Archery form evaluated by a Physical Therapist, here's what I learned...

540-Virginian

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As I'm newer to archery and consuming a suffocating amount of information (bow tuning, arrow building, every piece of gear imaginable, etc), I felt other new archers (or any archer) may benefit from what I'm about to share. I decided to have my physical therapist watch me shoot and give me feedback on my form.

I specifically wanted a PT to review and coach me. Although she's never shot a bow, she understands the proper form and mechanics just as well - if not better - than any archery pro. I found online personalities were not great at the physiological portion of proper form (at least not being able to pick it the minute details so easily in others).

So, a PT's feedback was a critical step (I felt) I had been missing.

I recorded some slow motion videos of me shooting from different angles to watch with her. She also watched me draw my bow and shoot a few times, instructing me what to do different. Here's how it went...

Right off the bat while I was at full draw, she immediately called out, "Oh god your back is arched way too much!" Instead of keeping my core (abs) activated, I was doing the equivalent of a reverse slouch. This contributed to a number of issues, but it especially impacted my bow arm being able extend properly.

In the videos you could see my bow arm hyper extend after a shot. You could see in slowmo my bow twist/torque left after I shot. This was likely the cause of those GD right nock tears!

I also couldn't get my nock to sit just below the corner of my mouth; in the videos I saw it would sit back further on my jaw causing a lot of contact (and guessing pressure) with my face. I had never noticed it before, and seeing this at first made me second guess my draw length.

So, I had my PT watch a John Dudley video and then measure my draw length accordingly; she was able to make sure my form was perfect while she measured. She got 29.25". My bow is set at 29.5", so clearly my draw length is not off by as much as it looked in video. This again was due to me arching my back and not using my core.

I also kept dropping my bow arm down after a few seconds of drawing back. She instructed me to activate my bow arm's should blade muscle more, especially when I raised it.

We went to work walking through my shots and her coaching me on how to better activate my core and back and shoulder muscles. And let me tell you, I couldn't believe how weak I was...

A decade as a desk jockey really takes its toll on you. She had me align my hips and shoulders correctly that essentially required sucking in my gut (she said to pretend I was sucking a milkshake out of a straw to activate my core - it worked).

Then I had to keep all of my muscles flexed while breathing correctly (you should breath out when you draw back apparently) so as to keep them all flexed. After 10 seconds (what felt like 3 mins) my whole body would shake, or I'd hold my breath unknowingly, only to have her yell at me to breath.

To me it was insane how much I felt like I was actually hunching forward, when in reality I was doing it correctly. After 3 years of doing things wrong it all felt foriegn. I wasn't sure I'd ever get a proper shot having to flex everything and focus on breathing and what have you. But somehow I did...

I was able to pull off two close to perfect shots; all the right muscles were activated, my form was good, and my breathing, well.... I was breathing. We filmed those two shots and when watching. I could see my nock sitting below the corner of my mouth like it should, and I watched my bow arm and bow stay steady after I released my arrow; no jumping or twisting.

I could only do two shots because I was fatigued. She said that's not surprising because I was pretty weak with the key muscle groups I needed to use. Her script was to do rows, planks with rows, and flys to strengthen.

I share all this as it was an eye opener for me. I thought I had decent form (had an archery coach even tell me my form was good). But after really starting to grind with shooting almost daily, and learning everything I could, I started to notice things...

Nagging thoughts about a poor paper tune, poor broadhead tune, etc. consumed me the last few months. It was clear after this session with my PT that my piece in the accuracy equation was bigger than I realized. I finally found my peace: I'm just not that good (yet).

It's amazing I could ever shoot out to 40 yards, let alone get broadheads to tune with how not good my form actually was. I think we discredit how forgiving compounds are, or how well they perform compared to a long bow.

As ever tempting as it is to pull out an Allen wrench, or swear your bow is off, but you may just be off... at least I was.

Cheers!

Updated with some edits for easier reading.
 
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william schmaltz

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Nice work.

