Tag Archives: the Finger Release

Finger Release Basics

I was watching a video about the finger release put out by Merlin Archery (UK). I very much like Merlin Archery; they put out quality goods and quality information. In this video, however, while everything they said I agree with, there is much they left out that would clarify what they were trying to say.

I insist that coaches should know what they are talking about (even though I do not always), so here are a couple of statements/claims made about the release and what there is to back them up.

You should not try to open your fingers to effect the release of the bowstring.
This, of course, is spot on, but the videos “reason” for doing this is that it creates more string path variation, which is true, but it doesn’t say why it does so. The why of this is simple: you aren’t fast enough. Your fingers aren’t

Nope! Doesn’t correct for shooting a right-handed bow left-handed, either.

fast enough. So no matter what you do with your fingers, the string, powered by the bow, still has to push them out of its way back to brace. And, if you try to open your fingers, they become stiff (due to the tension of the tendons trying to make the fingers move) and being stiff they are harder to push out of the way. Newton’s third law is involved (action-reaction) the string is pushing harder on the string, therefore the fingers are pushing harder on the string, which makes for more side-to-side string motion (because of the finger’s orientation of being slightly to the side.

You want to have the release hand move back in the same plane as the arrow moves forward.
Again, this is spot on but the reason why was omitted. If the release is clean the string hand will move away from the bow in the same plane that the arrow is leaving it . . . if . . . if the archer is pulling straight back away from the bow. So, why do we want this? We design the bows so that the string moves back toward the bow in, or very near, the central vertical plane of the bow, that is the bow is designed for maximum energy transfer when the string returns to its brace position in a straight line. In order to get the string to do that you have to pull away from the bow in that same plane. If you are pulling in that direction and release cleanly, your hand should move in the direction the force applied through it was moving: force straight back, motion straight back.

They do mention plucking as a common release flaw, but characterize it as something the archer is doing; it is not. Plucking occurs because the force being applied is not straight back, but straight back and out away from the archer. When the release occurs, the string hand moves back and away from the archer’s face because that is the direction the force is pulling it. The key point here, is that if you are pulling straight back alone, the hand will fly straight back upon the release. If it flies in any other direction, the pull was in the wrong direction. The pulling force determines the direction the hand will move.

A common mistake beginners make is to have a “floating anchor.” The anchor position is an inch or more out in space to the side of the head. Coaches then tell these archers that the hand must be pressed against the face and so, the archer . . . sensibly . . . bends their wrist to make the touch, leaving their elbow out to the side where it was. This can be considered a sure-fire recipe for plucking. It is named “having a flying elbow.” To pull straight back, anatomically, the draw elbow must be straight back (in the same vertical plane; it always comes down to that central plane of the bow).

There are drills . . . and they can be misleading
There are drills for improving the release but they can create more problems that they cure. In the video, they mention the Two Anchor Drill.

The Two Anchor Drill?
In this drill the first anchor is the normal one, the second anchor is the earlobe or similar point and the drill is to get the draw hand to go from Anchor Point #1 to Anchor Point #2 from release to followthrough

This is all well and good, but this is not something that the archer is to do, it is just something that is to happen. Basically, if the archer does everything else correctly, they will hit the two anchor points automatically (the hand moves straight back and as long as the arms are kept up, there is a limit to the range of this motion and it is typically when the fingertips of the draw hand hit the ear). But students are often literal-minded. They start by trying to move their hand that way. (“There is no try!” Shut up, Yoda!) This is quite wrong. Using the “second anchor point” as a recognition factor is fine, but using it as a target for a movement is problematic.

Another common example of this mistake is the instruction for an archer to touch their shoulder with their fingertips at the end of their followthrough. I am convinced this was a made up drill given to an archer to show them the path their release hand needs to take and that archer achieved some success doing this and so other archers copied them. This is a stupid move. (I apologize if you have used this drill before, but please stop.) Here’s why. Reach out and touch your shoulder with that arm’s fingertips. In what direction is the elbow pointing? In my case it is almost straight down. Where do we want the elbow to point? At full draw it is roughly straight back, away from the bow. It is traveling on a somewhat flat arc, slanting slightly downward as the elbow goes to anchor and through the followthrough. To get it to point straight down is to change its path considerably and if this happens right after release, the normal distribution (aka Bell curve) of this in space and time will have part of it happening before the string leaves the fingers on some shots.

