Sport, Ache and Sleep
Major pastimes for retired men include sports. In the top five activities for men that have retired number five is watching sports and number four is participating in sports. The top three pastimes are volunteering, financial management, and travel. 1
Sports have been a major influence on my life since I was a child. Throughout my career in the medical field I never lost my passion for sports and competition. When I retired at 57 it was no accident. To retire in my 50s had been a goal since I was in my teens.
Over all those years of pre-retirement hard work, I always found time to be active. Retiring in my 50s by no means meant finding a nice recliner and taking a passive position of watching television. Nope, retirement for me meant more time to be involved with physical activities.
Archery is a late in life activity. I’ve written before that there are only two sports where someone over 50 can become an elite: shooting and archery.2 When I picked up a bow at 58 years old, it was simply to shoot in my yard for relaxation. Archery didn’t take long to become an addiction. Of course, the real trick would be to make more money as an archer. Time will tell.
Picking up archery by no means meant dropping endurance sports. Archery, however, is a major focus that I approach as if it were my job. Well, it is my job, minus the living wage.
As such, I work hard at shooting while not neglecting more rigorous activities. Because I am retired, I have the time to put together a busy day of training. Over a period of years I’ll vary the weight of specific activities. Sometimes, life makes it necessary to shift training to meet daily or financial demands.
Improving requires a lot of hard work, practice, and training. There are nights, following long periods of training, where I lay in bed and basically ache all over. This isn’t a new sensation. During those times, while trying to fall asleep, I take an assessment of my soreness. Essentially, I take a caudalcephalo approach to the assessment, pretty much the opposite of cephalocaudal.4
I start with the soles of my feet and focus on the ache acquired from running. I seriously focus on the ache, isolate it an know that the soreness was fairly earned. From there I mentally move to my calves and tibialis anterior muscles. Then, every muscle in my thighs that is sore from running and cycling. This process continues as I cover my back, abdomen, shoulders, neck, arms, and hands. Yes, my hands. Try shooting on average 142 arrows a day and tell me your hands don’t hurt. Even the muscles in my fingers can throb.
But, the ache is good. It reminds me that I’m working and active. It also lets me know that the effort to improve and stay fit has a measure and consequence. With that thought, I relax, embrace the muscle soreness, think about the plan for the next day and fall asleep.
- McClusky, Mark: Faster, Higher, Stronger. The Science of Creating Superathletes and How You Can train Like Them.
- I assess foot to head rather than head to foot. Head to foot is how we do a physical assessment in medicine. I use the reverse order and finish with eyes being closed, everything assessed and falling to sleep
Archery and Aging
As athletes age performace has been noted to decline. Archery and shooting provide greater longevity in sports competitions than all other sports. That is to say an archer over 50 years of age has a higher probablitiy of remaining in elite competition. To test this three age groups of male archers were compared using the top 15 scores from the 2017 USA Archery 18-meter indoor competition. The selected groups were the men’s seniors, men’s masters and men’s masters 60 – 69 year old groups.
In the men’s seniors the top score was 1189 points. (1200 is a perfect score) In the men’s master the top score was 1184 points and in the 60-69 year old group the top score was 1155. By comparion the men’s masters winner would have placed third in the men’s senior category. The winner of the 60-69 year group would have finished 7th in the men’s masters but would not have been in the top 15 of the men’s senior group.
The top three scores were 1189, 1184 and 1155 for the senior, masters and 60-60 groups, respectively. The average for the groups, in like order, were: 1179, 1152 and 1126. The data was collected from the USA Archery’s website and data does not include how long each archer had been in competition. That information may have weighted the groups differently upon examination of the averages but is unlikely to have impacted the top 3 scores of each group. For example, the number one pastime for retired men is to become involved in sports. The 60-69 year group likely contains more retired men than the other groups. As such, there may be archers in the 60-69 year group that have, by elite sport competition, been shooting less than 5 years. (There is one known example in the class, shooting less than 48 months at the time the scores were recorded.)
The difference between the senior and master’s winner was only 4 points whereas the difference between seniors and the 60-69 year old archers was 34 points. The latter difference is a meaningful outcome while the 4-point difference is rather insignificant. Each group had similar subsets, equal scores, where rank was determined by X count. The greatest variance in subset clusters was between the seniors and 60-69 year old group. In other words, the widest variance in skill, based on scores, was among the archers occurred in the 60-69 year old group.
The process of aging may have played a role in this wider shift of scores. As humans age there is a loss of muscle mass that can contribute to fatigue during a 120-arrow contest. There is another factor, recovery time, where muscles don’t perform at peak levels without the longer recovery interval needed for the older athlete. There may also be a decreased ability to maintain a mental focus in the older athlete. Or it could be as simple as the older athletes do not invest comparable times training as do the younger athletes. There is also the impact of aging on eyesight and light absorption making targets more difficult to see. Finally, there might be generalized decrease in overall health of the older population that contributes to lower accuracy.
In archery, athletes that are in their 50’s can perform in similar fashion to those from the ages of 21 to 49. Beyond 60, while the variance of scores are larger, there may be contributing factors that led to the lower scores during the 2017 USA Archery Indoor competitions. Mitigation of those factors where possible could correspond to elevating the scores of the 60-69 year old group. These factors include taking steps to maintain overall health at an earlier age, adding weight lifting to training to decrease the loss of muscle mass, adding cardiovascular fitness plans to improve endurance, and taking measures to prolong good eyesight. Where eyesight diminution is unavoidable corrective optothamic approaches may be helpful. A technical solution might be to decrease the draw weight of the bow and where possible lower the stabilizer weights. Thus, making it easier to draw the bow and support it during aiming.
In archery, aging need not be a limitation to elite performance.
(1) Richard Chin, Contributing Writer, July 10, 2015. “What Keeps Older Athletes Going. http:// www.nextavenue.org/what-keeps-older-athletes-going/
Shoulder Injury – Common in Archers
It is not uncommon to read or hear where an archer is preparing to undergo surgery to repair an injured shoulder. You probably know an archer that has complained shoulder pain. Shoulder injury in archery is real and it happens a lot.
A study published in a Canada journal reported on 21 elite archers. The study authors found that of the archers, twelve men and nine women, eleven stated they had significant shoulder injury during their careers. The men, having an average archery career of 13.5 years, reported 3 of the 12 of them suffered past shoulder injury. The women, having an average of career of 10.9 years, had 5 of the 9 reporting shoulder complaints. Generally, the females had proportionally more signs and symptoms of shoulder injury than the men, especially involving the drawing arm shoulder.
During their investigation the researchers reported that there were deficits in training programs including a lack of training and non-specific exercises.
It is my opinion that a well-rounded fitness program, including resistance exercise can help reduce the risk of shoulder injury associated with archery. Speak to your coach, physician, or other sport science expert to learn fitness methods that may help you protect yourself.
Mann DL1, Littke N Shoulder injuries in archery. Can J Sport Sci. 1989 Jun;14(2):85-92
Compression Gear In Archery
Compression apparel in sports is huge. It’s worn by professional and amateur athletes. It is ubiquitous in sports. Well, maybe not so much in archery. Too bad, archers may be missing out on something that helps.
That compression gear is an aid to athletes isn’t much of a stretch. The science thus far behind compression gear used in active sports indicates that it’s effective for post exercise recovery. If you’re an archer, and reading this it is likely you are, you probably haven’t given too much thought to post exercise recovery. More than likely your thoughts before a competitive event are, “Man, I haven’t shot all week.”
If you do shoot a lot, like those Olympic level or World level types, you might think about recovery. Most of the folks I shoot with or against never mention recovery, training plans, fitness, let alone compression gear.
On the Internet I searched for and found a “High performance” training plan at USA Archery. It was mostly a spreadsheet to record:
Biomechanical (Video) Analysis
You can see the USA Archery categories does monitor “recovery.” I’ve said before, one thing you can do, one of the easiest methods to improve your score (you still need to practice) is to get more sleep. Recovery is essential to progression. But, this isn’t so much about sleep or recovery as it is about how compression gear, specifically a sock that may be beneficial in archery.
Swiftwick is one of my sponsors. They make compression socks. I wear them during competition and for recovery.
Here’s where I think archery and compression socks intersect:
As an archer you stand or sit for a very long time during competition. You never move fast. You want your heart rate to be low when you shoot. But, you move slowly, you stand still, you heart has to do work to pump blood. You stand and as a result there is the effort by your heart to get venous return. On other words, venous return of blood to the heart isn’t getting athletic type pumping augmentation from the contraction of leg muscles that aid in pushing blood around.
A theory with compression gear (socks in this case) is that it increases the return of blood to the heart. The gentle squeeze provided by compression socks then improves venous return and therefore increases the stroke volume of the blood leaving the heart. Additionally, compression socks aid to decrease fluid pooling in your legs.