My wife is a DPT. I went through all of Solid Archery Mechanics a few times very diligently and thought I had a pretty good shot down. My wife then wanted to learn so I re-watched it all with her. I then learned that even with Yoda as the instructor dumbing it down for me the best he could, I was still doing several things wrong. Things that were very small but had huge impacts. Strength bands to really isolate muscles and movements worked best for me. I have like 10 different strength band movements I try to do.

She gets a few archers with shoulder problems and loves that she can help them. Most common issue is bow shoulder and she teaches them the proper alignment.
 
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540-Virginian

540-Virginian

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So my wife is my PT also and who is referenced in my post. That’s how this started really for me was concern about my shoulder hurting and not wanting to get to a cuff tear. when I asked some initial questions her responses made it seem like I was doing something wrong. So I finally got her to work with me.

shes not very sympathetic I usually go to a different PT for stuff haha
 

wapitibob

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Don't take this personal but most of the people out there have no idea what their draw length should be and looking at pictures isn't going to get you there. Draw length, mass weight, and holding weight are the most significant items to accurate shooting and the least looked at. Two twists of the bow string makes a difference you can see and feel; 1/4" is a mile. Moving the draw stops .010 to give you a cpl more/less pounds of holding weight makes a difference too. Spend time shooting, then adjusting and shoot again, then repeat. When you're locked in at full draw you'll feel it.
 
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540-Virginian

540-Virginian

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Don't take this personal but most of the people out there have no idea what their draw length should be and looking at pictures isn't going to get you there. Draw length, mass weight, and holding weight are the most significant items to accurate shooting and the least looked at. Two twists of the bow string makes a difference you can see and feel; 1/4" is a mile. Moving the draw stops .010 to give you a cpl more/less pounds of holding weight makes a difference too. Spend time shooting, then adjusting and shoot again, then repeat. When you're locked in at full draw you'll feel it.
None taken appreciate tip. Trying to learn everything I can. I do feel like my length on the bow is too long, even after form adjustment. Plan to adjust it. Now that I'm doing proper form, I noticed my peep is in a different spot even. But I wanna get the reps in. I've plan to just blind bale shoot i guess its called (shoot with eyes closed to focus on form and release, not target.
 

307

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"Although she's never shot a bow, she understands the proper form and mechanics just as well - if not better - than any archery pro."

This statement (and most of the post actually) is absolutely cringe worthy...
 

Poeschel

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"Although she's never shot a bow, she understands the proper form and mechanics just as well - if not better - than any archery pro."

This statement (and most of the post actually) is absolutely cringe worthy...
Agreed
 

Brendan

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One comment on Dudley's draw length shortcut. I don't use it.

I pay more attention to what your final form looks like than what the measurement gives you. As in, you want to look like he does in that video at full draw. Arm extended but not hyperextended, perfect "T" form, with the string right at the tip of your nose. (With an asterisk being that I'll sometimes go even a little shorter to put a little more bend in my bow arm for late season hunting)

The measurement shortcut gets you close, but might need a little tweaking as it's the end result that's most important.

I'll also agree that she can help with PT and identifying muscle imbalances better than most, but saying that someone who's never shot a bow or been around archery understands archery form and mechanics just as well if not better - BS.
 

Beendare

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A PT helped me with pain in my rotator cuff.

We didn’t get into draw length and all that, but he did show me where my shoulder was slightly forward and it was causing the irritation in my rotator cuff.

...
 
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540-Virginian

540-Virginian

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One comment on Dudley's draw length shortcut. I don't use it.

I pay more attention to what your final form looks like than what the measurement gives you. As in, you want to look like he does in that video at full draw. Arm extended but not hyperextended, perfect "T" form, with the string right at the tip of your nose. (With an asterisk being that I'll sometimes go even a little shorter to put a little more bend in my bow arm for late season hunting)

The measurement shortcut gets you close, but might need a little tweaking as it's the end result that's most important.

I'll also agree that she can help with PT and identifying muscle imbalances better than most, but saying that someone who's never shot a bow or been around archery understands archery form and mechanics just as well if not better - BS.

Appreciate the input on the draw length. Good to know and I’ll try it out and mess with it.

