What Muscle – Seriously?

There’s a book on archery put together by the top coaches in the sport.  I’ve read it.  Throughout the book I’d read a paragraph and pause to figure out what I’d just read.  At times what was written just didn’t pass the sniff test.

During this pandemic it has seemed like a good time to learn something new about archery.  In this case I wanted to learn to shoot a recurve bow.  Having access to a $78.00 (new price) recurve I grabbed it and some arrows to see how it felt.

The arrows were not the correct spine for the 28 pound recurve.  These were arrows intended for a 50-pound bow.  Still, they were available and this was an exercise simply for fun.  The fun quickly became an obsession.

I’ve completed the USA Archery NTS Level 3 coaching course.  So, I’m not totally unaware of how to shoot a recurve.  Having basic didactic knowledge the hands-on skill was leaving me wanting more material.  I bought several coaching books and read them in the quest for knowledge.  I’d read, study then try to apply the new information during practice.

There was an overlap among the chapters’ authors within the books.  There was also a common theme where these coaches referred to the triceps muscle activation in the drawing arm.  (There were other statements of physiological wonderments that left me baffled.  One in particular was associated with a bit of neurological voodoo, which I’ll leave alone for now.)

This repeated notion regarding the triceps was perplexing.  I certainly wasn’t feeling my drawing arm triceps doing much of anything when pulling back on the recurve string.  It seemed I was destined to fail shooting a recurve. The more I shot a recurve the more I realized my drawing arm triceps was a dud.

Well, a recurve was just for fun so it didn’t matter.  Naturally, since it didn’t matter, I ordered an inexpensive and slightly better recurve from Lancaster Archery.  Well, to be exact I ordered: a riser, limbs, stabilizers, clicker, adjustable V-bar and eye bolt, a plunger, an arrow rest, a finger tab, a bow stand, and sight.

Once I received the recurve package and assembled the gear I headed out to shoot it.  Low and behold my triceps activation did not arrive with the proper gear.  No matter shooting a recurve is simply for fun.

The more I thought about that triceps during my drawing  the more it seemed to not make biomechanical sense.  Now, I’ll be the first to admit learning muscles during my A/P courses were not among the subjects that inspires. For some it is, for me it isn’t.

I studied the muscles got good grades on tests and promptly forgot anything I didn’t need to know. Perhaps, these coaches knew stuff about muscles Professor Guyton kept to himself and a select few.

This lack of triceps involvement had me truly frustrated.  It smelled wrong.  The explanation of how the triceps functions as written by these coaches when against the grain for my education. (I never let my schooling get in the way of my education.  Thank you, Mr. Twain)

The triceps is one of those muscles, absent for me in archery, rarely on my mind during my medical career. Then, maybe I was just being stupid – I’ve been stupid before, I’ll be stupid again.

Of the piles of learning everyone must go through to earn a doctorate much of it is put aside as academicians begin to specialize.  One thing we all remember is where to go to fill in blanks.  One place I look for file in blanks is among peer-reviewed journals.  I headed to the electronic stacks to see what I could learn about activation of the triceps muscle during the performance of archery.

I was not alone in the wonderment of muscle activation during archery.  Naturally, research on archers and their muscles has been done.  Archers, as athletes, are easy to study.  Archers stand really still.

Hiroshi Shinohara and Yukio Urabe in Japan did a study designed to analyze the muscular activity in archery. (1) They found that triceps activation was significantly lower in elite archers than pre-elite or beginner groups of archers.  They further concluded that,” The lower trapezius muscle of the draw arm is actively involved in scapular fixation during shooting. Therefore, in order to improve the archery competition score, training focused on the lower trapezius muscle is necessary.” To me that made sense.

This brought forth a new dilemma.  See the lower and middle trapezius muscles are not individual muscles, but rather they are the lowermost sections of fibers in the trapezius muscle.

When I’m told to use my “lower trapezius muscle” my mind kind of goes blank.  I can’t isolate muscle fibers to the degree it has been suggested to isolate.  All that meat in my back is connected and innervation to sections of fibers within the same package of muscles can’t be separated.  It is all or none.

If you watch as archer drawing a bow you will see the trapezius muscle do its job.  You’ll also notice the triceps aren’t pitching in. Sure, there is some minor innervation of the triceps, but it is not the focal point.

There are a lot of self-important know-it-alls hanging up coaching shingles.  Some are really great coaches, but they don’t know it all. Many are really smart, few are actually sports physiologists.  If you are being taught something that doesn’t pass you sniff test – look it up later.  If you listen, you not be surprised to hear some ‘coaches’ regurgitate the same misinformation they were sold with authority.