Professional golfer and Tour photographer Greg Moore explains:
“As someone who’s on his feet all day, everyday while out covering the PGA Tour, I believe 100% that Swiftwick socks are the best socks ever! I literally threw out every other sock I owned.
I average over 18,000 steps a day with some of the days in the 20 – 22,000steps, all in my Swiftwick Aspire 12’s with no blisters or sweaty feet at the end of the day. Also, it’s like getting a calf massage all day long.The Swiftwicks keep the blood from pooling up in my feet & ankles and that’sImportant for someone who is on his feet all the time. I can’t imagine not wearing compression socks. Thank you for making a US made product that does what you say it will do.”1
The average length of an 18-hole gold course is 5 miles.2 That’s certainly longer than an average 3D range. There is a difference, archers walk we don’t ride carts (yet). Granted, we walk short distances then sit or stand until it’s turn to shoot. Nevertheless, we’re on our feet for three to five hours during a 3D competition.
During an indoor 18-meter contest there are typically two practice ends then 20 ends for the money. There are variances of indoor events, some my be shorter and some longer. But, sticking with a 60 arrow 18-meter event archers will walk around a half a mile over the course of about 2.5 to 3 hours (we’re in a slow sport) while standing on a hard surface. Some folks do find time enough to sit a bit between ends, but that isn’t always convenient or possible. Usually, I don’t sit. There’s rarely a place to sit since all the chairs are covered with “stuff”.
Needless to say archery isn’t like running a marathon, which takes about the same amount of time to complete as a fast paced tournament. I find running for two to three hours less painful than standing around for the same amount to time.
What I did to improve the conditions of slow walking and standing was to wear compression socks. I owned several pair of the Swiftwick compression socks and used them for treatment of delayed onset muscular soreness. Soon, I began wearing them in training and competition (running and cycling)
Then, without a real plan, I put them on to have a little longer sock under my boots last winter during a 3D shoot. I wanted my legs to stay warm and didn’t want to wear thermal under garments.
Throughout that long cold shooting what I noticed, aside from where my arrows were landing, was that the compression socks improved my comfort significantly. Since then, I haven’t competed without them, and wear them most days for training. (There are days where laundry and practice are out of synch)
The point of all of this is that recovery, potential benefits in hemodynamics (you heart pumping blood), and comfort can all have a positive affect on you as a athlete.4 Compression socks can play a role in all those three elements of performance.
4.) Doan BK et al. Evaluation of a lower-body compression garment. Journal of Sports Sciences. 2003; 21: 601–610.
It May Take Practice, But Confidence Rules
I was shooting with one of the top archers in the world. On this day, it was the second time less than 6 weeks (in two states) I ended up on the range with him. Between the two tournments I met a coach that said to me, “Archery is all mental.” That comment had me reflecting and thinking.
Those thoughts and reflections ended in a post at this site, “It Takes Practice.” (1) In that writing I examined other physical development aspects of shooting. Wanting to learn more about science behind the coach’s claim I turned to research.
After reading an article in a peer-reviewed journal the top archer I’d recently shot with came to mind. In particular, the second tournament is what I most clearly recalled. It was an event where we had 40 3D targets to shoot during two sessions of 20 targets each.
During the first half of the event the popular pro was shooting good. He was leading but not by an amazing margin. The first shoot had been early morning and the targets were dark and hard to see. By my estimate, I felt he was struggling just a little. During the second half of the event things began to change, then things really changed.
In the same group was another archer, a two-time world champion. He was obviously struggling.(He actually commented about his struggling) He was consistently shooting high. (Just high enough to lose a couple of points here and there – he still beat me.) There was a noticeable difference: the first elite archer began to appear more confident than the second elite archer.
In a study by Kim, et al, they examined 11 elements of archery that archers determined were needed for top-level performance. These elements where isolated though meetings with 20 elite archers. Then, the scientists confirmed those elements with 463 different archers and created an analytic hierarchy process that was verified by addition 36 archery experts.
The results of this revealed three sets of performance factors: mental, skill and fitness categories. Fitness factors affecting performance included “drawing a bow without an arrow,” “lower-body weight training,” and “upper-body weight training.” Skill factors affecting performance included “extending by maintaining left and right shoulder balance during aiming,” “shooting skill over a regular clicker time,” “maintaining pace and direction at release,” and “drawing skill by maintaining left and right shoulder balance.” Mental factors affecting performance were “confidence,” “concentration,” “emotion control,” and “positive thinking.” (The 11 elements are in quotes from reference 2.)
What is clear from the athletes, archery is not all mental. What is paramount is what the archers selected as the most important of the 11 elements of importance to performance: confidence – that is mental.
Recall the elite archer I’ve competed against twice this year who I mentioned the opening? During the last shoot with him I noticed a change in what I perceived as his level of confidence. There was a clear change in his demeanor. His final score for the day reflected the change: one 8, ten 10s, and nine 12s for a score of 216.
Regarding the comment, “Archery is all mental” – well it’s not, at least according to archers. Archery is part mental, part skill and part fitness. The trio of performance factors developing together and not necessary at the same pace. I believe, after the skill and fitness performance factors of the sport have been satisfied, then the mental aspects of the sport are primed to take control. Confidence, built on practice and fitness, was the most important, according to this study, mental category – as judged by the athletes.
Your Brain and Fitness
During my working career I did lots of interesting things. All of my work was cognitive. I used to say, “I think, therefore I get paid.” I did of lot of thinking, figuring things out. So, my brain has been and remains an important tool for me.
Aging is an area where I have an interest and I’ve done a little research. As a result I have a fair grasp of what to expect as I age and how I’ll perform in sports.
I stay is pretty good overall fitness as much for my physical abilities as for my brain. I like my brain – it entertains me. It turns out that fitness does a lot to help my brain. It can help your brain, too.
When you consider archery, there is a lot of brainwork going on to make a good shot. Primarily, you need to have an active brain that converts to a meditative brain (alpha waves –described here in an earlier post) to get that great shot time after time. In order to accomplish the brain process, a healthy brain is a significant advantage over an unhealthy one. And it turn out that exercise, not archery exercise, helps make the brain healthy.
In a systematic review a group of scientists concluded that a sedentary lifestyle led to impaired cognitive function. In their conclusion they wrote, “Our systematic review provides evidence that limiting sedentary time and concomitantly engaging in regular moderate-to-vigorous physical activity may best promote healthy cognitive aging.”
I would not rank archery as moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. In fact, the less vigorous we are when we shoot the better. But, to be really calm, it may be beneficial to be fit and healthy. Being unfit and in poor health would make it hard to for the brain to relax – an important component to making a good shot.
Archery is one of the two sports where an athlete over 50 can be or become an elite. Making it to over 50 in good health takes a bit, not much – you don’t need to be an Ironman or marathoner – of exercise. I highly recommend a routine and somewhat structure plan for exercise. If you’ve never done any exercise, it is not going to be easy at first. Heck, there are times when it is never “easy”. Easy is a sedentary life style. Over the decades an easy lifestyle will catch up with you. So, do a bit of exercise, in the long haul you’ll benefit from the effort.
A bonus is, you get to keep your brain operating at a high capacity. Which in turn will help you with your archery.
1.) Falck RS, Davis JC, Liu-Ambrose T. What is the association between sedentary behavior and cognitive function? A systematic review. Br J Sports Med. 2016 May 6. pii: bjsports-2015-095551. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2015-095551. [Epub ahead of print]
A Quick Test of the Flying Arrow Archery “Toxic” Broadhead.
This is a short report on the “Toxic” a patented broadhead from a new company founded by Chris Rager, Flying Arrow Archery. Prior to starting Flying Arrow Archery, Rager sold a company he owned that many of you know – Trophy Ridge/Rocket Aeroheads. After completing his non-compete Chris reentered the industry with Flying Arrow Archery.
The test was rather simple. Fire a Toxic broadhead from 25 yards into a fresh paper target. The paper would be attached to a bag target. The shot would be taken using a target bow (my hunting bow is being repaired) at 50 pounds. I wouldn’t do any warm-up shots in order to replicate how I hunt (I am frequently in a stand before sunrise and there isn’t an opportunity to take any practice shots).
The Toxic broadhead I tested is the 100-grain version. It comes in 100 grain and 125 grain. The cutting diameter of the 100 gr Toxic (model 13100) is 7/8”.
The paper target I shot was a Glow Shot 10”. The 25-yard distance was verified by a tape measure. The shot hit slightly off center but it was a pretty decent hot.
The tear in the paper was nearly identical to the image the company’s artwork advertises. The result indicated that the promoted Meatworm Technology™ cut was replicated by this shot. The paper tear of the Toxic revealed a sharp cut and at the apex of each of the ‘clover leaves’ a slight cut from the arrow’s vanes were noted.
