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.


I Removed a Joke

A good many of my friends are really smart.  I stay in tough with a great deal of them on social media. Some of them so smart they are amazing.  They’ve got all sorts of advanced degrees.  Many are scientists, engineers, and physicians.  Several have multiple degrees like a PhD combined with an MD.  You could say these folks are smart. What I can’t tell you is that they all have a functional sense of humor.

One of my wizard friends posted a link on Facebook that once clicked took the reader to a site where some other genius had published a paper about pseudoscience and Covid-19.  I read it and had a laugh to myself.

In my head I’d come up with a sarcastic remark.  I decided to reply using the remark.  Then, I thought better of it realizing that someone might take it as serious science.  So, I wrote a weakened response such that I figured everyone who might see it would recognize it was a joke.  Here’s what I posted:

“Absolutely! The scientists know that the sure fire remedy for this virus is simple: 1) Grab your Huff’n’puff radiant wand, 2) wave it above your head 3) tap the heels of you feet together while canting 4) “The Hills are Alive” “The Hills are Alive” “With the Sound of Music” I’m pretty certain I read that in ‘Science’ this week.”

A few seconds after I posted it I deleted it.  I know, without doubt, some people would find it offensive, some might give it a try, many would be puzzled, and a few would have a laugh.  I estimated the laugh group would be the smallest subset of readers.

All that work and….

A whole bunch of archery tournaments have been canceled or moved.  Some of the new dates might not work out.  We’ll see how it goes.

2020’s spring competitive archery season isn’t going the way it was planned.  Oh well, there is nothing that can be done aside from continuing to practice.

To change the practice pace I switched over to 3D leaving dots for another day.  Actually, tomorrow I may start shooting dots in the morning and 3D in the afternoon.  That’s how I done in the normal years.

The problem I am facing, as a result of a lot of 3D archery, is a quickly lowering quantity of arrows.  No, I am not missing targets and losing them.  Tips and nocks are becoming a problem. I lost three tips, left behind in foam, and busted a couple of nocks. Later today I’ll dig around to see if I’ve got a reserve stash of tips and nocks.  Once upon a time I did – Lord knows where they are now.

Archery isn’t the only area of concentration leaving me wanting more.  When this pandemic hit the news there were cries for more respiratory therapists.  I am a therapist, among “other things”, but I’d noticed the State I was retiring and didn’t renew my license.  Wanting to pitch in I began the process of reinstating my license.  No small task considering I had to compete 30 hours of continuing education prior to submitting my paperwork.

Yesterday, out of curiosity I checked to see where I might help as a therapist locally. I did find hospitals in my area needed help.  There were two jobs posted: one for night shift and the other in neonatology.  I’ve done night shift and I’ve done neonatology.  To be honest I expected to find more positions available.

This got me thinking about the Covid-19 problem and the need for therapists.  I checked a number hospitals around the state and found 39 openings: 31% of them were PRN (primarily in Atlanta), 14% are part-time only (no shift indicated), 17% are for day shift (Augusta, Atlanta, and Savannah), 24% are for night shift.  The remainder of the openings, the other 14% were for therapists to work in pulmonary function/sleep or weekends only.

Having a PRN pool makes since in that the hospitals have a number to call folks in should it become necessary.  None of the PRN positions were local.  I stopped looking before I checked Macon, Columbus, and Albany.  Considering all the work I’ve been doing to reinstate my license it now seems about as critical as the spring archery season.

I’ll keep up the archery practice.  When it comes to reinstating my license I’m considering going ahead and fork out the cash.  On the other hand, maybe I’ll just have all the paperwork and continuing education done and ready to submit if the need every arises. If it were simply a matter of wanting to earn some cash, the “other things” pay a whole lot better. But this license reinstatement was never about money.

Sports and Education

Television will display the grandeur of a professional athlete.  Those individuals are famous and rich.  “In 2016, the average annual income for a US household was $57,617 while the average income of a professional athlete in the major leagues was between $2.1-$6.5 million.” (1) Outside the major sports the annual for professional athletes is lower. “As of Feb 22, 2020, the average annual pay for a Professional Athlete in the United States is $46,473 a year.” (2) If you’re an athlete wanting to earn a living wage in archery the odds are low for your success even if you are competing at a high level. The income range for professional archers is: $10,000 – $75,000, for Olympic archers: $36,000 – $97,000. (3)

There is a sales representative I know.  He’s good at his job.  Before he took the sales position his job was as an offensive lineman for the New England Patriots.  The sales position was a nice transition from football.  I know another guy that pitched for a winning team in the MLB World Series.  He too is a salesman, today.  In both cases, their former celebrity has been as asset in their current roles. Plus, both are good with people and smart. There’s a former Olympian who won 5 Gold Medals who today is a physician.  The point is that money in sports can be good so long as it is good. No one lasts forever in athletics.

Last week, at the USA Indoor National Championship I shot on the same bale as college students for both days.  A number of those athletes have college scholarships as archers.  Talking with two I learned one is becoming a mechanical engineer the other a nurse practitioner. The average income for a mechanical engineer is $86,000 per years. (4) The average income for a nurse practitioner is $107,460. (5) For someone that goes the medical route and becomes a Chief Medical Officer the annual mean income is $402, 483. (6) Of course, that prize is similar to making the big leagues in sports. In all three cases the annual income is greater than the recently published average earning for professional athletes – $46,473 per year. (2)

The student archers at the indoor championships are smart.  Staying on their paths will lead them to a comfortable rewarding life so long as they don’t over extend that potential credit. (Pay as you go – you’ll get there.)

Steve Young, QB, JD

Steve Young, the ex-49er quarterback took his team to a 13-3 record, won the NFL MVP and graduated from law school in 1994. (7) He’s never practiced law, but he used that education to propel him in other areas after football.  Just because he was a super athlete he didn’t disregard a backup plan.  He was attending law school while playing professional football.

The point is that while those athletes on television seem to be living a magical life the wealth that comes with it can vanish in an instant. The odds of landing one of those mega-rich positions are extremely low.  Never disregard the earning potential of education.

And, don’t think a college degree is the only financially rewarding path.  An air conditioning technical, with 3 classes from a technical school on average earns $43,640 annually.  (8) The upper 10% of these technicians earns over $68,000. (8) That is an excellent return on investment (the investment being the cost for the classes.) Certainly a wiser investment than attending college and earning a degree in Greek Mythology or thinking you’ll become an athlete earning millions shooting arrows into paper.

Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, MD
Football and medicine – a winning combination

Enjoy your sport.  When you are doing it compartmentalize your brain and bring all your focus on that sport.  When you’re done, say you put down your bow, focus on the next skill.  That next focus might be on classes or being the best at your day job. You could end up using both – being excellent as an athlete and having educational training that will provide a decent living.  Like Kanas City Chief’s offensive guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif who is a physician. (9).

Wilde was a UPS worker and archer for 16 years.

Even Reo Wilde held a day job outside of archery before using his archery success to allow him full time employment in archery. (10)