Skeletal Alignment in Archery

By Mark V. Lonsdale, Shaft Shooters

For the untrained rookie, archery appears to be a simple process of drawing and releasing arrows at the target. But for the trained archer, he or she knows that precision archery, Olympic recurve, barebow, or compound, requires the mastery of several physical and mental elements. While many focus on a clean release, it is alignment behind the arrow that is the foundation of injury free, consistent archery. The release, in fact, becomes a subconscious process triggered by other actions, but without good alignment, the archer will not achieve the required relaxed form for consistent accuracy.

Note the alignment of the draw-hand elbow behind the arrow and bow hand.

Skeletal alignment is the bone-to-bone structure that reduces the muscular effort required to hold the bow at full draw. While the rookie is muscling the bow to full draw, the experienced archer appears to effortlessly draw, hold, and release. A simple test is to hold the bow at full draw and see how long it takes to begin shaking. The novice archer using strength and little to no technique will begin to shake within seconds, while the archer with good form will be able to hold full draw for 10-30 seconds depending on conditioning and draw weight.

Note the rotation of the back and right elbow into alignment (picture credit unknown)

While achieving this alignment appears to be a linear movement to full draw, it is actually a rotational movement that brings the archer into skeletal alignment. With an open stance the archer’s back and front shoulder will be pointing to the left of the target, but as he or she comes to full draw, the alignment of the back will rotate to the right of the target.

Note the line of the back from an open stance that rotates as the draw-hand elbow rotates into alignment behind the arrow and bow hand.
Standing behind the archer, the coach or instructor can observe how well the archer comes into skeletal alignment. The archer can also practice this in front of a mirror with a bow or stretch bands. In the example above, the archer is still rotating to skeletal alignment

To wrap this up, skeletal alignment is the foundation on which good archery is built. While all the elements of the shot process are important, without good alignment the sight or arrow point will be shaking on the target, are archer will experience target panic, the release will be inconsistent, and resultant accuracy poor. So even when you cannot make it to the range, you can still practice form and alignment in the mirror.


Author: Mark V

Dedicated shooter, seeker, traveler, teacher, trainer, educator

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