On the PT knowing more about mechanics; they spend over three years getting a doctorate in body mechanics. Some specialize in different areas, but the ones who focus on sports injuries must understand the mechanics of a persons body and how they use and abuse it based on positions they hold, ways they run or dodge, or shoot or throw a ball.

ive looked for help from three archery ‘experts’ in person to help and coach me with form. The PT was the fist and only one to identify that I was using my muscles incorrectly. I don’t think a PT would be able to coach and understand things like target acquisition and panic, or correct release if they never shot a bow. But I would argue their perspective on the proper form carries some weight.

How many archery coaches took anatomy for three years, and studied the physiology or proper muscle and body mechanics, let alone how to prevent and heal injuries from sports? I have no doubt they exist or there are some who are very very good with that stuff, but I can’t find one and probably couldn’t afford one because they likely coaching Olympic teams...

just a thought and suggestion that getting input from multiple sources (like this forum) may help you with your archery including your form.

It did for me as it seemed to be the missing piece to my puzzle in getting over a certain hurdle...
 
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540-Virginian

540-Virginian

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Alright after reading the rebuttals on what I said about a PT being better than an archery pro, let me clarify what I meant as I realize what I typed at the time wasn’t what I really meant.

I meant to express that a lot of coaches and bow shop owners and the YouTube personalities I’ve seen weren’t as good as the PT at explaining or identifying the issues with a persons form specifically down to which muscle groups and how to properly correct. Yes they understand the proper form and can pick it out on a lot of people, but for most Id bet only to a certain level...

I think the best of pros understand the mechanics, but I would bet few can’t get into the exact detail and understand everything at the micro level, from your muscles, ligaments, and what have you and how when you do one thing it effects all the other muscles balance. I know they understand and can do it on a macro level, but could they write the book on anatomy?

I honestly don’t know, could be wrong. But Just telling me it’s BS doesn’t really point any specifics out. All I know is after my PT watched a segment of dudleys videos with me where he talked about using bone structure vs muscle to hold your bow, they laughed and said “maybe if you want a rotator cuff tear.” I think Dudley had one of those...
 

Brendan

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There are a ton of archery pro shops that are pretty horrible, don't get me wrong, it's the reason I do my own work. But what you're talking about is that a PT knows muscle imbalance and physical therapy, but not a thing about archery.

I honestly don’t know, could be wrong. But Just telling me it’s BS doesn’t really point any specifics out. All I know is after my PT watched a segment of dudleys videos with me where he talked about using bone structure vs muscle to hold your bow, they laughed and said “maybe if you want a rotator cuff tear.” I think Dudley had one of those...

Here's a good point that shows what your PT (and you?) don't know. What Dudley's advising there is that perfect "T" form. Stand straight up and down, arm straight but not hyperextended. The reason for that is that using your skeletal structure to your advantage is a hell of a lot more stable, and takes a hell of a lot less effort, which translates to less pin float, better accuracy, and being able to hold at full draw longer.

Think of it this way. How long can you stand in one place straight up and down? Now, bend your knees 45 degrees and rely on your muscles instead of skeletal structure. How long now? How long until those legs start to shake and cramp? Same thing with a bent front bow arm, collapsed shoulder, etc.

There's a reason that pretty much every professional archer subscribes to this theory, and don't kid yourself that some of the best athletes on the planet don't have access to coaches, physical therapists, and people that understand biomechanics and archery, and that a random physical therapist just turned the sport on its' head...
 

wapitibob

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Imagine standing in a wide door frame, on your toes, arms out to the side, slightly below horizontal, palms out and fingers up against the sides of the frame. It will feel nice and neutral. Now, drop down onto your heels, everything compresses in a straight line, thru the bow arm, the shoulders, the release arm, all bone to bone and nothing moves; that's what you're after.
 

307

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All I know is after my PT watched a segment of dudleys videos with me where he talked about using bone structure vs muscle to hold your bow, they laughed and said “maybe if you want a rotator cuff tear.”
Your PT doesn't know what they're talking about.

From what you've described, your PT is "coaching" you into some tremendous errors with absolutely no understanding of archery technique.

From what you describe, you're being coached into far too much stiffness and muscular effort. It shouldn't be very physically strenuous to shoot a compound bow with good technique. Tension results in anticipation and target panic.
 
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