I have also seen people shoot a static release (aka dead release) and then flip their hand around to touch their shoulder, the two motions being completely disconnected and hence of no value.

So What Should You Recommend?
The only people I recommend working on their release much are compound people who have been using their release aid incorrectly. For “fingers” archers, I generally focus on the key that their fingers are to be relaxed at the point of release and if they do it correctly, their draw hand will slide straight back alongside their face as a consequence. This establishes the correct cause-effect relationship. I also recommend good full-draw-position, one in which the draw elbow in coplanar with the central vertical plane of the bow, the arrow, the sight aperture, the long rod, etc. (I teach them how to check other archers and they can teach other archers, or their patents, or . . . , to do this check for them.) If their draw hand isn’t reacting correctly, they know it probably has to de with relaxing their string fingers or the positioning of their draw elbow, two places where a corrective action will actually work.



Filed under For All Coaches

Teaching The Finger Release

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A friend and fellow coach Tammy Besser asked for some advice on teaching the finger release. She commented on one young man who was shooting a compound bow with “fingers” and was a real “plucker.” Once she tried to correct him when he plucked wildly and his response was “But I hit the bulls-eye.”

This is a not uncommon problem. It is exacerbated in this case and many others by the fact that the young archer will receive advice from all and sundry, much of it being conflicting. I fervently wish that all well-meaning archers when tempted to give unsolicited advice to either refrain or ask “Do you have a coach?” first. Since I do not believe in miracles, we teach our students what to do when they receive unsolicited advice. We teach them to say “Gee, thanks, Mister/Ma’am, I’ll tell my coach the next time I see him/her.” This phrase is magical. It gets the youngster off of the hook in that they don’t have to immediately take the advice of a senior, and it satisfies the advice giver, possibly because somebody is working to help the young archer.

Back to the issue at hand: how to teach the release to youngsters. Here is what I recommend.

“I fervently wish that all well-meaning archers when tempted to
give unsolicited advice to either refrain or ask ‘Do you have a coach?’ first.”

When working on the release:

Don’t Work on the Release Yep, don’t even mention it. Work needs to be done on what will result in a good release, namely good alignment and relaxed hands. So, is their elbow in line? If not, how can they get it in line? That needs work. A “flying elbow” guarantees a pluck, while an elbow “at or past line” almost cannot result in a pluck. You can try asking them to rotate their elbow back around at full draw and you will touch it as a signal that they can release the arrow. Getting them to focus on the elbow will result in progress. Focusing on the release almost never does, because it creates an urge to “do something” with the release hand which is not what is needed. What is needed is the relaxation of the muscles in the forearm that are creating the finger hook. You can’t address that intellectually with a young archer, so you have to get them into a position where a good release will happen automatically.

Develop Their Awareness Young archers tend to focus on all of the wrong things. (How could they know what the right things to focus on are?) Typically when they release an arrow they are focused on where that arrow lands. (All beginners shoot arrows to find out where they will land. Experts know where they will land once shot.) But archers need to develop the awareness to know, for example, where their string hand ends up after the shot (and bow arm, too). If they learn to recognize when their string hand ends up in a wrong position, they will realize that they made a mistake (probably an alignment one) they need to correct. This requires a great deal of reinforcement in the form of questions: Where did your release hand end up? Did you notice where your release hand was at the end? etc.

Take the Target Face Down! Beginners think a good shot is one that goes into the center of the target face. When working on any part of their shot, they need to shoot “blank bale.” The target gives feedback that cannot be ignored (not by them, not by you, not by me), it must be removed. Then the young archer has to evaluate what a good shot is without an arrow score. This will move them into developing their body awareness.

There are more advance techniques, but those probably aren’t appropriate for beginners.

Tammy, I hope this helps!





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