In this test, the Toxic out-performed expectations. The 100-grain broadhead attached to a Beman ICS Hunter 500 flew true and provided an excellent cut upon impact with the target. I look forward to testing them under real hunting conditions.
Tree Stand Accidents
When I am running more than 30 minutes, for my brain clears and new thoughts develop. Forty minutes into an evening’s run tree stands became a focal point for my attention. I was curious how often hunters are injured due to tree stand accidents.
Many studies are available. I selected one from the Southern Medical Journal (SMJ) to address. The SMJ is the official publication of the Southern Medical Association, the world’s second largest multi-disciplinary medical association. The American Medical Association is the largest. I’ve been a member of the Southern Medical Association for around 17 years so I have a friendly bias toward the group.
In the SMJ, Metz, et al, reported on hunters falling out of tree stands. The researchers pointed out that such falls are well known. Hunters have fallen out of tree stands so often that safety harnesses are also well known if not universally applied.
The data on hunters plummeting out of tree are alarming. In a report from the University of Alabama, Bob Shepard writes, “According to a 2008 Consumer Product Safety Commission report, 41 hunters were killed and about 19,000 were injured in tree-stand-related accidents between 2005 and 2007.”1,2 The researchers in the Metz report on local accidents and the associated injuries.3
Metz’s team describes data collected from January 1996 until October 2001 at two trauma centers. They reveal 51 cases of tree stand accidents. All of the victims were men ages 22 – 69, with a mean age of 42.
What seemed to get damaged most in the fall is the spine, 51%. Essentially, if you fall out of a tree stand you have a 50:50 chance of smashing your spine. If you don’t injure your back, you have a 41% chance of smashing an arm or a leg. There is a 24% chance you’ll have a closed head trauma and a 21% chance you would damage your lung. There is a lessor chance of damaging your gut, 8% and a 4% chance of damaging your (all the victims were men) “package” (genitourinary area).3
The percentages of all injury comes to 149%, which means if you fall you are likely to hurt more than one spot. If you fall and can’t get up there is a 12% chance you’ll have additional morbidity from exposure.
Of the victims, 10% of them had been consuming alcohol (5 of them). Three died from the fall and of them 2 had been drinking alcohol.3 An earlier study from North Carolina also showed that 10% of those injured from falling out of a tree stand had been intoxicated. 4
It appears the main reasons hunters fell out of their stands can be placed into 2 categories.3 First, their tree stand platform collapsed and second, the hunters fell while climbing into or out of the stand. 3
A few things to take away from the research that can reduce your risk of falling are rather simple common sense practices. Don’t drink alcohol while you are hunting. If you do drink while hunting and use a tree stand there is a one in ten chance you’ll fall.3, 4 If you fall and you’ve been drinking there is a 2 in 5 chance you’ll die.3
Check your platform. If it isn’t secure, don’t use it. Remember, 50% of the falls in this report were the result of a platform failure or when climbing. Pull your gear up using a rope after entering and before exiting your stand and take your time. If you don’t think you can climb it – don’t try it. Finally, wear a safety harness.
4.) Crites BM, Moorman CT, Hardaker WT. Spine Injuries Associated with Falls From Hunting Tree Stands. Jr of Southern Orthopaedic Association. Winter 1998, Vol 7, No. 4, pp. 241-45
Inspect your arrows before and during shooting
Archery is a relatively safe sport.1 However, it is not risk free. A common type of injury occurs when carbon fiber arrows break and punctures archers. In a case report by Drs. Ljungquist and Lubbers, they describe an accident involving an archer and a carbon fiber arrow.2
This is a story we archers frequently hear. According to the patient his arrow broke as the string was released. Before shooting, please take a few minutes to inspect your arrows. You may avoid an accident.
There is nothing in the article by Ljungquist and Lubbers to suggest the puncture archer did not inspect his arrows. He might have inspected his arrows, we don’t know.
The mishap, upon first inspection at the hospital didn’t seem very severe. Examination showed the wound not heavily bleeding. The patient had a full range of motion, and when bilateral arterial blood flow (using an Allen’s test) revealed both radial and ulnar arteries intact. The X-ray showed no foreign bodies lodged in the injured hand.
From outward appearances this damage seemed fairly simple. However, the on duty hand surgeon had personal experience with this type of injury and convinced everyone that they needed to “explore” the puncture in the operating room.
Opening the wound in the OR, they found three large pieces of carbon fiber arrow, 3 to 3.5 cm in length, which were removed. That is a lot of carbon fiber to be stuck inside someone’s hand. There were a few other injuries that were also repaired.
The archer was lucky that the surgeon had seen similar injuries. The surgeon’s experience resulted in the exploratory operation and discovery of pieces of the arrow lodged in the patient’s wrist.
This archer was fortunate that his injury wasn’t worst and that the hand surgeon had experience with this type of puncture wound. Whether close inspection of the arrows, beforehand, would have prevented this event is not known. But, I will inspect mine before and during shooting. And if I ever end up with a carbon fiber arrow sticking in me, I’ll suggest the local physicians take a quick look inside to see if any pieces of the arrow are sticking in me that can be seen from the outside.
2.) Ljungquist KL, Lubbers LM. Carbon fiber injuries to the wrist: more that meets the eye. A case report. JBJS Case Connect, 2014 May 14;4(2):e36. http://dx.doi.org/10.2106/JBJS.CC.M.00204
Fixing errors in posture
Over past few days I have been working on my posture while shooting. Bumper Williams of PGF Archery in Hertford, NC had been watching me shoot and noticed my right shoulder seemed to be canted upwards. My groups had been tight and I wasn’t too worried. However, minor drifts in posture and lead to poor results over the long haul. Within a week my groups had started to expand.
I’d been shooting on a FITA 3-spot and noted that only 50% of my arrows were in the ten ring. The other 50% were primarily in the nine or eight ring. It appeared my shooting was shifting in a direction I did not want to follow.
So, I backed up to see what is it that had changed. I had Brenda take some photos and confirmed I’d changed my shoulder alignment. I’d also hit a plateau shooting and needed to move beyond that level. Postural consistence (form) is a must for advancing and it seemed I’d slipped.
A great deal of research has been completed on posture and shooting: rifle and bow. Scientists assert that consistent posture, shot after shot, at the moment of the release is important to the success of archers. We’ve all heard the importance of form. One of my coaches, Bart Shortall, recommended I write down each step I a make as I prepare to shoot.
In that activity, I broke my steps down into easy to recall subsets: feet, legs, core, shoulders, draw, aim, and release. I stop the conscious process at aim, and work for a sub-conscious release. (In my subset of release I include follow through) My problem is I’d gotten lazy and stopped mentally going through the steps. I’d been so focused on not consciously releasing, I’d dropped conscious mental prep and the shoulder lift may have been the result.
I read over a number of studies dealing with posture among archers. In precision aiming tasks, postural stability tends to be the most important variable that needs to be controlled in order to achieve the highest performance. These performance variables are required specifically at the trunk region, shoulder girdle, and for both arms to ensure shooting accuracy, and score of the shoots which eventually determine the winner. As such, I use the seven subsets of posture movements to prepare. Where I vary from the research is my subsets include my feet and legs.
I believe the feet and legs must be set, particularly in 3D where the terrain isn’t always flat and smooth. From my feet I work toward the trunk (core), shoulder girdle (shoulders), and arms (my term is draw since both arms are engaged).
These subsets of movements to establish as set posture, which I’d neglected, are critical to a good shot. Having a high level of postural stability when aiming increases the aiming stability of the archer. Aiming stability ensures uninterrupted flight trajectory to the target and impacts the performance outcome. Archers or shooters who are able to control their postural stability have a more stable platform in aiming and this increases performance as compared to those who cannot control postural balance.
Postural sway, specifically at the release phase can produce inconsistency in shooting techniques thus disallowing archers to obtain the best score. Postural sway in whichever respective phases also plays a role in the overall shooting outcomes and must be controlled. Uncontrolled sway minimizes chances of winning by deteriorating aiming stability, thus resulting in lower shooting performance.
So, I am back to: feet, legs, core, shoulders, draw, aim, and release.
Balasubramaniam, R., Riley, M. A., & Turvey, M. T. (2000). Specificity of postural sway to the demands of a precision task. Gait and Posture , 11, 12- 24.
Ball, K. A., Best, R. J., & Wrigley, T. V. (2003). Body sway, aim point fluctuation and performance in rifle shooters: Inter- and intra-individual analysis. Journal of Sport Sciences , 21, 559-566.
Era, P., Konttinen, N., Mehto, P., Saarela, P., & Lyytinen, H. (1996). Postural stability and skilled performance- A study on top level and naive rifle shooters. Journal of Biomechanics , 29 (3), 301-306.
