Sometimes you just can’t get out to the range and practice archery. Maybe it’s the offseason and it’s pouring rain, or the Covid-19 pandemic caused most of your local ranges to temporarily close their gates. In any case, practicing archery at home can help keep your game during the offseason.
The main way to practice archery at home is by doing bow conditioning exercises, also known as SPT (specific physical training). These are exercises that use archery equipment to work on your endurance, strength, flexibility, and structure. While at home you can also do other sports, or increase your knowledge about archery.
If you’re just out of ideas where to practice archery at the moment, you might find some in my post about where to practice archery. I did mention some surprising places you might be able to go to. But here, we’ll detail how to practice archery from the comfort of your home.
In this post, we’re going to explore the different ways you might use your time to improve your archery skills from the comfort of your home.
Bow conditioning (SPT)
Specific physical training (SPT), also known as bow conditioning, is a method developed to increase archers’ abilities with specific muscle exercises. The main four things SPT focuses on are endurance, strength, flexibility, and structure. Using archery equipment, trainees perform exercises to increase these four components.
What’s most important about this style of practice is how incredibly balanced it is. Many archers tend to only focus on their strength and structure, so they can pull a higher draw weight on their bow. But all of these components are important.
Strength is important for being able to physically pull the bow. Endurance is important for being able to do that for longer periods of time. Flexibility is important to be able to have better shooting posture and avoiding injuries. Structure is important for incorporating the entire body into your shooting.
One of the best resources to learn more about SPT is the total archery book (link to Amazon). It was written by Coach Lee, who’s the inventor of SPT, and it details these exercises with great detail, along with everything else you need to know about archery form. You can also learn more at KSL international archery.
Another source you might find useful for learning SPT is this short youtube video I’ve found and liked:
In this section, we’ll go through every component of the SPT training and detail some exercise examples. While focusing on SPT it’s common to practice 5 days a week, for 1 hour every day.
Exercise 1: Endurance
The first exercise is dedicated to building your archery endurance. You’ll need to use your bow without and arrow.
To perform the exercise, pull the bow with proper technique and hold it at full draw for 30 seconds to 1 minute. This will be a single repetition. Make sure to aim the bow, to avoid moving the bow around without purpose.
You’ll do 30 minutes of this exercise while resting between repetitions for double the repetition time. After 10 repetitions you’ll take a long rest of 2 minutes.
When doing the exercise for the first time I’d recommend going for repetitions of 30 seconds. Make sure to hold proper form for the entire repetition.
When the exercise begins to feel easier, you should first increase the duration of the repetitions. When you get to around 45-second repetitions, you can increase the draw weight by using elastic bands wrapped around the limbs, or a heavier bow.
If you feel like you can’t hold the bow at full draw for 30 seconds, your draw weight might be too heavy for you. This will require you to change to a lighter bow. Learn more about draw weight in my detailed post.
Obviously, you should be careful of dry fire when performing the exercise. So at the end of each repetition make sure to slowly release your pull. If you want to learn more about what to do in case you’ve accidentally dry fired the bow, read more in my previous post.
Exercise 2: Strength
The second exercise is set up to work on your power and strength. The main focus of this exercise is the part of the shot process between the set-up position and holding.
To perform the exercise, you should begin by following your standard shot process up to the setup position, without an arrow. A single repetition will include the rest of the shot process up to holding the bow (pulling, anchoring, transferring, and holding).
You’ll stay at the holding position for 2 seconds and let down back to the setup position (and not all the way to the holding position). Perform these repetitions for sets of 5 to 10 reps. For optimal progress perform around 3 to 5 sets, and rest around 2-5 minutes between sets.
Just like the other exercises, it’s really important that you maintain good form throughout the exercise.
Exercise 3: Flexibility
The flexibility exercise will help improve your archery flexibility, and can even help with increasing your draw length.
To perform this exercise, you’ll pull your bow back to full draw (with an arrow, pointed at a close target for safety), then perform expansion.
The expansion should be slow, and take around 10 seconds for each repetition. You’ll expand for between 1 to 1.5 centimeters beyond the clicker, at the end of the repetition.