(1) Hiroshi Shinohara , Yukio Urabe . Analysis of muscular activity in archery: a comparison of skill level. J Sports Med Phys Fitness 2018 Dec;58(12):1752-1758.

doi: 10.23736/S0022-4707.17.07826-4.Epub 2017 Dec 1.


Caveat emptor

Learn all you can about a product before you rely on a salesperson’s honesty to give you sound advice on your purchase.  Otherwise, you are setting yourself up to be burned.  Get burned enough times and you will learn the hard way. Well, maybe.

Racing bicycles, for me, began in my teens.  I knew nothing about bicycles other than how to ride one.  My first racing bicycle was a beautiful machine. The frame was too large for me.  I didn’t know better.

The mistake I’d made was thinking the salesman at the bike shop was my friend. I was a child, I didn’t know better.

The bicycle was the most expensive in the shop.  Expensive and non-fitting aren’t an ideal combination.

Overtime I did learn about bikes.  Eventually, I reached a point where I was specific in what I wanted from crank length to handle bar width.  In between I wasted a lot of hard earned cash.

Six years, seven months and 30 days ago I purchased a compound bow. I was older than I was when I spent my money on a racing bicycle by 42 years.  Sadly, I remain trusting and dumb.

The bow was the most expensive available from the bow show.  I paid top dollar.  The bow was discontinued 6 weeks later.  I didn’t know six weeks earlier that the bow would be off the market in less than two months.  What I know today is there was ample cause for the discontinuation.  My mistake – I hadn’t researched the bow and thought the salesman was a friend.  In my defense I only knew bow and arrow about archery.

I’ve wasted enough money by trusting salespeople I’ve gotten to know and considered friends.  They may seem friendly but it is all about the money.

If you are lucky enough to have a solid friendship with a salesperson to aid you in selecting sports gear good for you and good for that salesperson.  Still it never hurts to learn all you can about the gear you’ll aim to use in competition.

All athletes run. 

You may be an archer and as such don’t necessarily find value in running.  If this is your position on running you are probably in the majority of archers.  To my knowledge there’s no official poll that provides information related to archers that use running as part of their training.  From purely informal observation of archers it seems many have allergies to running.

I’m a runner.  I run nearly every day.  Part of my running includes a day off per week – a part of a more formal program associated with archery.  Even before I ever picked up a bow I ran.

As children we run for the pleasure of running.  Today, I run with my grand children.  Racing Granddaddy is great sport.  Believe me these races are serious wind sprints.  One of them is an amazing runner. Her speed is shocking.  At 7 years old she asked to be timed and she was timed.  That’s how we discovered she really is fast.

Getting older many of us ran as part of some sport we played.  Others of us ran because we raced as runners or multi-sport athletes.  Archers on the other hand don’t run.

It wasn’t also so. Bows and arrows were originally tools for hunting and warfare.  Hunters often had to run to catch prey or get away from angry arrow poked prey.  In combat archers would empty their quivers on a field.  Once that happened pissed off cavalry would begin to chase the arrowless archers.  Those archers could run or at least those who fought in future battles were good runners. Archers on horseback, such as the Mongols, had an advantage in that they carried swords to apply to their trade once the arrows were gone.

Runner’s World, a magazine, comes to me without charge.  You may get hunting magazines for free – I get those as well.  That isn’t because you and I are great hunters.  No we get these free magazines thanks to the vendors that offset magazine’s cost with advertising. The vendors are hoping you’ll read their ads and buy their stuff.

I read Runner’s World, RW, and occasionally an article in one of the hunting rags.  RW often has ‘experts’ write for them whose work cracks me up.  This current issue did have a 5K training plan that I thought was excellent if you wanted to run 5K in less that 30 minutes.  That isn’t fast.  But, it is a good point for runners new to the sport that are seeking fitness and speed.  What cracked me up about this issue was the cover.

On the cover they’ve pictured a runner.  He’s running over rocks situated in the Barton Creek on the Greenbelt Trail in Austin, Texas.  When I pulled this RW from the mailbox and looked at the cover I laughed out loud.  The runner, PJ, photographed by Faith (her first name) is in mid flight gliding from wet boulder to wet boulder.

Immediately, I though “PJ you should be wearing a helmet.”  There is no way to consistently perform this acrobatic feat without falling.  If you slip on wet boulders, and you will, it is going to hurt.

I supposed Faith wanted a cool picture and talked PJ into taking the leap.  I hope PJ didn’t get hurt.

Athletes do run or should run.  If you do consider running trails are fun.  Running will make you more fit which can be an advantage in archery.  Trail running and trying to run across wet rocks in a creek isn’t smart. You will slip and fall. (Nope it has never happened to me.  I can fall on trails without the addition of wet boulders sitting in a creek to navigate.)