Ertan, H. (2009). Muscular activation patterns of the bow arm in recurve archery. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport , 12, 357-360.
Ertan, H., Kentel, B., Tumer, S. T. & Korkusuz, F. (2003). Activation patterns in forearm muscles during archery shooting. Human Movement Science, 22, 37-45.
Ertan, H., Knicker, A. J., Soylu, A. R., & Heiko, S. (2011). Individual variations of bowstring release in Olympic archery. A comparative case study. Human Movements, 12 (3), 273-276.
Ertan, H., Soylu, A. R., & Korkusuz, F. (2005). Quantification the relationship between FITA scores and EMG skill indexes in archery. Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology, 15, 222-227.
Keast, D., & Elliot, B. (1990). Fine body movements and the cardiac cycle in archery. Journal of Sport Sciences , 8, 203-213.
Kuo, B. L., Chi, K. H., Yu, H. L., & Tsung, Y. W. (2005). Archery releasing style of an Olympic bronze medal archer. In A. Subic, & S. Ujihashi (Eds.), The Impact of Technology on Sport (522-527).
Stuart, J., & Atha, J. (1990). Postural consistency in skilled archers. Journal of Sport Sciences , 8, 223-234.
The visual function of Olympic-level athletes-an initial report.1 Do sport specific lenses matter?
In a conversation about shooting, Tim Sharp, CPA and Skeet Shooter, asked me about “glasses” worn during archery competitions. I misunderstood thinking he was asking if I wore corrective lense glasses when I shoot. In fact, Tim was referring to sophisticated lens that have made headway into gun shooting. It got me curious regarding eyesight and athletes.
In a study of Olympians, Laby, et al, described the athletes’ visual function and the differences between sports.
In their research a (directly from their published data1) commercially available testing system was used to evaluate 157 Olympic-level athletes. These sports vision evaluations were therefore performed under standardized conditions. Visual functions, tested at a distance, consisted of monocular visual acuity, contour and random dot stereoacuity, and contrast sensitivity.
The results of their work revealed Boxers and track-and-field athletes demonstrated mean logMAR visual acuities between -0.078 and -0.060. All others demonstrated results better than -0.121. There were statistically significant differences and suggestive trends in the visual acuity in the right and left eyes between the track-and-field and archery and track-and-field and softball, and between softball and boxing (range P=0.0005-0.0243). Mean distance contour stereoacuity of the archers was 62 arcsec, worse than the soccer, softball, and speed skaters. All athletes demonstrated similar contrast sensitivity results at low spatial frequencies, whereas at higher spatial frequencies, softball players performed better than did the speed skaters, track-and-field, and volleyball athletes.
They concluded that there seems to be a unique set of visual skills that are common to athletes in certain sports. In addition, visual performance measures vary between sports at the Olympic level. The ability to identify the visual needs for an athlete who wishes to participate in a given sport, and to correct any deficits an athlete may have, could lead to more success, at the elite and amateur levels.
The conclusions corresponds to the lens work that Tim described. It made me curious whether archers might benefit by sport specific and individualized lens. Searching the Internet I discovered Pilla Sport and Eye Kit have specialty glasses marketed to archers.2,3
If you use these or other similar glasses, I’d like to learn about your experiences. You can scroll to the bottom of this section to add your comment or send to me at Dlain117@yahoo.com.
Muscular activity of different shooting distances, performance levels and stabilizers, in archery.1
I was reading a research paper on muscular activity, shooting distances, the use of stabilizers and archery skill level. The investigators did some very complex measurements and their results were thought provoking.
In one experiment they measured muscular behavior using EMG. Archers were asked to shoot indoors at 18 and 25 meters. They also shot outdoors at 50, 70, and 90 meters. The researchers discovered there was a significant increase in muscular activated only between the distances of 25 and 50 meters. There was no linear increase of activity with increased distances. They further revealed there were no differences in muscular pattern or activity between indoor distances and outdoor distances.
They next observed the differences between Olympic athletes, National competitors and beginners. Here the differences were related to the archer’s ability to reproduce identical patterns in consecutive shots and the constancy of neuromuscular control of the M. trapezius, M. biceps brachii and M. extensor digitorum.
When considering the use of stabilizers they focused on elite archers. This group was asked to shoot from 70 and 90 meters with and without stabilizers. The EMG differences were not supported by the differences in precision. They concluded that over time, the low iEMG in shooting without stabilizers increases precision and delays fatigue.
In summary, archers only increase muscular activity when jumping from 25 to 50 yards. The more control of form, this is constancy of neuromuscular control, the better the archer, and overtime shooting without stabilizers increases precision and delays fatigue.
1.) J.P. Clarysa, J. Cabria, E. Bollensa, R. Sleeckxa, J. Taeymansa, M. Vermeirena, G. Van Reetha & G. Vossa Muscular activity of different shooting distances, different release techniques, and different performance levels, with and without stabilizers, in target archery. Journal of Sports Sciences, Volume 8, Issue 3, 1990
Individual Zone of Optimal Functioning
Archery is generally considered a sport where mental focus is paramount to success. Mental focus is critical for all sports. However, archery, by the sheer nature of the degree of clarity of mind needed to perform is in a unique class. The mental focus of elite archers is to such a degree that prior to executing a proper shot their brain waves are primary alpha, a wave associated with deep mediation.1
A group of scientist considered the emotional state of pre-competition and subsequent competitive performance during archery. Their goal was to gain insight into individual psychophysical reactions accompanying an athletic event, and to test predictions of pre-performance emotions effects upon performance.2 They guessed that good performance was expected when the actual pre-performance emotions resembled the recalled optimal emotion pattern. Conversely, poor performance was expected when the actual pre-performance emotions paralleled the recalled ineffective emotion pattern.
Their investigation comprised of individual emotion profiling, emotions and heart rate monitoring, final interview and performance evaluation. The study was conducted during the 1996 European Archery Championships, one of the most important international archery competitions.
Emotion profiling was carried out using an idiographic approach based on recalled optimal and poor performances, according to the Individual Zones of Optimal Functioning (IZOF) model. Emotions, heart rate, and performance were monitored across the five days of practice and competition.
The Individual Zone of Optimal Functioning (IZOF) model postulates the functional relationship between emotions and optimal performance, and aims to predict the quality of upcoming performance with respect to the pre-performance emotional state of the athlete.3
What they learned was that individual pre-performance optimal emotion pattern, heart rate deceleration during shooting (not all research shows heart rate deceleration1), consistent shooting scores were revealed throughout practice and competition. The good performance predicted on the basis of pre-performance emotion assessments was met and was confirmed by the archer’s interpretation.2
Essentially what this means is that if you are focused, calm and shooting well in practice you are more likely to perform in competition in that manner.
1.) Salazar W, Landers DM, Petruzzello SJ, Han M, Crews DJ, Kubitz KA. Hemispheric asymmetry, cardiac response, and performance in elite archers. Res Q Exerc Sport. 1990 Dec; 61 (4): 351 – 9
Sports Injuries and Illness
Archery is a safe sport. In fact, it is one of the safest. Most of our injuries occur when we stick ourselves with arrows, improperly or over train. The Olympic Movement Medical Code encourages athletes and coaches to practice their sport without danger to the health of athletes.
During the 2012 London Summer Games researchers monitored the reporting of National Olympic Committee medical teams. In total the groups looked at 10,568 athletes. The medical staff reported 1361 injuries and 758 illnesses or 128.8 injuries and 71.7 illnesses per 1000 athletes. Altogether, 11% and 7% of the athletes incurred at least one injury or illness, respectively.(1)
The highest risk for an injury was in taekwondo followed by soccer, BMX, handball, mountain bike, weightlifting, hockey and badminton. The lowest risk for injury was archery followed canoe slalom and sprint, track cycling, rowing, shooting, and equestrian.
A total of 310 illnesses (41%) affected the respiratory system and the most common cause was infection. (If you sneeze cover yourself and wash your hands) Women suffered 60% more illness than men (86.0 vs. 53.3 illness per 1000 athletes).
Archery has been shown to be a safe sport. Still, archers should be mindful of their training plans, specifically over training and lack of recovery time, as well as take care not to injure themselves with arrows. (So, don’t stick yourself with a broadhead).
1) Engebretsen L, et al: Sports injuries and illness during the London Summer Olympic Games 2012. Br J Sports Med, 2013 May:47(7):407-14
Low caloric intake and archery – they don’t mix well.
I have described an experiment that estimated the calories used during a 3D shoot. Since then, I have been thinking about the energy needed to preform well during an archery competition. The need to tune nutrition for competitive archery struck home during a two competition where I failed to fully appreciate my intake of calories.
