Picture it… it’s late July you’re going through your hunting gear making sure you have every last piece of clothing and equipment washed, prepped and ready to go. You run upstairs to grab your lucky shirt and in passing you see your reflection in the mirror. Not only are you panting like a lab after a 100-yard retrieve but you’re lucky shirt is a bit tighter than last year! Don’t worry. The following bowhunting strength and conditioning is going to help you get yourself back in hunting shape. Of course we hope it motivates you to start a little sooner next year.
When it comes to archery, your shoulders and back are the foundation your form and accuracy rest on. Building strength and developing your muscles takes resistance training. I prefer free weight training over machines because free weights stimulate more auxiliary muscles, much like when drawing a bow. Recruiting these small muscle groups emphasize the balance and control needed for a steady hold. We’re going to focus on three upper body muscles; the deltoids, the bicep/tricep and the Latissimus dorsi (lats).
Your Brace Arm Must Be As Strong As Your Draw Arm
A common misconception is that if you draw right handed then you train heavier on that side of the body or vice versa. This is absolutely incorrect; your brace arm must be as strong as your draw arm in every aspect. I recommend each movement to start with a simple 3 sets of 8 reps. Once you have a firm grasp on your strength limits you can adjust your weight and reps accordingly.
The deltoids are located on the outside of your shoulders and can be broken down into the front delts, side delts and rear delts. Your deltoids are a small muscle group and can be targeted very directly and efficiently in the raise, a push and pull motion with varying exercises. Starting off with the “push” the shoulder press is the solid go to. It stimulates every angle of the delt as well as the stabilizer muscles all the way from your shoulders to your wrists. Once you have this mastered try switching it up with what is called the “Arnold press”. It’s a variation of the shoulder press with added rotation at the bottom of the lift.
It Separates The Men From The Boys
Next we move onto the pull movement. A cable machine is the easiest way to focus the delts with a pulling movement. Many variations of this lift can be achieved from different angles with different grips. Setting the height of machine and pulling to different areas of the body help work each region of the deltoid. Pulling towards the face with a “face pull” movement focus directly on the muscle group. Moving the angle from low to high rotates the focus from front delt to rear delt and everywhere in between.
Finally a real finisher for the deltoids is the gauntlet of raises. Each aspect of the front, side and rear delt can be worked by doing a raise in a different direction. Front raises will focus on your front delts, lateral raises will focus on the side delts and finally rear raises will focus on the rear delt. I highly recommend finishing with this lift because it separates the men from the boys. Just give it a try and you will understand why.
Next month we move onto the bicep and triceps.
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