Building a training plan and self-coaching

Shooting arrows is fun. It is easy to grab your bow, head to the range, and fling arrows.  You will improve by flinging arrows.  However, it isn’t really a training plan.

Having a plan with specific goals will help you improve and probably get better end results than ad libitum shooting.

If you’ve never followed a training plan it can seem somewhat over the top to create a plan and follow your plan.  There are plenty of archers whose plan is to shoot their bow 3 to 5 times a week.  One archer explained his training plan consisted of shooting 30 arrows 5 times a week. Perhaps, for him, that was perfect.

If you go online you can quickly find training plans for running, cycling, and triathlon. Along with those plans you’ll be invited to sign up for online coaching.  A top online coaching program is offered by Carmichael Training Systems.  These programs are great if you have the discipline to follow the program.

Online training systems are available for archery.  Archery is more difficult since form is so critical for high-level performance.  All sport coaching can be optimized when a skilled coach is available to watch the athlete.

Many athletes are self-coached. Finding a coach, making schedules and forking out coaching fees are all factors in athletes self-coaching.  It isn’t just amateur athletes that self-coach.  Chrissie Wellington, multiple winner of the Ironman World Championship, and undefeated at the Ironman distance dropped her coaches and continued to win – self-coached.

Self-coaching can work but not without a plan.  Certainly, shooting arrow after arrow will help you improve to a point.  Beyond that, if you are going to self-coach you need to make a plan as if you are the coach and the athlete, in your case, is you.

The Beat Goes On

The Covid-19 pandemic has kept me away from archery groups since June.  There have been no tournaments for me since early June and no going to any range other than those of mine where I hold solo practice.  It has been a good time to work on specific issues that have been plaguing me for months.

Despite warnings from everyone in the medical field many, too many, carefree – it won’t get me – people have been piling together to shoot arrows.  A number of the older folks, my age who I know, in the sport have been avoiding the ongoing tournaments.  We didn’t get old being stupid.

I have noticed, because they’ve posted pictures, a great many younger people all up in each other’s faces shooting arrows.  While the evidence suggests younger people are less likely to exhibit severe symptoms when they catch Covid-19 they can still share it with their older friends and relatives who are more likely to exhibit severe symptoms.

If you think social distancing and masks don’t make any difference take a look at New Zealand and Sweden’s Covid-19 numbers.  Personally, I was hoping Sweden was onto something positive, alas their experiment failed.

You might look and come to the conclusion that New Zealand and Sweden are small compared to America.  They both do have much smaller population than America.  They are each more like a US State in size. So, compare the population where you live to those two countries and draw your own conclusion.

Some of you might suggest the Covid-19 in the US is the result of Democrats trying to make President Trump look bad.  I think you’d have a hard time trying to use this rationale with the Italians, French, British, Brazilians, and even the Russians and Chinese.  In fact, the World seeing the US Democrats as the purveyors of a global hoax a bit far-fetched.

Despite remaining socially distant practice and training remain a routine.  Having just competed a 6-week training cycle I am writing the plan for the following six-weeks.  The prior 6-week plan was 100% about changing the way I’ve been shooting.  The new plan won’t start for a week and the time in-between is being spent shooting strictly for fun during this off week.  The upcoming plan will be refinement of the last 6-week plan.

Essentially, a fun week is a seven-day stretch that includes 2 days of total recover, Wednesday and Sunday. The other five days when I pick up a bow and walk out to my range then I decide what it is I am going to shoot.

For example, today I shot 110 arrows are various yardages before moving over to a 3D black bear shooting it at various yardages without using a range finder.  I kept no data other than the number of arrows shot.  I do limit these sessions to 150 arrows.

Another change made during the prior 6-week was an increase in fitness training.  Granted, I ran and bicycled before the pandemic.  What I did was increase the mileage for both.  Admittedly, I felt the increase more than I expected.

My time stuck home has been used constructively.  Just because I can’t go out and play with others, since I am doing my part in trying not to contribute to the spread of Covid-19, doesn’t mean binge watching TV.

I Can Wait

When I look at the archery tournament schedule I can only stare and wish.  Yes, there is a tournament in August here in Georgia.  There is also an increase in the Covid-19 here in Georgia where we reached 104,000 cases or just about 10% of the population passing this bug around. (GA- DPH 6/11/21)

Clearly archers have been gathering on ranges and at tournaments here in the Peach State.  I know because they post there group pictures snapped by cell phone.  No masks and the six feet apart recommendation abandoned for the photo-op.