During two days of 3D competition, my start times set me up shooting over my normal lunch period. The first day I carried nothing to eat with me while on the course. The course was difficult to physically manage. By the last shot, I was extremely hungry. The second day, bringing food helped.
The physical demands of ranges can be vastly different. The one sample study I’d performed was inadequate to base all competitions and ranges.
Dr. J. Roy conducted a study where he measured self-regulated patterns of elite archers, all Olympians, while fasting. His sample group consisted of 9 males and 2 females. The mean age of the group was 20.
Seventy-three percent of the archers, while fasting, reported they felt tired. They became exhausted, sleepy, dizzy and thirsty. Comments from the hungry archers:
“I am experiencing difficulty…it is difficult to perform well.”
“I feel very thirsty…It is hot here…very uncomfortable. Easily fatigued…and..annoyed when I make mistakes..”
“It feels like time is moving very slowly”
“Archery needs a lot of concentration…if is difficult to stay focused when the body is so tired”
The investigators wrote, “…among athletes, studies have reported impaired performance due to sleep disturbance, hypo-hydration, and energy deficit.” They further point out that “the mental components of ‘training’, salient in archery” requires correct nutrition in order to get maximal benefit.
Correct nutrition can help reduce the problems shooting a bow well. The act is physical to the point that during competition inadequate nutrition makes the exertion more difficult.
Consider your caloric needs and timing of intake during training and competition. Having the right store of energy (calories) will help you to shoot your best.
1) Roy, J, Hamidan S, Singh R: Temporal patterns of subjective experiences and self-regulation during Ramadan Fasting among elite archers: a qualitative analysis. Asian J Sports Med. Sep 2011; 2(3): 195-204
Science Says, “Don’t Grip the Bow”1
Gripping the bow was (and still can be) a problem for me. There is good reason. Most coaches discourage archers, recurve and compound, from gripping the bow, as this is believed to produce a sideways deflecting torque on the bow and arrow during the release. Archers should hold the bow in place using only the pressure produced through drawing back the bowstring.
Dr. Ertan put this to the test by comparing the bow hand forearm muscular activation patterns of elite archers with beginners to define the muscular contraction-relaxation strategies in the bow hand forearm muscles during archery shooting and investigate the effects of performance level on these strategies.
Ertan evaluated the electromyographic activity of the M. flexor digitorum superficialis and the M. extensor digitorum of 10 elite and 10 beginner archers together with a pulse synchronized with the clicker snap. Raw electromyographic records at 1s before and after the clicker pulse were rectified, integrated, and normalized. The data was then averaged for successive shots of each subject and later for both groups of archers.
The main difference between the elite and beginner archers was that the elite archers had a greater activation of the M. extensor digitorum, which indicates that they avoid gripping the bow-handle not only relaxing the flexor muscles, but also contracting the extensor muscle groups. This muscular contraction strategy guarantees that the archer does not interfere with the forward movement of the bow, which is the forward acceleration of the bow caused by the pushing power of the bowstring.
The study, in part, confirms that elite archers don’t grip their bows. This technique, as coached, seems adapted by elite archers and a not yet acquired skill among beginners.
Bottom line: science says don’t grip your bow. (Like everyone has been telling you.)
1) Ertan H. Muscular activation patterns of the bow arm in recurve archery. J Sci Med Sport. 2009 May;12(3):357-60. doi: 10.1016/j.jsams.2008.01.003. Epub 2008 Feb 15.
An Archer’s Perceived Form Scales the “Hitableness” of Archery Targets
We often hear about ‘form’ in archery and for good reason. We know that perfecting our form improves are ability to hit a target. Science has added a bit more definition to those that coach us on our form.
In a study by Lee, et al, the investigators examined the skills involved in an archer hitting a target. They point out that judgment of a target size correlates with prior success in hitting the target. So, what they did was to look at the judgment-success relationship with varied target sizes in the absence of the archer knowing whether or not he or she hit the target.
They investigated competitive archers shooting at 50 meters, aiming at various sized targets. Immediately after the arrow’s release, its flight and landing were occluded from the shooter’s view. The archers were then asked to choose between 18 miniature targets that looked like the one at which they had shot. They discovered that the greater the apparent size correlated with higher accuracy.
This means that archery, in this study, is an instance of affordance-based control: For an archer, the affordance of the target is the “hitableness” of its central regions, a property inclusive of his or her momentary, and perceptible archery form.
Many of us experienced this relationship of judging the ‘hitableness’ of a target and when our form is correct striking an X. The study confirms what we’ve experienced and what our coaches have preached.
Lee Y, Lee s, Carello C, Turvey MT: An archer’s perceived form scales the ‘hitableness” of archery targets. J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 2012 Oct;38(5): 1125 – 31
Neural Correlates of pre-shoot routines in archery
Scrolling down this Archery Research section you’ll find summaries of research describing what is happening in the brains of elite archers compared to novice archers. If you’ve shot a bow at any level for more than a week, you’ve heard that 95% of archery is in the head or that archery is a mental game. I can’t confirm the percentage of archery that is mental, but there is a difference in the brain activity of the elite versus the non-elite shooter.
In an investigation by Kim, et al, his group revealed areas of the brain’s neural responses to pre-performance routine that differed between elite and non-elite archers.
The objective of the experiment was to determine differences in neural networks when comparing the elite to the non-elite archers. For their elite group, Kim’s team enrolled eight world-class or Olympic medalist archers. The other group was eight novice archers.
The scientists used an archery target on an LCD embedded in a functional magnet resonance (fMRI) scanner. The resultant fMRI data showed that in both groups the anterior cingulate and posterior cingulate gyrus of the limbic lobe were activated during aiming. But, the groups differed in that the experts activated their occipital gyrus and temporal gyrus whereas the novice archers, when aiming, mainly activated the frontal area of their brain.
The experiment demonstrated that there are measurable and observable (fMRI scans) differences in the areas of the brain used by expert archers compared to non-expert archers. So, next time your coach, buddy, or the guy that knows-it-all, tells you that archery is a mental game, you can reply that, of course, he’s right.
Kim J, Lee HM, Kim WJ, Park HI, Moon DH, Tennant LK: Neural correlate of pre-performance routines in expert and novice archers. Neurosci Lett. 2008 Nov 21; 445 (3): 236-41
The optical characteristic of aiming scopes in archery1
Jim, a friend in Delaware, was mentioning that most field archers he knows use 6X to 8X magnification, his recollection was 6X being more common. He offered this thought to encourage me to use at least a 4X for shooting longer distances.
During indoor paper competition and training, I have used an Axcel Achieve CX sight with the Axcel X-31 4X scope. Inside, at 20 yards, I also like the Axcel Armortech Pro. The Armortech Pro is the sight I use for 3D on my Mathews Apex 7. On my Mathews ZXT I have an Armortech HD.
Using the various sights and scope indoors and outside up to 70 yards I shoot about the same for all combinations. The most difficult sight to use is the Achieve CX with the Axcel X-31 scope. I prefer keeping my aiming components as simple as possible. Jim, on the other hand is prejudiced toward magnification. To learn more, I decided to look at the science behind the application of archery scopes.
Long and Haywood considered the technical advancements in target archery based on the use of scopes to magnify the target. These optical devices are simple converging lenses used at arm’s length from the eye.1 The lenses produce a magnified image, but they can cause a dioptric blur. The researchers’ evaluation of the visual acuities of archers using scopes found that subjects using them saw no better with them.1 In fact, Long and Haywood reported that with the highest power scopes, visual acuity decreased.
Their results indicated that experienced archers shot slighter better than archers with limited experience when using magnification. That is, the experienced archers had a small improvement over their base scores with magnification. The scores for the less experienced archers remained equivalent following the addition of scoped magnification. While the experienced archers slight improvement wasn’t statically significant; that slight advantage can be relevant in competition.
Despite showing a modest improvement provided by archery scopes for experienced archers, form and mental focus are most likely the major contributors to aiming accuracy. (My conclusion)
1. Long WK, Haywood KM: The optical characteristics of aiming scopes in archery. Jr Am Optim Assoc. 1990 Oct; 61(10): 777-81
Error in High Altitude Sickness Remedy!
After reading an issue of Bowhunter magazine I found an error on which it is impossible to stay quiet.1 The error is in a letter to the editor related to high altitude sickness.
The patient-author suffered from high altitude sickness and appeared self-diagnosed. He wrote that working with his physician they discovered he had low hemoglobin (anemia) and needed CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) for sleep apnea. His physician is a nephrologist (kidney doctor). This physician probably referred the patient to a sleep doctor in the area for the diagnosis of sleep apnea.
What is bothersome is the remedy prescribed for the patient’s high altitude sickness. As written, “We also found out I could mimic high altitude by rebreathing my own air using my CPAP mask and hose. I wore it for two hours a day…” 1 Should you ever plan on a high altitude visit and want to acclimate to the change in environment – Don’t strap a CPAP mask and hose to your face and wear it disconnected from the CPAP device!
