also, one could argue that pulling straight down is more awkward that pulling at shoulder height, so the higher the draw is begun, the more awkward the draw becomes. I do not see how that helps. Maybe some one of you has more expertise in this and can straighten me out.

Now, when we ask our archers why they do things, we should not expect well-reasoned answers or even sensible answers. They may just parrot what they were told or were just making it up as they go (a very common thing amongst humans, I am told). But something apparently feels like a benefit to these archers, otherwise they probably wouldn’t have adopted it in the first place. Also, “sky drawing” or “drawing high” is prohibited by many organizational rules (WA specifically and WA rules are the Olympic rules). If one gets a little carried away one and raised a bit too high could end up either disqualified or required to draw the bow differently than practiced, neither conducive to a good outcome.

Should the bow get raised higher and then lowered to this point or should you just raise to this point, that is the question!

Should the bow get raised higher and then lowered to this point or should you just raise to this point, that is the question!

My Analysis of the “High Raise”
There is a benefit that is significant in doing this and the benefit goes to those whose bow arm deltoid muscles are somewhat weak: most youths, adults with little upper body development, etc. This is what I see: when the bow is raised and for some of the kids I see doing this, the bow is almost thrown up into the air, and lowered, while it is being lowered the full weight of the bow is not being supported. So a six-pound bow, while it is “falling” down from its high point to its final resting spot, the archer may only need a five-pound force along the way. Actually, when the bow reaches its peak, the force needed at that point drops to zero, then climbs up to the force equal to the weight of the bow when it stops moving. But while that is happening, what if you could transfer half of the load of holding the weight of that bow to your draw arm? Many people do not realize that the draw arm is contributing a sizeable fraction of the force holding the bow up. This is because the bow hand is on the bottom half of the bow (the pivot point being the typical center point) and the force of the draw is back and slightly up (a second order lever is being employed, just like in a construction crane). If the draw force is substantial, e.g. 40# and the portion of it in the “up” direction constitutes 5%, then 2# of the bow’s weight is being held in the string hand! If 10%, then 4# is being held. This is more than half the weight of the bow being held up by the draw side!

So, for an archer who finds holding up a 6# bow or an 8# bow with just their bow arm difficult, if they do this up-down maneuver and draw while the bow is coming down, by the time it comes to rest, the bow arm has to hold up only a fraction of the total bow’s weight!

I think this interpretation is valid because I see a great many young archers who are rushed into a heavier metal-risered bow (either compound or recurve) who have real problems dropping their bow arms post loose. This is because the bow is too heavy for them to support with just their bow arm. And if it is too heavy after the shot, it is too heavy before the shot.

Okay, Should I Change the Way I Teach the Draw?
This is always a complicated question. If you have a student who throws the bow up and then lowers it into position, should you suggest they change? This is the real question. It really depends upon their situation. For the brilliant elite archers from Korea, you would be making a mistake. In fact for any archer with mature form, you should not recommend a change unless what they are doing in this context is causing them problems (they run out of energy, they drop their bow arm later in tourneys costing then points, etc.). The reason is that you must always weigh the training costs against the potential gains. If your student is not struggling, then making such a change might not be a source of better scores at all. They are just wasting energy and if they have enough energy, there is no problem. But, there is also an opportunity cost! While you are working to make a form change for which there is dubious benefit, you are not working on other things that have more significant benefits.

The answer to this question is quite different if an archer is just building good form or rebuilding their shot. Those would be times to consider such changes. It also helps if you can discern whether this “up-down” maneuver was something they learned to cope with a too heavy bow when they were young and just carried it into their adult form. If their deltoids are still too weak (especially true for compound archers who are shooting loaded up bows) this may still be an option, especially if the archer doesn’t want to go to the gym and build up their deltoids. If it isn’t, then why build in superfluous movements into a shot?

This Is What I Teach
It varies somewhat but has the same criteria. At its heart are the facts that compound archers has very heavy bows to cope with, while recurve archers has full draw weight at full draw to cope with. In both cases, we want to minimize the amount of time spent at full draw. The more time, the more energy is burnt while under the stress of the draw or the weight of the bow which one is trying to hold steadily.

I suggest the following procedure: the bow should be raised, such that when one executes their draw and anchor, the bow is properly positioned at the end of those steps … naturally. Why spend time moving the aperture onto the target if you can arrange to have it on target in the flow of normal events.

Here is a drill to find that position: I ask the archer to raise their bow and sight through their aperture, lining it up on a target center. Then I ask them to close their eyes, draw and anchor, and then open their eyes. When they open their eyes, I ask them where the aperture is lined up with respect to the target. If they start dead center and then after executing their draw and anchor movements, the aperture ends up at 5 o’clock in the blue, for example, I ask then, “Where should you start your aperture if you want to end up seeing gold at the end?” For the “5 o’clock in the blue” example, the answer would be 11 o’clock in the blue. (Just go straight through the center and out the other side as far from center as you started aka “same color on the other side of the target clock.”) So, if your draw and anchor naturally moves your aperture slightly down and to the right, as in this example, you would start slightly high and to the left. Easy peasy.

Don’t expect elite level consistency from intermediate archers here (or ever)! The more variable their form, the more variable will be their “starting point” or “pre-aim point.” The idea is to create a situation in which only very minor corrections in bow position are needed at full draw.

This makes a lot of sense for athletes who shoot single distances: indoor archers at 20 yd/18 m, outdoor Olympic recurve archers at 70 m, etc. You would have that one starting point on that one target face at that one distances. But what about field archers where many different sized targets are shot and the same targets are shot at multiple distances? I have found that if your aperture moves “down and to the right slightly” as in the example, then because in general larger targets are used at longer distances, the starting point is fairly similar on most targets and I can leave the exact pre-aim starting point up to my subconscious mind. When I raise the bow, if I am an “above, left” starting point archer, I just start above and left of target center. How much I leave up to my subconscious mind.

In my case, I was an unfit archer shooting a heavy compound bow. Using this technique I became much less antsy about being lined up in time. So when I hit anchor and was checking my scope bubble and peep concentricity, there was just gold in my sight ring. This reduced the amount of time I spent at full draw, conserved my energy, and made me less nervous/anxious—all of which were distinct “positives” for me.

Try this in your own shooting. If you feel a benefit, then maybe this is something you want to teach.

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