While I’d really enjoy a competition I’d rather wait and lower my risk of catching the virus.  A friend of ours from Florida wanted to come up for a visit.  We passed on that request even though we’d like to see him.  He pointed out that my wife and I are on good shape.  Was that supposed to mean that if we caught a virus that might travel up from Florida we’d probably only experience mild symptoms and most likely not die? I can wait to see him.

Practice still rolls on. Today I was an easy day and I enjoyed shooting 145 arrows in 90-degree weather.  All were close range as I am considering switching my distance up to 20 meters hoping that by the time indoor season rolls around we’ll have a vaccine.  For my part, I doubt I’ll be lining up close to a bunch of archers from around the State to shoot an outdoor event.  I don’t expect archers’ boxes to be placed six feet apart.

When it comes to shooting along with a pile of archers during a pandemic – I can wait.

Waiting for the Dust to Settle

I’ve not picked up a bow in weeks.  It has been a good time to accept an unplanned recovery.  It has also been time to repair targets and clean the range.

Keeping the lanes clear

I did a 3D tournament in June.  The Covid-19 social distancing wasn’t strictly followed.  I planned to continue competing but put that plan aside until the dust has settled a bit.

Over the Memorial Day weekend we didn’t head out into crowds of carefree people.  I predicted we’d see a spike post-Memorial Day and we did.  I expect the increases we continue to see are associated with Memorial Day and protests.

I’m 65 and in good health.  I expect if I get Covid-19 my symptoms would be mild.  In fact, I’d not be surprised to find I have the antibodies found among people that have been exposed to Covid-19 and not had more severe symptoms.  I don’t know because I’m not paying $300.00 to find out.

While I wait for less contagious times I continue to prepare.  There is a State Championship in August but that one might be a skip.  Still, I’ll restart practice in a few days in the event the August date appears safe – which I don’t expect.

The deer enjoy the range at night

I will mention this – running and cycling have been going really well.  And you can bet my range looks nice.

Range Maintenance

Some folks have been flinging arrows right and left in large groups.  I decided to hold back the jumping into crowds a bit longer than others.  It seems that the next archery event being considered doesn’t occur until August. Nevertheless, practice continues.

With practice comes range maintenance.  There are weeds to control, grass to cut and insects that get sprayed.

It isn’t hard work and the reward is worth the effort.

You Get What You Pay For

Working through the Georgia process to reinstate my respiratory care practitioner license I’ve been digging around for free Continuing Education Units (CEUs).  I need 30 to submit as part of my reinstatement.

The paid CEU hours seem to run around $15.00 per hour and $7.50 per hours at the American Association for Respiratory Care’s website.  The discounted hours, $7.50, would run me $225.00 to complete the 30 hours.  That fee along with the Georgia reinstatement fee of $400.00 and the Georgia fee to verify my National Boards for Respirator Care credential, $5.00, winds up to be $630.00.  So, you can imagine, I’m doing what I can to keep the cost down.

The first few credits, all free, went well and I exhausted the hours offered on the site where I was harvesting for hours.  The next site got me running, I got past the course material then got caught in some loop of infinite wonder.  There was no way it seemed to complete the program.  I gave up and moved onto the next free class.

This class was written by guys I know well having worked with them for decades.  The course presented one slide, which seemed weird.  There was downloadable material so I downloaded and read their text.

When I tried to take the quiz I was only offered two questions.  I needed to make a 70% to pass.  Problem is that there are actually 15 questions on the final quiz.  I couldn’t get the final 13 questions to appear.  I’d answer questions one and two then get my results, 2 out of 15 correct without even seeing questions 3 through 15.

I was able to make two attempts before become barred from further efforts to make the remaining questions appear.

Even though the past two courses didn’t eat any cash, they were a waste of time. I suppose you can’t expect too much for free.

Who Is Out There?

We live in the country.  From my yard I can hear cows bellowing, coyotes howling, and smell chicken poop fertilizer when applied to fields nearby.  Within 0.3 miles there’s a barn going up for horses with 11 acres for their pasture.  At 0.8 miles there’s a cow pasture in addition to pre-existing pasture about 0.2 miles away.  Throughout the day and night there are critters passing across our property.

The other day as I was walking ‘out back’ with my dogs we intersected with a roll of armadillo.  There was a chase.  The big dog, River, lost interest soon.  The little dog, Nixie, a dachshund was in the fight for good.  She’d separated one armadillo from the roll and was working to send the armored beast to its maker.  That was a struggle requiring human intervention.

With the clearing of more farmland nearby many local non-human residents have migrated to our property hoping to set up camp.  Wanting to see how active our land is becoming with these displaced animals I put out two trail cameras.

After only a few days this is who’d walked past to be photographed:

We don’t own a cat