We breathe to get rid of carbon dioxide. Strapping on a CPAP mask with its tubing creates what is known as “dead space”. Dead space is a volume of un-refreshed gas and contains elevated levels carbon dioxide (CO2).
Carbon dioxide, CO2, is a byproduct of metabolism that we exhale. Rebreathing through a CPAP mask and hose means inhaling high levels of CO2. That is bad, so bad that CPAP machines, per FDA, must be designed to ensure a minimal continuous flow moves through the mask to clear it of CO2.
Breathing though the setup described in Bowhunter for replicating high altitude atmosphere is incorrect. Climbing heights we bring CO2, a byproduct of our metabolism, then we blow it off during exhalation. Atmospheric CO2 is not elevated due to the altitude. Rebreathing CO2 causes respiratory acidosis (a drop in the normal level of blood pH). Breathing through the combined CPAP mask and hose not connected to an operating CPAP machine can be harmful. 2,3
Higher altitude drops partial pressure of the arterial oxygen in human blood.4 That can have a noticeable impact especially when combined with low hemoglobin.1 An anemic patient, like the author of the letter to the editor, at high altitude is likely to be hypoxic (low oxygen levels in the blood.) Correcting the hemoglobin level will help to bring more oxygen to this tissue.
Medical devices, like CPAP masks, are designed and produced by FDA regulated manufacturers then cleared for marketing after they have met specific criteria.5 Using them or their attachments (mask and hose) for uncleared or “off-label” practices can be dangerous. The patient-author of the letter to the editor in Bowhunter was lucky he didn’t hurt himself.
1) Armburger S: Reader finds his solution to mountain sickness. Between Bowhunters. Bowhunter, Jan/Feb 2014, page 10.
3) Mediano O1, García-Río F, Villasante C[Comparison of carbon dioxide rebreathing during application of continuous positive airway pressure with 3 types of nasal mask]. Arch Bronconeumol. 2006 Apr;42(4):189-93.
4) Lain, D: High altitude respiratory sickness. Advance for Respiratory care and sleep medicine. Sept. 12, 2012. http://respiratory-care-sleep-medicine.advanceweb.com/Features/Articles/High-Altitude-Respiratory-Distress-A-RTs-Personal-Experience.aspx
5) CPAP Masks, FDA 21 CFR 868.5905
Injuries to the Hands
Archery is a relatively safe sport. It is not 100% safe having acute and chronic injuries associated it. Many archery injuries are linked to the bow arm. Education and training can help prevent and reduce both types of injuries. My interest here is in bow hand injuries since I am modifying my grip.
In a paper published in the Southern Medical Journal, Dr. Rayan reported on injuries to archers’ hands, forearm, and elbow. Medial nerve compression is not uncommon in archery and can be traced to placement of the hand in the bow grip.
De Quervain’s tenosynovitis is another chronic injury that overuse and pushing without proper recovery can create.1 De Quervain’s tenosynovitis (dih-kwer-VAINS ten-oh-sine-oh-VIE-tis) is a painful condition affecting the tendons on the thumb side of your wrist. If you have de Quervain’s tenosynovitis, it will probably hurt every time you turn your wrist, grasp anything or make a fist.2
The most common injuries where acute injuries, those often associated with the word “Ouch”. Leading this group are lacerations (62±2%), which most often occurred through mishandling hunting arrows. Puncture wounds accounted for 8±1% and foreign bodies 6±1%, arising from fletching embedding in the hand, falling onto an arrow, or a ruptured arrow shaft. Contusions and abrasions, often caused by the bowstring hitting the arm, accounted for 6±1% of injuries.3
Proper education, training, and protective gear can enhance safe archery. When making changes to form, think it through and look for references that are related to the form adjustment. Taking time to educate yourself may lower the potential of developing a chronic injury.
1. Rayan GM. Archery-related injuries of the hand, forearm, and elbow. South Med J. 1992 Oct;85(10):961-4.
3. Palsbo SE. Epidemiology of recreational archery injuries: implications for archery ranges and injury prevention. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2012 Jun;52(3):293-9.
Stone Age Archers
The Neolithic Era or the New Stone age began about 10,200 BC and ended between 4,500 and 2,000 BC. Neolithic societies were agrarian, they created settlements, and migrated from Levant (Jericho, modern-day West Bank) to other parts of the world including north western Europe by around 4,500 BC.1 Stone Age societies exhibited a high degree of artistry as seen through the period’s unique stone sculptures. They were also some of man’s earliest known archers.
Dr. A Thomas of the Université de Bordeaux, in Pessac, France recently published research that showed evidence of archery among the Neolithic farmers of Europe. The archery evidence were arrowheads found buried with the remains of Neolithic skeletons, which were associated with the first monumental cemeteries of Western Europe, specifically those of the Cerny culture (Paris Basin, France).2 These arrowheads were intentionally placed with specific remains and those individuals, all of them males, had been archers.
Dr. Thomas compared those Stone Age bones to the bones of known modern day archers and also compared them to the remains in graves where no arrowheads were found. As such, he examined the morphology and geometry of the skeletal arms. He evaluated entheseal changes to fibrocartilaginous attachment sites of upper and lower limbs. Both nonpathological skeletal adaptations and pathological indicators were consistent and revealed significant differences between the remains where arrowheads were included in their burial artifacts versus the remains of those individuals that did not have arrowheads among their burial artifacts.
The bones of the individuals whose graves had arrowheads had functional adaptation in the forearm bones and the clavicle. Those changes would have been in response to mechanical loads that suggest repeated forceful use of upper limb muscles. These osteological changes specifically reflect the higher intensity upper limb activity of the men buried with arrowheads and correspond with the medical data on known archers, suggesting that this specific forceful task is linked to the practice of archery.2
Humans have practiced archery for tens of thousands of years. The pre-historic human archers described by Thomas are not the oldest known. Even so, in this Stone Age agricultural based society, archery would have been used to gather meat, for defense, and as a means of combat. Arrowheads among artifacts in graves of phenotypical archers may have been to honor these individuals. The morphological changes suggest a significant level of archery practice to have created the skeletal transformations revealed among these stone aged men. To me, this is an indication that even the earliest archers enjoyed the sport.
2) Thomas, A: Bioarchaeology of the middle Neolithic: Evidence for archery among early European farmers Am J Phys Anthropol. 2014 Mar 4. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.22504. [Epub ahead of print]
Balance and Archery
Sports medicine researchers in Slovakia and Australia have studied balance in a wide variety of athletes. Balance is important in athletics for performance and in association with injury. In archery balance, measured by postural sway, is critical for accuracy.
Balance is important in all sports. The lower an athlete’s ability is to control balance the greater likihood that individual has of an injury.1 The elite athletes, and those that perform better, have enhanced balance control.1,2 However, the impact of balance is not equal for all disciplines. For example, balance is not significantly related to baseball pitching accuracy or snowboard ranking points.2 Balance is significantly related to performance in archery.2
There is evidence that sway increases the risk of injury in sports but is not a huge concern for the archer. Archer’s sway is more of an issue with arrow placement. Highly skilled athletes are able to perform in spite of increased sway with an exception being archery.1,2 In sports such as golf, shooting, and archery balance, the reduction of sway, is critical to performance.1,2 The ability to reduce sway is essential for elite archers while additional findings have shown that in many other sports, highly skilled athletes are able to perform successfully in spite of increased postural sway.2 However, this does not mean to suggest a diminution of the importance of balance throughout athletics.
In the Australian study, balance ability was related to competition level for sports, with the more proficient athletes displaying greater balance ability.2 Current studies suggest that balance training may be a good adjunct to fitness programs but they should not replace resistance training (weight lifting).1,2
For archers, the World Seminar on Archery Coaching recommends good posture to aid balance. In summary: the better an archer’s balance, the greater chance of accuracy.
1) Zemková E. Sport-Specific Balance. Sports Med. 2013 Dec 1. [Epub ahead of print]
2) Hrysomallis C. Balance ability and athletic performance. Sports Med. 2011 Mar 1;41(3):221-32
Archery and fitness
What do Vanessa, Dwight and Rik have in common? They all are endurance athletes and they are all archers. Vanessa is an ultra runner and shoots a bow. She is also an author, her book, Summit Seeker, is about ultra running, weight loss, healing and general fitness. Dwight is the Hunting editor for Bowhunter Magazine. He’s also run the Boston Marathon, Bighorn 50K and completed the St. George Ironman. Rik is a competitive cyclist and a runner. He has completed events such as the Marine Corps Marathon and Hagerstown Duathlon. These athletes are in great shape and are serious about archery. Being fit is certainly good for you and is an asset to your shooting and hunting.