You’ll rest for 30 seconds between repetitions, and perform this exercise for 5 sets of 6 repetitions, with a long rest of 2 minutes between sets, instead of the short rest.
Notice that you’re going beyond your normal range, which is why you’re pointing an arrow at a target, so you keep safe even if you accidentally let go.
What’s important with this exercise is that you’ll continuously exand, instead of your normal exansion and hold. Always keep good form and you’ll enjoy the benefits.
Exercise 4: Structure
This exercise is dedicated to teaching you how the proper shoulders positioning should feel like. It’ll be really helpful if you’re having a hard time finding the position where your shoulders should be.
It can seem a bit strange, but when you’ll perform it, it’ll make sense.
Without an arrow, pull the bow back behind your neck. Of course, you’ll have the bow higher than your usual pulling technique. Try to do it with the best form you can, so it’s effective.
Some people prefer doing this exercise with an elastic band, but in can definitly be done with a bow.
There’s no time limit for this exercise, and it’s typically performed as a warmup for the training session, and even as a warmup before competitions.
How to train using SPT
It’s common for people who use SPT to perform the exercises 5 sessions a week, for 1 hour a session. If you have a shoot, do the exercises after shooting.
Typically, the session includes exercises 1 and 2, and occasionally exercise 3. Exercise 4 is more of a posture learning and correction exercise that should be done every now and then, before a shoot.
It’s recommended that you start out with a lower intensity and increase it over time. That requires attention to yourself, so you can keep yourself challenged but not overworked.
If you feel like you can finish an exercise, it’s better that you lower the number of sets and do the lowest intensity suggested. Increase the number of sets as you feel more comfortable with the exercises.
Learn more about archery
Another thing you might want to do when you’re unable to shoot is simply to improve your knowledge about archery. You can do that by picking up an archery book, watching videos on an online course or on Youtube, or finding the specific information you need online.
The main idea here is that by learning more about archery on the off-season, you’ll be able to improve faster when you’re able to practice again by applying your knowledge.
I actually have a few ideas you might want to invest your time in:
- Compare your shooting form with guides. There are countless small details you might be able to tune by following some archery posture guides, watching videos of professional archers, or reading archery books. Your archery posture is the most significant aspect of shooting the bow, so it’s important that you put effort into it.
The main things you want to focus on are your stance, your grip on the bow, your shoulders, and your legs. These will have the most significant effect on your accuracy.
If you want a quick place to start with, I’d recommend reading my archery posture guide – it’s a detailed guide with all the basics.
- Improve your shot cycle. A proper shot cycle that includes all the necessary steps is crucial for consistency with archery. The shot cycle is important because it enables the archery to notice the different aspects of the shot without thinking about them too much.
you can actually practice most of the shot sequence without an arrow, at home. When you later get in the field, your learning curve will be much faster.
A great place to start is my shot sequence guide that I’ve laid out in a previous post. Most archery books will have a detailed description of recommended shot sequences as well.
- Read about breathwork and practice it. It might be unintuitive, but proper breathing is a critical aspect of your shooting form. Your breath cycle should be consistent and accurate.
There are a few common options to how you control your breathing. Most breath cycle guides will teach you when to breathe in and out, but more importantly, how to breathe. You should use your diaphragm for a deeper and more controlled breath.
- Learn about archery mental skills. Things that make you more clear on your goals, more focused on the actual shoot, and more confident in the range can really help you with archery.
Think about it: if you know what you’re working towards and understand the way there, actually doing the work will become much easier.
I’d recommend taking some time to make clear short term and long term goals, learn about meditation for flow state and do some additional mental work with archery. The benefits of your time will be incredible.
Although you won’t be able to shoot your bow inside the house, you’ll be also to do quite much to improve your archery skills. Between doing SPT exercises (which I’d recommend any serious archer to do), training your muscles with other exercises, or learning more about archery, you can significantly improve your shooting abilities from the comfort of your house.
Even though nothing will completely replace the actual physical shoot, you do have some option. I hope this post helped you get some ideas of exactly what some of them are.