Is Archery A Sport? A Detailed Answer

Is Archery A Sport? A Detailed Answer

Most people know bows were used as weapons in ancient times, but modern style archery is really different from what archery used to be back then. Many people practice archery as a hobby, and others pursue it professionally. So if archery can be used for hunting and for fun, and it requires effort, but is it actually a sport?

Yes, archery is, in fact, a competitive sport. It requires precision, strength and a wide array of skills. Training in archery is physically demanding. It has been a part of the Olympics and other competitive sports events for decades. It’s considered to be one of the oldest sports in history.

It’s funny how these days archery became known as an easy sport. It probably because archers don’t seem to move much, people assume they’re not putting an effort.

But archery requires a lot of strength. Just try to hold a 50 lbs bow up at full draw, and you’ll see how tough it is.

In this post, we’re going to explore archery as a sport, and learn everything you can possibly want to know regarding its athletic aspects.

Is archery a good workout?

It depends. The main muscles that work in archery are your “pulling” muscles, like your arms and back. With the right nutrition, it can help you build muscles, but it generally doesn’t work on your cardio fitness.

Generally, you consider something a good workout if you’re putting effort into it, moving around and using your muscles. While archery does require strength and precision, while practicing you do spend a lot of time being mostly static.

Mobile styles of archery, like 3D and field archery, do require some hiking and moving around, mainly between targets. While target shooting you’re mostly static, but you do have to retrieve your arrows, so you can actually end up running a lot. But it’s not something that is necessarily built into the sport.

A study by harvard health did list archery in the lower end of the training and sports activities, regarding calories burning [source]. It’s a study of a redicilous amount of different sports and how many calories they burn. According to this study, archery burns between 100 to 150 calories per 30 minutes of workout, depending on your weight. They didn’t address the intensity of the workout, but I think it’s safe to assume that high intensity session will be on the higher end.

Archery does require strength and can be helpful for building muscles. I mean, holding a heavy draw weight bow up can be tough even for people who work out a lot.

The main muscle groups that are put under tension while shooting a bow are your back, shoulders, arms. Your core muscles and legs also get involved in stabilizing you, if you’re properly engaging them. Believe me, after your first archery practice you’ll be sore.

Many people are actively trying to strengthen their muscles for archery, with exercises that complement their archery sessions. I actually mentioned some great exercises in my post about draw weight.

So generally, archery can be a good workout if you’re looking for strength exercises. If you want to move around more and develop your cardiovascular system, you might want to get involved with other sports as well.

Have in mind that strength and exercise in only one of the perks of archery. I have a whole post on the health benefits on archery that you might find useful.

When did archery become a sport?

We all know archery as a sport and a hobby, but it was actually used mainly for hunting and fighting for ages, way before it became a sport. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where and when people have started using bows, mainly because it was so long ago. People were using bows all over the world in 2000 BC, but researchers do speculate that bows were used even in the stone age.

While people used archery for warfare, they also needed to practice and improve their skills. Archery became an art in many places in the world, with people teaching others the secrets of shooting a bow.

The first archery competition, as far as we know, dates back to England at around 1560. It was later included in the Olympics, which we’re going to detail in a bit.

As guns became more and more popular, they took the place of bows in the war field. At that point, people stopped learning archery for fighting and hunting, and it was developed into a sport and a hobby.

Is archery in the Olympics?

Yes. Specifically, recurve archery is featured at the summer Olympics and the summer Paralympics. There are various archery games in these events, including individual, team and mixed team shoots. It was first introduced as an Olympic sport from 1900 to 1920, and again from 1972 to today. [source]

While archery isn’t one of the original ancient Olympic sports, it has been at the center of the tournaments in modern times. The first time archery was at the Olympics was in 1900, and a few times until 1920. Archery is actually the first sport that had events for both men and women [source].

52 years later, the sport was re-introduced as an Olympic game, in 1972. It has been a part of the events ever since. The games started with individual shoots for men and women, and over time more games were introduced.

To this day, only recurve bows are allowed to the Olympics. Recurve archers may use accessories to improve their accuracy, like stabilizers and sights, but only on a recurve bow.

Archery events in the Olympics

There are a total of 5 different archery events in the Olympics: Individual (men and women), team (men and women) and mixed team (added in 2020).

All of the Olympics shoots are at a standard traditional target at 70 meters (76 yards).

Let’s dicuss how the different events and rounds work. Things changed quite a bit with time, so I’ll discuss the rules which are relevant for 2020.

  • Individual: Each of the 64 archers shoots 6 ends of 12 arrows (a total of 72 arrows). They are then ranked based on their score. These rankings will determine the pairing of archers who compete against each other (they’re typically called “seeding”).
    The remaining competitors are paired based on their rankings, where the 1st archer is paired with the 64th, the 2nd with the 63rd and so on. The archers compete in a head to head contest, consisting of multiple 3-arrow sets.
    The archer with the higher score in the set is awarded 2 points. In the case of a draw, both archers get 1 point. The first archer to achieve 6 points win. In the case of a draw at the 5th set, a single arrow shot-off determines the winner.
    Archers compete in this head-to-head style until there are 4 archers remaining. The winners of the semifinals compete in a similar fashion for the gold and silver medal, while the eliminated archers compete for the bronze.
  • Team: These events were added in 1988. The event consists of 3 archer teams of the same gender, competing against each other. These events use a similar system to determine the initial rankings of the teams, but instead of a single archer scoring, the scores of all 3 archers are summed.
    The elimination rounds are similar to those of the individual competitions, but the teams receive combined scores instead, which is the sum of the score of the individual archers.
  • Mixed Team: This event will be added at the 2020 Olympics. It was previously tested at the youth events and later introduced to the adult event as well [source]. The rules of the event are similar to the team event, but with mixed groups, of one man and one woman. They use the initial rankings for seeding just like the other events, but also as an initial qualification. Only 16 mixed teams will compete after the first round, in a total of 4 team head-to-head competitions.

Now you can sit back and watch the Olympics, and be sure you’re going to understand what’s going on. But the Olympics only include a small variety of archery competitions. Let’s discuss other well-known archery world competitions.

Other famous archery competitions

Though the Olympic games are famous, they only include a small portion of what modern archery is. Most archers are familiar with other famous archery competitions.

The World Archery Federation (known as “WA”) hosts the World Archery Championship, one of the oldest and best-known archery events in the world. They started in 1931, and hold competitions every year all around the world to this day.

I found this great video from World Archery that features the 2018 team field archery event. I think it’s a great example of how diverse the events are.

If you’re wondering what these pole sticking in front of their bows are, read my post about stabilizers and why archers use them.

They include a wide variety of events, for example:

  • Indoor / Outdoor target archery
  • Field archery
  • 3D archery
  • Youth events
  • Para-archery
  • Ski archery

And so many more. The events include a variety of challenged for archers of all styles.


In this post, I’ve detailed why archery is, in fact, a challenging and exciting sport. Archery can be physically difficult, it has a rich and ancient history, and it stands in the center of many famous world events.

I hope you found this post helpful and informative, and that you keep enjoying the sport.