When I am putting it on the line at competitive events, not all of them are in archery. At non-archery events the competition is typically a lean group. These racers aren’t anorexic lean. They are typically lean and fit. Putting it on the line in archery I have noted a somewhat variable group of body types. This is not an implication of one body type in preference to another. Lord knows, I am only a burger, pecan pie and a coke away from the Pillsbury Dough Boy. Rather, it is a recognition that the general population of competitive athletes in archery may not be as aerobically sound as that of the population of athletes on the line at the start of a triathlon or a marathon.
There may be a reason archers don’t have the same body mass index as triathletes, swimmers or marathoners, archers don’t necessarily want to be triathletes, swimmers or runners. Nevertheless, archers that are in poor physical fitness could benefit by adding other forms of exercise to their training programs.
Running, cycling, weight lifting, walking and swimming are commonly available to archers and if inclined easy to add to training programs. Suppose you are a tad out of shape, your girth has lost its youthful tone and you are on a budget. Running is cheap and has numerous health benefits. Taking careful aim at running, using stepwise transitions to increase mileage, and rest days can lead to enjoyable progression of runs.1 If you are never going to be a runner, cycling is an alternative that has been positively shown to reduce obesity and can provide hours of outdoor fun and freedom. 2 In a survey of attitudes toward exercise, those that admitted they would only exercise if their physician prescribed it said they preferred swimming. 3 Swimming is excellent for your health, shoulders, and breathing control all that are helpful to archers. Weight training or resistance training can be supportive in prevention of the loss of muscle mass as well as creating a negative energy balance and may change body fat distribution.4 The benefits of weight and strength training in archery are obvious and a form of exercise that as we age we should add to our fitness programs to help prevent loss of muscle mass.
Regardless of any exercise program you might consider adding to your archery training, be certain to follow coaching instruction and prior to including addition activities be sure your physician agrees. Maintaining general fitness can augment your shooting and promote overall better health. Becoming more fit doesn’t require running a marathon or completing an Ironman. However, good general health conditioning will help sustain you during a long tournament or during a difficult hunt. As Dwight puts it, “For mountain hunting, fitness may be your most valuable hunting tool.”5
1) Vincent HK, Vincent KR: Considerations for initiating and progressing running programs for the obese individual. PM R. 2013 Jun; 5(6): 213-9. Doi: 10.1016/i.pmri.2013.03.008
2) Bere E, Oenema A, Prins RG, Seiler S, Brug J: Longitudinal associations between cycling to school and weight status. Nt J Pediatr Obes. 2011 Aug; 6(3-4) 182-7. Doi: 10.3101/17477166.2011.583656 Epub Jun 7.
3) Khanam S, Costarelli V: Attitudes towards health and exercise in overweight women. J R Soc Promot Health 2008 Jan; 128(1): 26-30.
4) Strasser B. Physical activity in obesity and metabolic syndrome. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2013 Apr;1281:141-59. Doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2012.06785.x. Epub 2012 Nov 21.
5) Dwight Schuh, Hunting Editor, Bowhunter Magazine. Hunting Fitness 101. http://www.bowsite.com/BOWSITE/features/articles/fitness/
Shoulder Injury and Archery
Twenty-five percent of men and 56% of women archers will complain of a shoulder injury at some point in their career! Those injured will be elite-caliber archers as well as enthusiasts. The span of the career for the archers in this posting having shoulder injuries was 10.9 years. The root causes for shoulder injuries among archers are deficits in training programs including a lack supplemental exercise.
Medical researchers, Mann and Littke, conducted clinical examination of archers that showed they had shoulder asymmetry and decreased flexibility in their drawing arms.1 The exam also revealed that 28% of them had shoulder impingement. Supraspinatus impingement is a condition that occurs when the supraspinatus, one of four muscles of the rotator cuff, becomes pinched against the acromion process, a projection of the scapula bone, or shoulder blade. Testing of the supraspinatus muscle indicated that 20% of them had abnormalities and 38% had rotation problems with their drawing arm. Generally, women had more signs and symptoms than did men with their drawing arm shoulder. The resulting supraspinatus impingement can worsen if not treated, as the inflamed tendon often increases in size, creating more and more friction against the bone.1
The overuse of muscles and tendons lead to a higher incidence of chronic forms of injury. Commonly found in archers was infraspinatus tendonitis. In human anatomy, the infraspinatus muscle is a thick triangular muscle, which occupies the chief part of the infraspinatous fossa. As one of the four muscles of the rotator cuff, the main function of the infraspinatus is to externally rotate the humerus and stabilize the shoulder joint. Tendons connect muscles to bones and inflamed tendons result in tendonitis.
There may be ways to reduce your risk of injury. Good form, proper training schedules, and exercise (other than shooting) may help. Good form is critical to good shooting and can help lower the likelihood of injury. Part of good form is selecting a draw weight that does not exceed your comfort zone. Stick to a training plan and don’t over tax your body. In addition, other forms of exercise like weight lifting, swimming, and general aerobic regimes are holistically beneficial.
Some injuries require rest and others may necessitate surgery. There is no guarantee you will shoot through archery without experiencing injury. Using good technique, staying fit, and adhering to a proper training program can help you enjoy good physical health through archery.
Mann DL, Littke N: Shoulder injuries in archery. Can J Sports Sci. 1989 Jun;(2):85-92
Fine body movements and the cardiac cycle in archery.
Practicing the mechanics of archery takes patience and focus. It’s a matter of training your muscles to sense alignment and form while maintaining robotic like control. On the contrary, all you need to do is follow your heart.
Keast and Elliot published a paper in the Journal of Sports Science that measured archers’ sway, aiming time, cardiac cycle (electrocardiac cycle) and the release of an arrow. 1 The study included recurve and compound bows. This is what they discovered.
Sway was measured at the postural center of the archers’ body and sway varied significantly both within and between two separate trials (the archers were tested twice, 100 days apart). As sway increased the quality of the shot decreased.
As aiming time increased the quality of the shot decreased except for bare bow shooting. During bare bow shooting as the aiming time decreased the quality of the shoot decreased.
Cardiac cycle time was also measured. Here they found that cardiac cycle time increased significantly as the archers approached the release of the arrow where there was a good shot. When the shot was bad or average there was no significant increase on the cardiac cycle.
The most consistent parameter related to the quality of a shot was the placement of the first finger movement within the ST phase or mid-cycle phase of the electrocardiogram for arrows of good quality.
How does an archer achieve the movement of the finger (to release) within mid-phase of their cardiac cycle? You can’t feel the individual bleeps of your electrocardiogram. I can only explain like this: It is in that millisecond when you sense the target, feel the calm, unconsciously find that instance where everything is blocked other than the target, and then release. It appears that the heart knows when you have it right.
1) Keast D, Elliott B: Fine body movements and the cardiac cycle in archery. J Sports Sci. 1990 Winter;8(3):203-13.
Stronger activation and deactivation in archery experts for differential cognitive strategy in visuospatial working memory processing.
Dr. Seo and his colleagues published a paper revealing that expert archers have higher brain activation associated with visuospatial attention and working memory than novice archers.1 After you read this summary, if you are an archer, hopefully you’ll think Dr. Seo work makes perfect sense.
In the opening of their paper the researchers write, “It is well known that elite athletes have higher performance in perception, planning, and execution in sports activities relative to novices.”1 The study summarized here, looked into whether elite archers had differences in their brains when monitoring their ability to perceive surroundings and incorporate their working memory for tasks associated with the tested conditions.1
The researchers applied functional magnetic resonance imaging to record neural activation and deactivation differences between expert and novice archers. They discovered that expert archers “displayed higher activation in cortical areas [of the brain] associated with visuospatial attention and working memory, including the middle frontal cortex, supplemental motor area, and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex than that of the novices.”1
So, what does this mean to an archer? An example that helps illuminate what Dr. Seo means can be described using shooting 3D skills. Hunting is another example; 3D is easier for me to explain.
When archers shoot 3D the targets change in size, distance, and are arranged over varying terrain. The archer’s position in 3D, standing at the stake, is the set point from where they visually perceive objects and the spatial relationships among objects.2 That means they are using their visuospatial skills to size up the shot. The more practiced those skills, the more the brain can activate the neural pathways associated with that set of skills. Next, expert archers incorporate their working memory.
This working memory is what archers employ after observing the 3D target through binoculars. Archers, (a) use their visuospatial skill to size up the target’s distance, target’s size, and the surroundings, then (b) see the bull’s eye through binoculars and store it into their working memory.
In another amazing discovery, while the expert archer’s were ramping up their brain’s (a) visuospatial areas and (b) engaging their working memory for the shot, they (c) deactivated other task related areas of the brain located in the cortical regions. Expert archer also did this (c) better than novice archers. This deactivation of other task-related areas of the brain suggests the expert archers brains are conditioned to focus on the shot.
