There is a fair amount for work written regarding fitness for archery. For the most part, the teachings of others regarding fitness for archers leaves me a bit cold.
What most sports writers will suggest is that archery isn’t a highly cardio sport. I agree, to some degree. That degree of agreement relates to indoor or outdoor shooting where hiking or climbing hills isn’t a factor. During some 3D tournaments, fitness is more critical.
At this year’s IBO World Championship, while the course wasn’t a workout equivalent to running the Leadville 100, much of the terrain was steep and many targets were not easy to reach. In fact, the group in which I shot, on more than one occasion, needed to stop can catch their breath before continuing. Some of the guys needed to wait before stepping up to a stake because they were too winded to shoot. In these conditions cardio fitness can be an important factor in scoring good shots.
Stretching is often suggested as being benedifical to archers. Here I diverge from the opinion that stretching is useful. In fact, static stretching has been shown to reduce power and a short-duration static stretching warm-up has no effect on power outcomes. 1, 2 If you want to warm-up prior to shooting, do dynamic exercises. Once you feel ready, take warm-up practice shots.
That isn’t to say resistance training isn’t beneficial. By resistance training I mean lifting weights. Some others have written against lifting weights. What I’m not suggesting is that becoming a body builder is necessary or even helpful for archery. However, lighter weights and more repetition is good especially as you age.
Overall, doing cardio (running, cycling or swimming) is good for you. Lifting weight, not body building, is good for overall muscle health and may reduce the loss of muscle mass. Remember, you are an archer, not a weight lifter. Nevertheless, we all loose muscle mass as we age. But, will any of this make you a better archer?
Look around at your next tournament. Notice the body types of the other archers. You’ll quickly notice, as a group, we stand apart from many other athletes. There are a lot of big people among us. You’ll also notice, they shoot very well.
Our closest sports kin are shooters. These two sports require athlete be able to remain very still and focus. Slow is often times better. As a result, archery has a lot of people that shoot very well without great physical fitness. The bottom line is that you don’t have to be in great shape to be a great archer.
However, being in great shape, will help your overall well-being. It is unlikely that being in great physical shape is going to help your heart rate become so low that that pounding chest is not going to be a factor. (Which has been ‘suggested’ by others. My resting heart rate is low, but calming myself mentally is the best way I have to attempt to reduce the pounding in my chest.)
If you are out of shape, you will fatigue sooner during a long tournament. Having poor fitness and poor health may limit the time you can shoot, practice and effectively compete.
Here’s my advice: If you want to improve in archery, practice more archery. If you are out of shape, get into a program to improve your fitness. Prior to beginning any fitness program get a check-up and advice from a physician. Then, get on a formal program, and set some fitness goals.
Will you become a better archer? Probably – not certainly. As you know, someone has likely beaten you in really poor physical fitness. But, image that you have the fitness to shoot a lot. That means being on a range and practicing for hours. The better condition you’re in the more likely it is that your ability to sustain a long practice session will improve. You’ll become less weary during practice. As your point to exhaustion lengthens your mental focus improves during the duration of the practice. With proper practice and a focused training plan it would be hard not to improve.
1.) McCrary JM, Ackermann BJ, Halaki M. A systematic review of the effects of upper body warm-up on performance and injury. Br J Sports Med. 2015 Jul;49(14):935-42. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2014-094228. Epub 2015 Feb 18.
2.) Knapik JJ The Importance of Physical Fitness for Injury Prevention: Part 2. J Spec Oper Med. 2015 Summer;15(2):112-5.