Overall, the study suggests expert archers have a highly developed process for understanding their environment, activating their working memory, and deactivating parts of the brain not needed to hit a specific target. This skill set makes sense for all types of archery. While applicable to all shooting, an archer with advanced visuospatial skill and working memory will more likely perform well 3D competition.
1. Seo J, Kim YT, Song HJ, Lee HJ, Lee J, Jung TD, Lee G, Kwon E, Kim JG, Chang Y.: Stronger activation and deactivation in archery experts for differential cognitive strategy in visuospatial working memory processing. Behav Brain Res. 2012 Apr 1;229(1):185-93. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2012.01.019. Epub 2012 Jan 16.
The Four “Cs” in Sports and Archery: Tips for Achieving Your Goals.
Brian Mackenzie is a performance coach for the United Kingdom Track and Field Team. In 1997 he published a sports science paper in Psychology that remains widely referenced and applied today. (1,2) Because so much of archery and the goals we set for ourselves as archers, is mental, I’ve selected Mackenzie’s work as the second entry to “Putting It One The Line’s” research section. Before going into Mackenzie’s work, l’ll briefly mention goals and how I’ve set them. This is a very concise description.
In cycling/triathlon my goals often included a State Championship, Nationals and Worlds. I’d start with reasonable goals for a season and work toward more difficult ones. I pick “A” events, those that are the most meaningful, “B” events, secondary races, and “C” events used primarily for training. From a competitive standpoint, archery is a new field for me. In archery I have set goals for scores, competitive situations (A events through C events), equipment skills, range skill, and specific technique fitness. In my favor, I have decades of being coached and being subjected to sports psychology techniques. These taught me that success by athletes, in all sports, could be broken down to common denominators. Mackenzie has illuminated some of the common denominators.
Elements of the “4C’s” described by Mackenzie have been shared with me by: a USA Archery Coach, a serious competitive archer, and 2 ex-pro archers. What they shared was not word for word Mackenzie’s writing, but matched in meaning.
When preparing goal and specific training plans for archery, Mackenzie’s research is applicable. Whether or not you have intentionally implemented his work, it is likely you have reflected upon the “4 C’s” to some extent during your practice.
As part of any training plan, managing the “4 Cs”, as described by Brian Mackenzie will be helpful. They are:
- Concentration: your ability to maintain focus.
- Confidence: believing in your ability.
- Control: your ability to maintain emotional control regardless of the distraction.
- Commitment: your ability to continue working toward your goal. (1)
It seems Mackenzie’s work is ideally suited for archery. Whether training, hunting or in competition the 4 C’s are relevant. The mental aspects of archery interact so completely that they could be archery specific.
As archers, we don’t require a scientific paper to enhance our shooting ability. But understanding the science behind the seeming innate response to “putting it on the line” gives credence to our efforts and desires.
1. Mackenzie, B. (1997) Psychology [WWW] available from: http//www.brianmac.co.uk/psych.htm
2. Lain, D: The athletic respiratory therapist. Adv for Resp Care and Sleep Medicine. Online March 4, 2013
Brain activity during archery: article review
We practice archery for many reasons. Some archers are intent on hunting. Bow hunting is global and for some delivers the satisfaction of scoring a trophy, meat, or both. Other archers focus on target competition. It is also a method to reduce stress and enjoy exercise. In all cases, during the action of archery, accuracy is highly associated with mental focus. In consideration of the mental activity in the brain, scientists have looked at systematic brain changes while elite archers aim an arrow then release it.1
Many people believe it is important to control the heart during the aiming and releasing of an arrow. At a recent tournament a free lance coach, Fred, was next to me on the firing line. Fred began to instruct me on shooting. He suggested I concentrate and focus on slowing down my heart. Then, to release my arrow “between” heartbeats.
The theory behind Fred’s instruction suggests the beating of the heart can force inaccuracy during aiming. The theory implies that changes in the intrathoriac movement (pounding in the chest), or cardiac oscillations, are transmitted to the arm. This cardiac oscillation in turn makes aiming more difficult. The impact of cardiac oscillation has been explained to me by a number of archers. However, in my experience, cardiac oscillations don’t impact my aim. It may be that I am such a poor archer I don’t notice the heart beat movement of my arm. Or it may be the muscle ranges in force during my shooting overwhelm any artifact caused by my beating heart. I am going believe the latter explanation to define my current absence of noticeable cardiac oscillations.
Dr. Taft, Associate Professor at the Medical College of Georgia, mentioned another example of athletic cardiac oscillation to me. He described biathletes. Biathletes are under intensive cardiopulmonary stress during their competition. They cross country ski, stop, and then have to fire a rifle under complete control. They need to gain instant command of a pounding heart and rapid breathing. Archers typically don’t run to a target and aren’t breathing deeply prior to aiming and releasing an arrow. We archers are not at our breathing and heart rate thresholds during shooting. Nervousness, from a kick of adrenaline, will make your heart beat faster. But, typically we are not out of breath or performing at our lactate threshold heart rate.
There are rumors some archers take beta-blockers (a drug that slows the heart) in an effort to slow down their heart during competition. Unless an individual has a heart condition requiring beta-blockers this is an unwise and dangerous use of a medication. One that, I believe if ever practiced has no value.
Experience has taught me that mental focus and remaining calm are very important, regardless of the competitive event or mental activity. Staying calm and “running my race” has been part of the mental state I have sought during non-archery competition. These two elements, required for good shooting, are much more easily identified than controlled. In archery, as opposed to events where the body is in an extremely dynamic state, fluidic movement of some muscles combined with static control of others is the challenge.
In the study reviewed here, one of the objectives is the measurement of heart rate deceleration during aiming and shooting. The investigators studied 28 right-handed elite archers for 16 shots.1 The study revealed no heart rate deceleration. They did discover that there were hemispheric asymmetries (what is happening in the brain) in EEG measurements as well as other interesting brain wave activity.
The EEG, or electroencephalogram, is a test used to measure the electrical activity in the brain. The brain has two sides or hemispheres. In medical practice, an EEG is used to diagnose causes for seizures, brain death, problems associated with loss of consciousness, and is a major tool to help understand sleep disorders.
The EEG of these elite archers showed during the aiming period there was greater “alpha” activity, forming the dominant brain wave frequency and this was greater on the left side of the brain than the right. The interesting point here is that alpha waves originate from the occipital lobe of the brain during wakeful relaxation with closed eyes. These alpha waves are associated with relaxed mental states. The point being is these elite archers were relaxed enough while aiming that the dominant brain wave measured was the alpha wave.
At three second prior to the shot there was no change in spectral activity. But, there were significant increases in the left side of the brain at the 10, 12, and 24 Hz. At 1 second prior to all shots there were no spectral power differences, but there were significant left hemisphere (left side of the brain) changes at 6, 12, and 28 Hz.
What do these EEG patterns as revealed to the observers mean to archery? The first element is to relax and become calm ( A: alpha waves), the second is to focus on the target ( B: those EEG signals at 10, 12, and 24 Hz), then the “got it/release” (C: the final changes at 6,12, and 28 Hz.) The brain advanced through a process of electrical activity initiated after becoming calm (A). The brain then centered on the task of aiming (B). Finally, it connected with the bull’s eye and the archer released the arrow (C).
For a right-handed person, the left side of the brain, controls the muscles on the right. As such, the brain wave activity changes, brain activity on the left side, affect the release. The right side of the brain, controlling the aiming arm, which must remain calm and steady, had less EEG change, suggesting a steady state on the right side of the brain. That side of the brain, the right, is controlling the left arm that is holding the bow (in this test group).
When an archer is training to shoot, the mental focus required can be measured. The measurements here indicate, that among elite archers, the EEG activity is highly specialized for bow shooting.
How can you translate this into your practice? I am no archery coach. I do, however, understand some physiology and sports training. After reading this article the key point I will attempt to incorporate is calming my brain. For you and I, we can’t feel changes in brain wave activity. We can sense other reactions to stress that may affect brain wave activity. For example, is your heart pounding, are you listening to background noise when you are on the line, is the archer next to you “bothering you” or infringing on your space? Blocking as much out as possible and “aiming” while relaxing your shot is a step toward achieving a better control. The more often you are in position to experience all the variables of your shooting environment the better. Putting yourself in a position to practice how you will shoot will help calming yourself and perfecting your archery skill when you need the control.
Salazar W, Landers DM, Petruzzello SJ, Han M, Crews DJ, Kubitz KA. Hemispheric asymmetry, cardiac response, and performance in elite archers. Res Q Exerc Sport. 1990 Dec; 61 (4): 351 – 9